For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Awkward Handshake...and other "Traditions"

I'm not sure what's behind the "tradition" of the pastor standing at the head of the casket after a funeral service.  As the "viewing line" comes around, they all look at me with this bewildered look, like "am I supposed to shake your hand?"  I know that the few times I've been to services that I'm not conducting, I do appreciate the chance to thank the minister for his words of encouragement, etc. so maybe that's all it is. But most folks still give that confused look.

However, if the first person shakes my hand, then the rest of the line sees that and has this, "Oh, I guess I have to shake your hand now, too" look.  If it's a church member's service and it's other church members, the handshake is real.  For folks I don't know, it can be very awkward. 

I share that simply because I've made the decision that since 90% of all funerals I attend end with me up front offering this awkward handshake, I think that when I die I should leave instructions for the funeral director to embalm my body with my hand hanging out of the casket so that my last funeral can end like all the others: with me up front offering folks an awkward handshake.  (For the record, this probably won't actually happen since upon sharing the idea with my wife she informed me there was "no way" she was touching me when I'm dead!  Oh, feel the love.)

This brought to mind a recurring idea for me: why do we do the things we do?  Why do the bride and groom stuff cake into each other's mouths at weddings, for example? Or why do you have to have different forks for salads and desserts?  These are the things that keep me up at night.

I know that there are probably good reasons for most "traditions" in the church and elsewhere.  If I had the time and patience I could probably track those reasons down.  I don't mean to make light of those things that really do have meaning.  But so much of what we do, we simply do because...that's what we do.

Simple things like church bulletins.  Insignificant for most folks, but let the copier break down and go a Sunday without any, and while most might not really care, you'll have a couple of folks at least who will have a meltdown.  "What?! No bulletins?  We won't know what song is coming next! How will we survive?!"  Maybe not that bad, but we get used to things like that, and begin to think they are a vital part of things when they really aren't.

Or the other hand shaking thing, the one where we take time in the worship service to walk around and shake hands.  We do this before we even begin the actual service, but I've been places where the service starts, and then we stop to shake hands, and then we try to go back to worship.  Seems an odd insertion.  And again, some folks will freak if we don't do it. 

This one I really did experience.  We didn't do the "greeting time" one Sunday years ago, and I had someone come up after the service and was very irate about it.  "Why didn't we have the greeting time?  Why are you trying to change things?  Etc."

Those are simple things.  But the point is, we ought to take time now and then to consider the things we do in the church, or in our families, or wherever.  And we need to ask ourselves, are these meaningful things, useful things, productive things, Biblical things?  Or are they just traditions, habits, rituals, things we don't even know why we're doing them. 

Just some thoughts.  And if you do for some reason happen to attend my funeral, don't be shy, go ahead and shake that hand.  It will mean a lot to me.   


Gregg Metcalf said...

Great post Dude! I have done a few funerals in my time, but I can't ever recall standing at the head of the casket. Of course I guess I should say now that I think about, I have done many more memorials and gravesides than services where the body was present. I have attended "viewings" with members but stayed in the background unless needed.

As far as the greeting, sounds like a couple of your folks might blow a gasket if they read Martyn Lloyd-Jones thoughts on the "so called greeting." He didn't have one, and was against it. He basically said we are coming into the presence of our Sovereign God, greet Him. He didn't do a welcome to the service either.

I am sure they greeted one another after the service during fellowship time.

We don't do handshakes in our service. Our first church didn't do it so I didn't start it. the second church did it but I dropped it and chose to ride out the storm, eventually the wind and waves stopped. Here in this plant we don't do it and when we grow and get a building we won't do it.

I think (no offense is intended here and this is just my opinion I usually keep to myself) but I think it is so phony. It seems to be people don't care enough about one another to greet one another when they see each other and the preacher forces them to greet one another by saying, "Shake the hand next to you." I just can't get into it.

Our greeting at NKBC is short and simple, "Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, grace and peace to you from the Father through the Son. Then I go into a reading of scripture.

I don't know why people shove cake in their beloved's face. I cover respect in the pre-marital counseling which includes things like don't shove cake in your beloved's face.

Great post, good to just ramble on now and then. BTW, sorry to hear you aren't slipping much. comes with age, older you get the less you need.

I haven't told you much, but I do appreciate brother!

Eddie Eddings said...

What Gregg said.
After an article like this, I would like to shake your hand!

Scott said...

Thanks for the love, brothers.