It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. Ecclesiastes 7:2–3 (ESV)
We naturally resort to almost anything to hide from death. We don’t like to talk about it. As a culture, we work hard to avoid even the mere thought of what comes to us all naturally. Our mortuary scientists (really, that’s what they’re called) study and work at making us look alive after we’ve passed. While we’re still alive we work hard at not looking like we’re aging. Advancement in healthcare technology both makes it possible for people to live longer than ever, but also takes older people out of circulation so unless you frequent nursing homes or rehabilitation centers you are unlikely to have to come face to face with the inevitable marks of time. Lots of churches are now clustered by generation – older, middle age and younger with each generation loving their own “style” of worship more than they love each other and are unwilling to compromise. One casualty of this inflexibility is the sort of older-younger relationship where a brave preparation for death is faithfully modeled. If you bring up death too frequently you’re likely to get referred to a psychologist for help. (Some of you have stopped reading already because this line of thinking makes you uncomfortable.)
Despite all of our efforts at avoiding thinking about it, the human mortality rate is still hovering right around 100%. No matter how hard we work at forgetting about it, it looms unavoidably above us all. The wise author of Ecclesiastes suggests that going to funerals is actually good for us. Going to a memorial is better than going a party. Qoheleth says that despite cultural pressure to avoid it, somehow contemplating death can make your heart glad.
In this last month, we’ve gone to more funerals than feasts. Here’s why this is GOOD. – Our brief encounters with death should have the effect of waking us up to what’s in all of our futures. That reminder should remind us of what’s important and what’s not. It should bring our focus back to the mission that God has entrusted us to do. And our heart are made glad as we realize what our real enemy is and WHO defeated it. Houses of mourning should make us want to feast out of the JOY that we have in knowing who holds our futures. Funerals should give us more resolve to serve Christ while we live and should give us an increased joy as we look forward to the treasures we have for us in JESUS.