This article appears in the President's Blog edition of the Calvin Seminary Forum
Have you had the privilege of watching a funeral service recently? I have. One of the benefits that has come through COVID is the use of livestream and the opportunity that I have had to be one of those witnesses who can gather in person or online for funeral services.
I recently watched the service of Calvin Seminary supporter Dewey Veenstra, who like my own father was born in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands and immigrated to the United States in his teenage years, as well as the service for Calvin Seminary alumnus and friend Rev. Donald Wisse, who was known as “The Pope” in Classis Hudson while serving at Midland Park Christian Reformed Church for 25 years.
For both services there were special remembrances and chosen Scriptures, but there were also songs to be sung as part of the Profession of Faith in that moment where we stand at the edge of eternity - between this world and the next.
Recently, my own father and mother have been looking ahead and making plans. Their church actually develops a file for elderly members and asks them to identify favorite Scriptures and songs. It also helps to make real what we all know, but we do not always face – we are nearer to our own deaths each and every day.
During this season of Lent, it is good spiritual hygiene to not only follow the journey of Jesus to the cross, but prepare for our own journeys of faith in the valley of the shadow of death.
There probably will not be any scientific study on the topic, but I wonder what the effect has been on us and on churches to be limited in singing and singing together during the time of the pandemic. While most churches have moved past different restrictions, there was a loss and there still is loss.
So – what will be sung at your funeral? What hope do you want to have expressed for and by loved ones through a song that you have chosen?
I have people say that they do not really care because they feel that is something for their family to choose, and I even had one person note that they hope to be part of a heavenly choir, but I usually note that to help their family at the time of loss and grief is a blessing and a gift that they can now give for that moment.
For me, I have a song chosen that is part of a generational link in our family. My full name is Julius Ted Medenblik. The Ted is for Theodore “Ted” VanderPloeg; at his funeral service, we sang a song that was also sung at the baptism service of my son Joshua.
I have already identified it as a song to be sung or played at my funeral. I hope when the story is told, it will reference that generations in our family have used this song to point people to a faith that sees us through the valley of the shadow of death.
Here is my song – "Nearer, Still Nearer" What is yours?