Music at a burial is beyond important. If the scriptures, sermon, and Eucharist provide the theological and spiritual context, then the music provides an appropriate emotional release and will create palpable memories.
For instance, I can’t tell you the scripture readings from my grandmother’s funeral, but I still remember singing “Amazing Grace.” Maggie, my wife, always says, “they sang ‘I will raise them up on eagle’s wings’ at my grandmother’s funeral.” You may forget the service, the music will stay.
Sequence Hymn (Hymn before the Gospel) – #199 “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain”
This song is Easter. Whenever I think about it, I can smell the lilies. What strikes me about this hymn is the progression of the resurrection them in the four verses. 1 – The Passover and Exodus; 2 – Easter Day; 3 – the season of spring; 4 – destruction of our death.
Offertory Hymn – #287 “For all the saints”
Not only is burial an Easter celebration, but it also contains some All Saints’ Day overtones. At our deaths, we join that great communion of all the saints. So we had better sing about it! And this hymn perfectly suits a burial because the saint that we are burying is finally resting from labor. And you had better sing all 8 verses!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day; the saints triumphant rise in bright array; the King of glory passes on his way. Alleluia, Alleluia!
Hymns during Communion – #335 “I am the bread of life”
The Bread that I will give is my Flesh for the life of the world, and they who eat of this bread, they shall live for ever, they shall live for ever. I can’t pass that one up!
#620 “Jerusalem, my happy home”
Fits perfectly with the reading from Revelation 21. Our homes on the last day, at the re-creation of all things, will be that heavenly Jerusalem come to earth.
Closing Hymn – #493 “O for a thousand tongues to sing”
I cry every time I sing this song. No joke. And it’s always verse 5 that gets me. Hear him, ye deaf, ye voiceless ones, your loosened tongues employ; ye blind, behold, your Savior comes; and leap, ye lame, for joy! Thanks be to God that in the resurrection that diabetes will be a scar to remember, not a reality to live with! This hymn may as well say, “you diabetics, you struggling with illness and disease; Christ will heal and bind every wound and sorrow and memory.”
O how glorious will that feast be at the great banquet table of God!