What Happens After I Die?
Mark Johanson - April 30, 2023
Death is a topic about which relatively few people know how to converse gracefully, and likely with good reason: it is uncommon to experience the sadness death brings until someone near to us dies. To exacerbate the problem, our culture does not know how to handle the topic of death; often, it avoids the topic altogether, and tries to circumvent the pain and grieving by using phrases such as, “God needed another angel.” In the hour of grief and pain, those words really don’t bring anyone any real comfort.
What happens after you die? It’s a question worth considering from multiple viewpoints. Fortunately, knowing where our souls will be after we die is the easiest way for the faithful to answer that question, with joyful thanks and praise to our Heavenly Father whose Son died and rose so that we might have eternal life. For the purposes of this blog, however, I want to turn our attention to the other viewpoints of what happens when you die; specifically, how the Church serves your family and friends who mourn your death and celebrate your life with a Christian funeral.
First, consider this: have you ever been to an awkward or uncomfortable funeral? From personal experience, I’ve endured funerals outside of Christ Lutheran with eulogies and family reflections that have tried to justify the salvation of the deceased by laundry-listing their good works. There have also been funerals in which the music detracted from the beauty of the service and message of salvation, either because it was poorly led or because of careless music choices. I believe that, because the world doesn’t know how to comprehend death, sometimes we find ourselves, the bereaved, sitting through a clunky funeral service that doesn’t point our eyes to the joy of eternal life as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection. To illustrate this, watch a funeral on TV or in the movies: they are usually littered with works-righteousness eulogies or dreadful dirges. Frankly, that isn’t how I want to remember the departed.
At Christ Lutheran, our goal is to make certain that neither of those unfortunate scenarios happen. Your funeral will be centered around the message of Christ’s death and resurrection, which saves us and assures that we will dwell with Him for eternity. The music for your service will rejoice in Christ’s resurrection and celebrate the gift of grace.
For the specific details of your service, however, we church leaders want to honor your wishes and make your funeral service one which is dignified yet celebratory. Without prior planning, after you die, your family and the church office will be tasked with choosing music, readings, and other considerations for your funeral. This is why I want to encourage you to make sure your wishes are written down and prepared, just as you would prepare your will. You certainly don’t have to plan every last detail of your service, but knowing the general idea of you want—or don’t want—for your service is immeasurably helpful to those who must plan the service in what is typically a short amount of time between your death and the funeral.
This planning process is relatively straightforward, but it involves more than merely telling a pastor or musician, “I want XYZ song/Bible verse at my funeral.” Rather, the church has a comprehensive funeral planning guide that you can find on the “resources” page of the website. After you fill it out, you can either keep it in a designated place or you can bring it to the office, and we will keep it in our files. If you need help or want suggestions, we will be glad to help you!
A pastor friend of mine once said, “A Christian funeral is one of the best opportunities to evangelize to non-believers.” His point was that funerals are one of the few times when de-churched and/or non-believers are present in a church building. It is at that moment that those who don’t yet believe in Christ have a good chance of hearing the most important message ever shared with them.
So, what happens after you die? We know what happens to our flesh and where we will dwell forever—the Bible makes that clear. But to those who gather at your funeral, you leave a legacy, and when the Word and music teach that Christ’s death and resurrection has paid for our sins and that our salvation comes as a result of God’s grace instead of our own works, the number of non-believers in this world has a good chance of going down. And that’s something worth celebrating.
Minister of Music and Worship