Why is it that people want nothing to do with the church until a moment of crisis? Why is it that someone will live their life as though the Lord means nothing to them and then when there is a death, suddenly they want to pastor to "preach them into heaven"? All right, so no one actually says that but that is how it feels.
I run into that regularly. The person doesn't want the Lord in their life. they want to live each day as though they are free from the Lord and having to do anything remotely "religious." they aren't into that sort of thing. "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than going to a barn makes you a cow." True. But at the same time, we remember that the Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21 NIV)
I don't need the Lord, His Word or the Sacraments. I don't need to be in worship. But I am still a Christian. Are you? Honestly? How can you say to the Lord, "I love You," and then turn your back on Him and thumb your nose at Him? You can't. It is only fooling yourself.
At the time of need, at the death of a loved one, families come to the church and ask for a service to be performed. When it is someone you know believed in Christ and lived that faith, it is easy to do. When someone wants nothing to do with Him in life, I think of that passage. Not everyone who says, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven. How can I give them any words of comfort? Would I not have to stretch the truth or even lie? Why would you want a church funeral when you didn't want a church life?
It makes me wonder, do they really think that I can preach them into heaven? I can't. They are either there in life or not. Those that believe have salvation already. "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:18 NIV)
It is a hard place to be as a pastor. But I cannot give false hope to those who are still alive. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to be faithful to the Word of God and to the people of God and say I can't do it. It may be the right thing to say, but it sure does cause the heart to break. Sigh. Pray for me.