7 Hymns For A Funeral Service
Here are seven great hymns to use for a funeral service or a memorial service.
I Can Only Imagine
The worship song, “I Can Only Imagine,” released in 2001 by Mercy Me, gives me goosebumps because it moves something deep within me. It brings my imagination to the day of Jesus return. Can you imagine? I don’t think we all really comprehend what that day will be like. They lyrics are very emotional to those of us in our older years or those of us who have lost loved ones who are now present with the Lord (2nd Cor 5:8) and even those of us eagerly anticipating His return. Imagine being “Surrounded by His glory. What will my heart feel?” and later, “Will I sing Hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?”
John Newton’s life of debauchery and sin is why God's grace was so amazing. "Amazing Grace" is certainly biblically sound declaring us wretches before God (Rom 7:24) which makes grace even more amazing since it is not based upon any good we could do (Eph 2:8-9). Written in 1779, John Newton by a former slave trader and during a fierce storm at sea and as captain of his own ship, he had his first meaningful encounter with God. He called it his “great deliverance” because as he cried out to God for what he knew was a sinking ship, God spared him and his ship and so the words to Amazing Grace “’tis grace has bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” For the departed saint of God, He has already led them safely home.
I Don’t Believe in Death
The song “I Don’t Believe in Death,” by Pauline Webb, sings of the passage from life to death to life again, singing “Till freed from stress and worldly strife. We soar through realms above. I do believe that then. In joy that never ends. We'll meet all those we've loved, again. And celebrate our friends.” All of that is so true. Jesus Himself once said “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-16)? Let me ask you; do you believe this?
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
This old spiritual hymn, called an American Negro Spiritual, actually originated long before slaves sang it, but it was a very popular hymn, both in the fields and at the grave. It gave the slaves hope of a glorious future that can’t compare with what they were going through at the time (Rom 8:18). They knew that “sweet chariot” was “coming for to carry [them] home” someday. What a beautiful imagine of Jesus’ returning for His bride, the church, as He descends out of heaven and sweeps the Bride off her feet and into glory, like Elijah was taken away into heaven on a chariot of fire. Of late, there have been some contemporary versions of this that are very good. This song may have actually been written by Choctaw freedman, living in Choctaw County, Oklahoma.
We Shall Gather at the River
As cruel as it was, this song was the most popular choice at public hangings in the West and has been in over a dozen classic Western movies. “We Shall Gather at the River” was written by Robert Lowery in 1864, near the very end of the bloody Civil War. This song may have made its greatest impression when it was sung at the funeral of Supreme Court justice, William O. Douglas, in 1980. As with the song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” this song too has been done by some more contemporary Christian bands and with good results. The river of which they sang was that which “flows from by the throne of God” which is a paraphrase from Revelation 22:1-2).
Cry Out to Jesus
Third Day’s “Cry out to Jesus” is very moving for someone who has just lost a loved one. It isn’t that the music and vocals are simply beautiful and the lyrics mean so much to someone who is grieving. They sing, “To everyone who's lost someone they love. Long before it was their time. You feel like the days you had were not enough when you said goodbye.” At funerals, how often I heard “If I could only tell them, ‘I love you’ one more time” but the truth is, that day is coming when you can tell them in person!
CeCe Winans has such a lovely voice and the melody is unhurried and comforting in itself. The Comforter she sings about is of course the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus promised to send (John 14:16-17; 15:26) and Who is available to us today to comfort us in our grief. She sings, “To the grieving family who weeps for loved ones gone. The pain of separation consumes another home. On the waves of sorrow, You walk with perfect ease, comforter is who the whole world needs.” What comforting words these are in a comforting melody.
We know that when we pass from this life into the next life, we will finally see Him as He is and “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2nd Cor 5:8) but only if you have repented of your sins and put your trust in Christ. If that is so, then the Apostle John says to you, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1st John 3:2) and the children of God “cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36). It’s not a gravesite; it’s resurrection ground upon which you stand!
Article by Pastor Jack Wellman