“The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too shall be raised.
The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.” (Quotes from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church)
Preaching for a memorial service is extremely important. We want to honor the person who is being memorialized. We want to comfort their loved ones. Nonetheless, let us not overlook the opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is certain that some of the people attending the service have never heard the Gospel, or who have not heard it recently. The sermon or homily should include an invitation for everyone to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, while we may be extolling the virtues of the dearly departed, we should not ignore the grace of God given to each of us without our merit.
Family members and friends may wish to speak at the memorial service. This is a good thing, provided that the speakers are cautioned about the need for brevity and restraint. Perhaps it is a good idea to audition each speaker beforehand, if at all possible. These talks must not be allowed to overshadow the Gospel message.
Suggestion for a closing hymn: The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done
1. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.
2. Death’s mightiest powers have done their worst,
And Jesus hath His foes dispersed;
Let shouts of praise and joy outburst.
3. On the third morn He rose again
Glorious in majesty to reign;
Oh, let us swell the joyful strain!
4. He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell.
Let songs of praise His triumph tell.
5. Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee.
From death’s dread sting, Thy servants free
That we may live and sing to Thee.