It's been over a year since my family and I attended the funeral of my children's beloved great aunt Anna. She was a kind and loving woman and was clearly very dear to you and your congregation, just as she was to our family.
My kids were six and eight at the time of Aunt Anna's death. Just old enough to "get" it: Aunt Anna was not coming back. She was gone. We'd lost a couple of pets in the past so they had a slight grasp of death and its finality, but this was the first relative that they'd lost. To put it simply, they were bereft. Prior to the funeral, their dad and I talked to them about God and Heaven, and even though none of us in our house is 100% sure what happens after we die, they were comforted at the idea that she was at peace. In a better place, if you will.
I hoped that your sermon would offer comfort, closure, maybe a few smiles through the tears. I hoped that the kids would gain solace from the service and from your words. Unfortunately, this is not what happened.
Preacher, I know that you and I come from different religious backgrounds and have different beliefs in our present lives. What you say from the pulpit, to your own congregation, on a Sunday is entirely your business. If you and your brethren believe that you all are the only ones with a ticket stamped "one way" to the Pearly Gates then expound upon it and congratulate yourselves all you want. But. When you are preaching at a funeral, in a funeral house no less,a not in your church, I would ask that you consider your audience. The audience at a funeral is diverse and made up of your congregation as well as friends, neighbors, community members and even family members who may hold beliefs at variance from yours.
It didn't make my children feel good to hear that while Aunt Anna was resting with Jesus, they wouldn't be. It didn't make me feel good either. Whether or not I agree with what you said is not the point. You had a chance to offer comfort and love and instead you pitted "us vs. them." You behaved as if you were at your very own pulpit, not at the funeral home, and expounded upon the happy fate of "us" as compared to the dire fate of "them."
Preacher, my kids, my husband and I are "them." Do you think we found the comfort we sought in your words? If you were hoping to gain a few converts through your tactics let me share something with you: this was not a revival. This was not the time or the place to attempt to sway the uncertain or convert the unbelievers. This was a funeral, Preacher, and your job was to comfort the bereaved. All the bereaved, not just the ones who share your beliefs.
Next time maybe you'll be a little more sensitive. Maybe you'll reach out with loving words that can offer comfort to all who are grieving. I know you are a kind man, a good man and tried at Aunt Anna's funeral to do the right thing. I forgive you for the pain you caused. I hope next time...because there will be a next time...things will be different.