Recently, around a table bearing a pan of authentic, Chicago-style pizza, the topic of conversation came around to silly things that happen in ministry; more specifically, at funerals. There is a certain funeral parlor in the cities that I look forward to working with (if I can use the phrase, “look forward to,” when discussing the business of funerals.) One of the principals of that firm and I get along very well and enjoy trading humorous “jabs” at one another. For instance, the last time we were together, as the staff were preparing for the move to the grave-side and loading up the flowers, this person looked at me and dead-panned, “Don’t just stand there! Grab some flowers, why don’t you?” Of course, not knowing which were going in what vehicle and which flowers were staying behind, I didn’t help.
I’m a musical person, and to me, songs can “make or break” a funeral service. Some songs are more appropriate than others for such an occasion. I personally favor the hymns, such as “In the Garden” or “Where He Leads Me.” One of the more remarkable things I remember from any funerals I’ve officiated is the one which ended with the playing of Sinatra singing, “I Did It My Way.” There’s much to be inferred from that selection, but the one concept I want to advance for the purposes of this note is autonomy. The question which develops is this: What song you want playing at your funeral?
One of the books to return with me from that Chicago trip is “The Drama of Scripture,” by Bartholomew and Goheen. In this text, the authors examine the broad, sweeping narrative of the Bible to flesh out its story-line and theology. Their focus is on covenant and kingdom, but within those bounds and from the very beginning of the story, they note mankind’s struggle for autonomy.
The first several chapters of Genesis tell us of the goodness of creation and God’s intention for man to both remain in relationship with Him and, flowing from that relationship, to rule over creation as God’s representative. There was harmony and order. All was under God’s rule. Everything was “good.” The gifts of the garden came with only one prohibition, “Do not eat from that one tree” (Genesis 2:17).
We chafe at such restrictions, don’t we? That, in itself, is a symptom of what ails us. I’ve heard believers wonder, aloud, “Why that one commandment?” What marked that tree as different, special, better or other from all of the rest of the trees in the garden? The short answer is: nothing, save for the direct commandment of God to leave that one tree sacrosanct. Once more, the issue is one of autonomy. I suppose a definition is in order.
Autonomy: from the Greek, autonomos “having its own laws,” from autos “self” + numos “law.” – (credit to the New Oxford American Dictionary.)
Thus, this word has come to mean self-governing or becoming a law unto oneself. This is what was at issue with that one tree in the garden. This was, and remains, the fundamental choice for all humankind: self-rule verses God’s rule. Which will we choose? Better yet, which will you choose?
So, what song do you want played when it comes time for your funeral? (Don’t feel in any way as if I’m rushing you.) Shall we play something along the lines of “All The Way My Savior Leads Me” or will it be “I Did It My Way” ? The choices you make today help to determine your answer.
Praying for less autonomy and more “thy will be done…”