A month ago I delivered the eulogy at my father’s funeral. I don’t like the term eulogy, although it has a good ancestry (Paul uses it in 2 Cor 1, and Ephesians 1 and so does Peter in 1 Peter 1). It sometimes sounds like whitewashing, especially at funerals. Sometimes they are just opportunities to talk about ourselves (I have heard some terrible ones).
But most of us want to say something about a friend or father who has died. Of course there are far too many things that could be said, and many that probably should not be said. Many are anecdotes, memories, recollections, views from different angles. In the same family people have different memories and views – sometimes radically different.
So what to say? And who to say it to? No use talking to the coffin as some do. We talk to ourselves. We say out loud what we may have never put into words. Or perhaps what we often said out loud. We consolidate our group or family memory. We speak a little song of praise, we say something good, we bless (the meanings eulogy derives from).
We also speak to God if we are believers. Because we know that the things we remember are also blessings received from him by his grace (Paul and Peter knew that). God the father richly blessed my father. Not only in the era and location in which he lived, and the genes he was given, but by his Spirit, through his Word and in his church.
What sort of things do we want to say about a Christian who has died? What kind of speech do I want people to make at my funeral? What is it that distinguishes a Christian life from that of unbelievers?
Paul said that David served God’s purpose in his own generation (Acts 13.36). Hebrews says that “Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant.” (Heb3.5). “… those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”, according to Paul (1 Cor 4.2).
These are wonderful testimonies to be said about a person both during and after their life on earth. The Lord may or may not have accomplished wonderful deeds through us. But to be remembered for being a faithful servant who served the interests of Christ Jesus, and not one’s own (Phil 2.21) is a blessing devoutly to be desired.