All preachers preach on death, whether they preside at funerals and memorial services or not. And all preachers as well as the persons to whom they preach share in Jesus' eternal priesthood: taking what is most precious and offering it. In the process we die, only to live again. Our love is transformed: we become more forgiving, we become the gospel we proclaim and hear.
Perhaps a better title for this introductory essay would be "How to Approach This Book": how to view its authors and its content. For that will determine in large part how you use Preaching on Death: An Ecumenical Resource. The book's authors have worked hard to create a worthy text - essays that raise questions and are open-ended, that rely for their truth on scripture and authentic worship, that include all of creation in their vision and that reflect a deep desire for church unity. Like the readers, they have experienced being with the dying; many have preached at funerals numerous times and planned as many vigils and funerals. They do not write as "experts in the field" - more as pastors and teachers who are eager to dialogue with other pastors and teachers. That is the invitation they extend to the readers of Preaching on Death.
Four collections or clusters of readings, culled from several traditions, form the book's structure. Each of these clusters serves as the basis for a scriptural commentary, a healing word (on persons who have died from AIDS, from an untimely death, after a long illness or by suicide), ideas and illustrations, and a model homily. In between these major sections are essays and guidelines, among them, "Rebirth of Images for Death," "Preaching at a Latino Funeral" and "In the End- Time is the Beginning." Two of the essays, "Some Pastoral Guidelines for Vigils and Funerals" and "'How Can We Name a Love': Suggested Resources for Music and Environment" include credit lines and so may be duplicated for the appropriate ministers in your congregation.