13 December 2014

Thoughts from a Funeral

Jon Vieker served as organist and gave us some lovely pre-service music. The Church was packed. The bell rung and the Prelude proper began: Wachet Auf. Matt Janssen played his trumpet as impeccably as ever. The entrance hymn was "O Lord, How Shall I Meet You?" and I don't even know how many pastors processed in. Most vested, some not. Fritz Baue served as crucifer. Lee's coffin was covered in a beautiful pall. 

Instead of the short, spoken Kyrie, the congregation sang "Kyrie, God Father." Cindi and I sang between first and second readings Haugen's setting of Psalm 23 (I know, I know, I'll give Lee my apologies when we are feasting together again). After the second reading we stood for the Alleluia and sang it from Divine Service three, Cindi and I doing the proper verse for the funeral between the triple alleluias. The Gospel reading was the story of Simeon from Luke 2. 

Hymn of the Day was "Lord, Thee I Love." Jon and Matt did such an outstanding job with it. Jon began the third stanza and then the organ dropped out, til "AND THEN FROM DEATH AWAKEN ME!" and the singing in the room raised the rafters, with Matt's triumphant trumpet giving us a foretaste of the Lord's trumpet call. 

After the homily, we prayed together those perfect prayers from Lutheran Service Book. Jon had me intone the antiphon before and after the Nunc Dimmittis using the same tone as that canticle has in Divine Service III, and the congregation sang it to that setting. After the closing prayer and benediction we sang "Go, My Children."

The coffin was loaded into the hearse, and then Pr. Fritz Baue led the procession across the street and up into the cemetery. I'm thinking it was maybe a quarter mile. We all walked. The vested clergy led the way following the cross and the great bell of St. John's tolled as we walked along. Pastor Pavelsky prayed the committal and then we headed back to the Church. 

It was an honor beyond words to participate in his funeral, and he was a true friend. I told him once that there are only a handful of friends I have to whom I can tell absolutely anything, and he is one of them. Rest in peace, beloved of the Lord. I look forward to feasting with you again in the Day that knows no evening in the kingdom of our Father.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Thank you for posting this. There is nothing so comforting as a Lutheran funeral. I've had the privilege of playing "Lord, Thee I Love" for several funerals. We do it just as you described -- a capella congregation for the first half of verse 3, with a trumpet and full organ joining in at "And then from death awaken me." Fantastic!

Also -- it's a small world -- if I have my facts straight, my great-great-great grandfather, CFT Ruhland, was pastor at St Johns, Pleasant Ridge (before Maryville was incorporated) in the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Thank you again for the thoughtful post. Blessings to you.