A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals

by Charles Hoffacker. Cowley Publications [1], 2002.

At funerals, church leaders embody the pastoral role of the church both for their congregations and for those who may not make any other connection with the church. Since death poses questions about the ultimate issues of life, people gather at funerals to find hope and gain perspective. In conjunction with the recited words of the funeral liturgy, pastors provide context and "spread rumors of the resurrection." by reading and preaching the Word of God. Funeral homilies are most accessible when they are simple, focused, and clearly mention the life and character of the deceased. Most of all, each needs to be built upon a singular "key" that uses an element of the lost life or circumstances to connect easily with those gathered. This becomes the bridge across which the Gospel can travel with grace. Eighteen of Hoffacker’s own funeral meditations form the last two-thirds of the book. These are grouped in six collections, each exploring a different key: "a feature of our common humanity, " "a specific characteristic of the deceased, " "the intimacy of home, " "the deceased as a mirror of Christ, " "the deceased as one responding to God, and " "a pointer to ongoing worlds." Hoffacker’s homilies are gems of pastoral sensitivity. They can be mined for ideas by other pastors, or read as devotional meditations by all who are looking for a significant word of grace in uncertain occasions.