While different churches have different views, 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 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.
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 cremation, 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 viewings, wakes, and visitations, see our article Viewings, Wakes, and Visitations.
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 burial products, see our article Burial Products.
To learn about cremation products, see our article 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, though it is not required. If a eulogy will be delivered at the funeral service, it is common for the family to write the eulogy and for the pastor to deliver it. As different churches have different protocols for delivering eulogies, it is useful to consult with the pastor on this topic.
To learn more about eulogies, see our article Eulogies, Tributes, and Other Speeches.
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 a post-service reception, see our article Post-Funeral Reception.
If you will be attending a post-service reception, see our article Post-Funeral Reception Etiquette.
Mourning period and memorial events
There is no prescribed mourning period or memorial events for Lutherans.