Two funerals were held in America last week – Aretha Franklin was laid to rest in what can only be called ‘style’ in a funeral service that lasted over five hours. The service was a celebration of the ‘Queen’ of soul with the vibrance of worship and preaching that often had the congregation on its feet in praise and thanksgiving as the city of Detroit paid its last repects to its most loved daughter- the greatest of all soul singers. On the other hand,Senator John McCain’s funeral was held in the impressive National Cathedral in Washington and was much more formalised not taking away from the warmth and affection so many showed to one of America’s greatest war heroes. Past Presidents Bush and Obama gave eulogies along with family tributes which were equally moving. Imprisoned and tortured for over five years during the Vietnam War John McCain later entered the political arena often crossing political party lines for the good of the nation.
These services were held within a day of each other and celebrated lives that had made a lasting impression both nationally and internationally. Both were people of faith who, despite times of difficulty and great danger never lost their faith in God. Detroit’s service reflected Aretha Franklin’s Baptist roots with the best of Gospel worship and preaching. The other held in the sacred cloisters of the National Cathedral signified the stature and dignity which were the foundation of John McCain’s life. The common threads binding both these celebrations were of thanksgiving and gratitude for lives well lived and the final affirmation of God’s eternal love grounded in the hope of the resurrection.
As a Christian Minister I and my fellow clergy are often privileged to officiate at many funeral services in our community. I am often humbled and moved as families tell me of their memories and allow me to share with a grieving congregation the fondest and closest remembrance of their loved ones. There is, of course, deep sadness but also gratitude for love given and received and eventually a quiet confidence that life does go on as memories become the source of comfort rather than tears. In the book of Psalms we read that God has known us even in our mother’s womb and the Shepherd’s Psalm tells us ‘even in the valley of the shadow of death we need fear no evil’ Following the pain and suffering of the Cross God raised His son from death. The Christian hope and joy in which by faith we all can share – God’s greatest gift of love!