Posted by: stpowen | April 5, 2010

Why Funerals are Better than Parties

Funerals are better than parties.  You don’t have to take my word for it, the Holy Spirit tells us so.  ‘Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men:  and the living will take it to heart’ (Eccl 7:2).  The reason given is that we can learn from  funerals.  By and large, we don’t learn from parties.  Some folk when they wake up the morning after a party with a splitting head-ache, say to themselves, “Well, I’m never going to drink that much again!”   But usually, by the next weekend, the resolution has been forgotten, and the drink goes down just as it did the week before.  No, we don’t tend to learn much from parties.

Old Mother Marprelate (actually my mother-in-law) died last week.  She was 91.  As Mrs Marprelate and I were sorting through her stuff, we came upon a tiny book entitled ‘Active Service Testament.’  It was a New Testament produced by Scripture Gift Mission and given to Mrs M’s grandfather, Stanley John Rowe, in November 1914.  Sixteen year-old Stanley had just volunteered for the British Army as a Bugler.  The Testament contained a message from Field Marshall Lord Roberts, former Head of the British Army.  He wrote, “I ask you to put your trust in God.  He will watch over you and strengthen you.  You will find in this little book guidance when you are in health, comfort when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in adversity.”

I suppose that every soldier in World War One received one of these Testaments.  There must have been thousands of them buried with the bodies of British troops in the War Cemeteries of France.  Stanley John Rowe knew where he was going; he also knew that there was a fair chance that he wasn’t coming back.  There is a ‘Decision Card’ at the back of the Testament.  It reads, ‘Being convinced that I am a sinner, and believing that Christ died for me, I now accept Him as my personal Saviour, and with His help I intend to confess Him before men’ (Rom 10:9-10).  Stanley signed it.  The likelihood of early death concentrated his mind.  I am no great fan of decision cards, but it worked for Stanley John Rowe.  He didn’t die on the battlefield; he was gassed and invalided out of the war, and until his death in 1981, he kept a good testimony for His Lord and Saviour.

These days there is not much to concentrate the minds of folk in Britain concerning eternity.  There is no World War threatening to take millions of lives away in a few short years.  The diseases that carried so many people off in previous generations- T.B., pneumonia, polio- are all curable today.   These days young and even middle-aged people suppose that they have a great many years in front of them.

Today, the only place where most people are confronted by their mortality is at a funeral.  That is why they are better than parties.  They give a little Memento Mori  to even the most thoughtless attender.  Ministers who give addresses at funerals should make the most of their oportunities and remind the mourners that however long they may live, one day it will be their funeral and they will have to give an account to Him who holds their lives in His hands.



  1. Steve wrote:
    Old Mother Marprelate (actually my mother-in-law) died last week. She was 91.

    Steve! I’m so sorry! Please give my condolences to Mrs Marprelate and your family. 😦

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