Lutheran Funeral Traditions

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Lutherans commonly believe that after death a person either spends everlasting life with God in Heaven or without God in Hell.

Unlike other Christian denominations, Lutherans generally believe that God’s forgiveness cannot be earned but instead is granted by the grace of God.

When Death Is Imminent

When a Lutheran is approaching death or has died, a pastor should be contacted to help plan the funeral and support the dying person and his or her family.

Organ Donation/Donation To Medical Research

Organ donation and donating the body to medical research are acceptable in the Lutheran faith.

Embalming

Embalming is acceptable in the Lutheran faith, and depending on the rules of the state and/or the funeral home that you’re working with, embalming before the viewing may be necessary.

Cremation

Acceptable forms of committal include burying the body in the ground, entombing the body above ground, commending the body to the sea, and cremation. Whatever method is chosen will not interfere with holding a traditional Lutheran funeral.

To learn more about this topic see our article: Cremation

Viewing, Wake, Or Visitation

The option of holding a viewing before the funeral is up to the family of the deceased. For the most part, viewings should be held either at the funeral home, mortuary, or family home. Any fraternal, civil, or military rites should be delivered at the viewing rather than at the funeral. 

To learn more about this topic see our article: Viewings, Wakes, and Visitations

Burial/Cremation Products

In the event that a casket is present for the service, a white pall may be placed over the casket as a symbol of the baptism and to remind mourners that all are equal in the eyes of God, no matter the minimalism or extravagance of the casket. The same holds for cremated remains, which should be treated in the same manner as a body would.

To learn about cremation and burial products see our articles: Burial Products | Cremation Products

The Lutheran Funeral Service

The most common Lutheran funeral includes worship in church with the body of the deceased present. However, should this not be possible, adaptations can be made to accommodate the situation, and the pastor can help you make the necessary arrangements.

A traditional Lutheran funeral service is composed of the following basic elements: hymns, litany, Old Testament reading and New Testament reading, Gospel reading, Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. Holy Communion is also often celebrated at the funeral and is not limited to the participation of family and mourners but is extended to all communicants present at the service.

Eulogies And Tributes At A Lutheran Funeral

A eulogy, which should reflect on the deceased’s religious life, may be delivered at the funeral service but is not required. In fact, because Lutherans stress salvation by grace and not by works of the deceased, they generally avoid eulogies.

Instead, Lutheran pastors will often work details about your loved one’s life of faith into the message they deliver about grace, forgiveness, and eternal life. Customs may vary between regions and church bodies, so it’s best to consult with your pastor about this.

To learn more about this topic see our article: Eulogies, Tributes, and Other Speeches

Post-Funeral Reception

A luncheon or reception after the funeral service is common, and offers mourners a chance to connect with each other and reflect on the life of the deceased. If any mourners have further eulogies or tributes that they would like to deliver, the post-funeral reception is an appropriate time.

If you are planning or attending a post-service reception see our articles: Post-Funeral Reception | Post-Funeral Reception Etiquette

Mourning Period And Memorial Events

There is no prescribed mourning period or memorial events for Lutherans.

State-By-State Health, Legal, And End-Of-Life Resources

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