There is quite a myth that cremation is substantially less expensive than any other option. Despite the very strong marketing campaigns of each states’ cremation societies, this may not necessarily be the case. With funerals there are a number of expenses, but also a number of rights that the family has that the funeral home does not necessarily have to make you aware of. For example, under the FTC’s “funeral rule” funeral homes are required to accept a casket from an outside source and cannot charge for handling it (sometimes transportation can make up a significant portion of the cost of a funeral). In addition, the family is, in Minnesota where I live, allowed to transport the body. I would recommend that pastors familiarize themselves with the laws of their state and make this information available.
From a pastoral perspective, I would encourage families to consider that monetary cost may not be the only factor to consider. First and foremost, for a Christian, a funeral will be a confession and proclamation of the promises made in baptism: that Christ is victorious over death and that as Christ is risen we too will be raised on the last day. Second, and also tied to this, is the comfort given to the surviving family. Finally, whether one decides to cremate, embalm, or have a “natural” burial, we confess most vigorously that the deceased person is STILL body and soul. The bodily remains ARE still that person, though now separated in death from their soul, this separation is not permanent. With this in mind, we should not treat the bodily remains as insignificant or disposable.
Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor
Messiah Lutheran Church
La Crescent, MN