My father wrote the liturgy for his memorial service many years before his death. Working with it after he died, I felt very close to him. As a pastor, I have planned and conducted many funerals. Years ago Dad asked me to send him a list of suitable scriptures. He did a good job choosing — one of the readings is very typical for memorial services, but the other was not on my list. It was an unusual but appropriate choice.
As I prepared to post this liturgy, I wondered what it was like for my Dad to type out certain lines of text, such as the Prayer of Committal with his own name listed. Knowing him, I am sure that the typing brought tears to his eyes — tears of joy at the thought of being reunited with his Creator/ Redeemer/ Sustainer at last, and tears of grief at leaving my mother and all of this wonderful world. It is a source of comfort to all of us left behind that he was so firm in his faith and sure of his salvation.
It was also a kind and generous act for Dad to prepare his own liturgy, saving us the last minute flurry of trying to get it right. His final illness went by very quickly and it was an overwhelming experience for all of us, as he died at home. There was a lot to manage physically, medically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was glad for the way the events went, I’m just acknowledging that it was a very packed span of days. I still feel a bit stunned.
The memorial service was held mid-week, and attended by more than 200 people. As my nephew commented, everyone should live so well that they make it to age 90 and there are hundreds of people who mourn your passing.
There were eight or so musicians who volunteered their time to play a variety of instruments, including strings. My sister Susan was among the musicians. As she said, “I can play the violin and cry at the same time.” The singing was superb. Say what you will about the Dutch Reformed denominations, these folk know how to sing. I will paste the whole liturgy below the photo. See if you can spot the quotations from the Heidelberg Catechism and the Puritans’ Valley of Vision.
Prelude, ending with violin duet: I Know that My Redeemer Liveth
Lighting of the Resurrection Candle (by Timothy Scott Crane)
Leader: The peace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which passes all understanding, be with you all.
Gathering Hymn And Can It Be? Lift Up Your Hearts 695 verses 1 & 4
Affirmation of Faith
Leader: When we were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, we were baptized into his death and buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Those who believe in him, though they die, yet shall they live.
People: Those who believe in him, though they die, yet shall they live.
Leader: We have come to praise and thank God for his grace and love in the life of Nicholas Huizenga. It is fitting we should confess our common faith.
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
People: That I am not my own, but belong. body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Leader: The Word became flesh and lived among us. We have seen his glory full of grace
and truth. (John 1:14)
People: No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. (John 1:18)
Leader: I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
People: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. (John 6:51)
Leader: Your brother will rise again. Martha said, I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. (John 11:23-24)
People: Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25)
Leader: Thomas said, Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way? (John 14:5)
People: Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. From now on you do know him and have seen him. (John 14:6-7)
Leader: The dying thief said to him, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. (Luke 23:42)
People: Jesus replied, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)
Hymn My Jesus, I Love Thee Lift Up Your Hearts 366
Remembrances by Timothy Huizenga, Ruth Everhart, Susan Joy Cleveland
(posted in full elsewhere on this blog)
Hymn We Will Extol You, God and King Lift Up Your Hearts 562
Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7 (read by Benjamin Huizenga)
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give them up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
New Testament Reading: John 6:60-69 (read by Hannah Everhart)
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before. It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe. For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father. Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, Do you also wish to go away? Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom can we go You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Homily Passing Through the Waters by the Reverend Jack Roeda
Hymn of Response Blessed Assurance Lift Up Your Hearts 363
Prayers of the People (written and led by Sarah Wesorick Loiselle)
Almighty God, you who have knit your chosen people together into one communion, the body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: give to your church in heaven and on earth your light and your peace.
Hear us, O Lord.
Grant to all who mourn a sure confidence in your loving care, so that, casting their sorrow on you, they may know the consolation of your love.
Hear us, O Lord.
Give courage and faith to Nicholas’ family and friends, that they may know the consolation of your love.
Hear us, O Lord.
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
You have brought me to the valley of vision
Where I live in the depths but see you in the heights;
Hemmed in by the mountains of sin
I behold Your Glory
Let me learn by paradox
That the way down is the way up
That to be low is to be high
That the broken heart is the healed heart
That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit
That the repenting soul is the victorious soul
That to have nothing is to possess all
That to bear the cross is to wear the crown
That to give is to receive
That the valley is the place of vision
Lord, in the daytime, stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine.
Let me find your light in my darkness
Your life in my death
Your joy in my sorrow
Your grace in my sin
Your riches in my poverty
Your glory in my valley
Our Father, we praise you that this was the living testimony of my grandfather, Nick Huizenga. We thank you for being gracious and compassionate and promising to draw near to the broken hearted. We are thankful for our grandfathers life and your mercy to him. Please be with us now as we grieve his absence, however. Help us to remember that he is with you, as Psalm 116:15 says Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
(all joining) Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Leader: For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers.
People: Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Leader: Since God has called our brother Nicholas from this life to himself, we commit his body to the earth, for we are dust, and to dust we shall return. But the Lord Jesus Christ will change our mortal bodies to be like his in glory; for he is risen, the firstborn of the dead.
Though we grieve, we are comforted; though we mourn Nicholas’ death, we give thanks for his life; and though we are sorrowful, we proclaim with joy God’s gift of eternal life.
Leader: Into your tender hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your beloved servant, Nicholas. Acknowledge, we pray you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your everlasting peace, into the glorious company of the saints who dwell in your light. And may your kingdom of peace come quickly.
Closing Hymn For All the Saints Lift Up Your Hearts 254
To read more about my relationship with my dad, check out my memoir, RUINED. I was so grateful that he held an advance copy in his hands before he died, and gave it his blessing.