Invitations to preside over a burial fill me with mixed emotions. It was an experience that came my way last Friday. On the one hand it was a privilege to be asked by Ingrid to oversee the graveside rituals for her brother’s funeral. On the other hand, it is hard not to feel a mixture of apprehension, nervousness and sadness.
I wonder how Jesus might feel at a funeral. Actually, we know.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.” John 11:34-35
Jesus knew he had the power to raise Lazarus. But he still wept. Why? He felt the loss of his friends as they mourned the departure of their brother. These were tears of love. That’s why the people at the scene responded by saying, “See how he loved him!” Jn 11.36
My job as a Christian at a burial is not really to speak the right words at the right time (although I hope I managed that too), but really it is to co-experience the loss of the family. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to clean the clay off my shoes until the next morning. The soil on my soles reminded me that we are but clay, or, in another sense, ashes to ashes.