Format for a Christian Burial Sermon

by Dell Markey

Whether your church is high church (liturgical) or low church, chances are that your funeral proceedings call for the minister to deliver some sort of a funeral sermon. Funeral sermons are generally short (15-25 minutes for most Christian denominations) and focus on offering comfort to the friends and family of the deceased. Here is a basic format for a Christian burial sermon that will work in most denominational settings.

Introductory Remarks

Unless requested otherwise, you should start a funeral sermon by acknowledging those who have come to honor and memorialize the deceased and thanking them for the gifts and flowers they have given and for support for the deceased's loved ones they have shown. You may also give a brief explanation of the purpose of the funeral proceedings according to your church's traditions. For example, you may say something like, "We have come to lay John to rest," or "We have come to remember the life of Susan."

Tribute

Focus the next part of your message on the life of the deceased. If you knew him personally, share some positive stories that show his better qualities. If you didn't know the deceased well, you can ask his loved ones and friends for stories that best demonstrate the kind of person he was. Keep all stories positive. Even the roughest of characters have redeeming qualities and a funeral sermon isn't the time to point out a person's character flaws. It's best to stick with stories that are heartwarming (or even mildly funny).

Comfort

After you have spoken a few words about the deceased's life, focus on offering comfort to the family and friends who have lost a loved one. It's appropriate to mention the Christian's hope of eternal life with Christ in Heaven and to read Scripture passages that support the belief that the deceased is in a far better place. It is also appropriate during this part of the funeral sermon to affirm the loved ones' grief. Even if they are sure the deceased is in Heaven, it is still normal to feel a great deal of loss when a loved one passes away. Encourage the deceased's loved ones to draw closer to one another and to God in their time of sorrow.

Reflection

In most cases, you won't know the spiritual condition of everyone at a Christian burial funeral. While it isn't appropriate to give a lengthy discourse on your beliefs about salvation during a burial sermon, it is perfectly appropriate to encourage those in attendance, in view of the brevity of life, to reflect on their spiritual condition and to turn to Christ with their sorrow. It is also appropriate to offer to speak or pray with those who desire it individually after the service is concluded.

Closing

Conclude a Christian burial sermon with a word of prayer; the reading of an appropriate verse of Scripture, such as John 11:25 or Psalm 23; and a benediction. In your concluding prayer, ask God to be with and comfort the deceased's loved ones. Following your burial sermon, direct those present regarding what they are to do next. This may be as simple as a dismissal or may include instructions regarding a graveside service, luncheon or other post-memorial proceedings.

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