Someone recently observed that Americans don't attend funerals much anymore. It's not a very pleasant thing to do, so we just don't go.

Funerals are sad, but they are also very important. A funeral puts things into perspective. We need to face the reality of our friends passing away. We're reminded then about the things that are eternal, and that our life today really ought to be spent on ministering to others, taking care of family, kids, and grandkids. And that our life is not totally made up of keeping a job and retirement; it's made up of dealing with people — loving them, serving them, ministering to them, and eventually joining them in Heaven.

And funerals for many Christians, by the way, are happy and powerful, because our hope is eternal. Our lives never really end!

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 TNIV).