Because of all the strange and unique funerals I have conducted and the book I wrote on the subject, you can begin to think you have seen most every template you will face. When I discover one that is completely uncharted territory, I am very intrigue. One of our pastors contacted me about a funeral he was about to conduct this past weekend and needless to say, I was fascinated and had to share it with you, just in case you are strangely drawn to “outside the box” funerals as I am.
One of our pastors who is a full-time Chaplain in the Army was called to conduct a funeral for a soldier killed in the Korean War whose body and remains were left missing…until now. Through DNA testing from a mass grave found, the remains of Robert James Tucker were confirmed and brought back to be laid to rest on American soil. You can read a short article about it here.
Like any challenging funeral, the obvious questions are, “What do I say? How do I say it? What passage in the Bible do I preach? How can I help the family grieve?” I want to commend the giftedness and creativity of Chaplain (Pastor) Scott Wells as he explained to me his approach.
He made a creative, but biblical connection. He preached about Joseph’s bones. Scott not only made an appropriate, creative connection of which this family will be able to relate, but still preached it faithfully highlighting the proper context pointing to the faithfulness of God seen in God’s promise to Joseph, that ultimately led to the author of Hebrews mentioning it (Heb. 11:22) as a point of faith in looking to Christ.
He helped bring closure for the family. One of the most important aspects of the process of grief is to have closure that allows you to move on. He acknowledged the momentous opportunity he had to help bring closure for them with the right words of comfort that honored their loved one and he did so with carefully chosen words.
He honored this fallen soldier. Pastor Wells knew it is never too late to honor someone who gave his life for the sake of others. Families often lost loved ones in war and never were able to have closure because of the absence of a returned body. Military funerals are very moving, but I would assume this one was especially so. Pastor Wells knew he had the opportunity to place great value on the life of the deceased and did so in such a way that the family was incredibly grateful.
Pastor Wells modeled well in this unique circumstance not just a creative approach to an “outside the box” funeral, but still was able to hit the main goals in such moments: God’s Word, gospel hope, remembering and honoring the deceased, and helping the family grieve. Although I am fascinated by unique funeral experiences, I think I was more motivated to lift up the faithful example and man I have the great honor to call my friend and fellow pastor who serves faithfully everyday in the trenches of this ministry to which he has been called. Go and do likewise.
For further reading on this grieving process I referenced, check out: Gospel-Centered Funerals.