These days we hear a lot about death. Usually in sensational news reports. 21 under-age children found dead in eNyobeni Tavern, Gqeberha. Farm attacks leave so many dead. Man kills his partner, then himself, and leaves their three children orphans. Robbers with high-calibre firearms storm a township tavern, killing six people. Not to mention the many horrific fatal road accidents.
Even the advertisements seize on death as a motivator for buying insurance cover. Many folk are checking their files to make sure their wills are up to date, that they are prepared for their inevitable death. We seem to attend more funerals than we previously did, and now the internet enables us to enter the grief of family and friends living far away. Death is often “in our face”.
Have you prepared for your death? Have you given directions to your family about what you want for your funeral service? Have you chosen suitable songs for your memorial service?
In every culture, song and music play an important role in funerals. In ancient times groups of singers would make a living as the bereaved families hired them to wail, to sing dirges and other laments. Jeremiah 9:17; Mt 9:23. See also Esther 4:3; Is 15:3; Mk 5:38; 2 Sam 1:17-27 3:32-34.
Grief is normal and should not be suppressed. Note how Jesus Himself wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Christians are not immune to the sense of sad loss when a loved-one dies. This can be expressed in tears, words and song.
But because believers in Jesus know what happens to believers who have died, Christians will not grieve like people who have no hope. For in Jesus who died and rose again, we DO have HOPE. (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff). Let us show this in the lyrics of the songs we sing at the memorial service. No cultural tradition should eclipse the light of hope which Jesus gives. Christians of every culture should sing songs that reflect Jesus’ perspective on death and grieving.
I know of no song that does this better than James Montgomery’s …
FOREVER WITH THE LORD (Modernised version)
“For ever with the Lord!” 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Amen, so let it be;
Life from the dead is in that word,
and immortality. 2 Corinthians 5:4
Here in the body pent
absent from Him I roam, 2 Corinthians 5:6
yet nightly pitch my moving tent 2 Corinthians 5:1
a day’s march nearer home.
My Father’s house on high John 14:2
with rooms prepared, how near.
With confidence I fix my eye Colossians 3:1-4
on Christ, who shall appear. 2 Timothy 4:8
My longing spirit faints Philippians 1:23
to reach the home I love, Revelation 21:1-3
that bright inheritance of saints,
“For ever with the Lord” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:17
I bow to God’s good will. 2 Timothy 4:6-8
His timing, never untoward,
His purpose will fulfil. 2 Corinthians 5:5
My Father holds my hand, Isaiah 41:10,13
so I can never fail.
Upheld by Him, I sure will stand;
against all odds, prevail
So when my final breath
shall send me to the grave,
by death I shall escape from death John 11:25
and life eternal have.
That resurrection word, John 5:28,29
that shout of victory, 1 Corinthians 15:54,55
once more: “For ever with the Lord!” 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Amen! So let it be.
Original words: James Montgomery 1771-1854
Modernised words: Hugh G Wetmore with Scriptures (c) 2006 based primarily on 1 Thessalonians 4:17 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 and John 14:1,2
Metre: 6686 D Tune: Nearer Home
Be inspired by this song as sung by the Salvation Army Band and songsters on “The Hymn Makers” series CD KMCD665 (Kingsway).
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