Readings and poems – religious

Here is a selection of passages from the Bible, prayers, poems and readings that include some religious content. If you are looking for a traditional Christian funeral, you may wish to contact your local minister or priest for more guidance. (See the Useful Contacts page)

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The Death of Someone We Love

The death of someone we love and care about
Is like the death of part of us.
No one else will ever call out from within us
Quite the same responses, the same feelings or actions or ideas.
Their death is an ending of one part of a story.

Lord, as we look back over (name)’s life
We ask what we have received, what we can appropriate
And continue on in our own lives and what must be laid to rest.
Our love for him reminds us that our sharing
In one another’s lives brings both support and pain.
Our being parted from him reminds us of our own mortality
And that your love is enduring.

We thank you that our love for (name) draws us together
And gives us a new appreciation of one another
And of the beauty and fragility of relationships
Which mirror your grace and goodness to us.

Lord, time’s tide may wash his footprints from the shore
But not our love for him nor the influence of his life upon our own
Nor the ways in which they will ever be a sign for us
Of those things which really matter – which are eternal.
Hear this prayer for your love’s sake.

Amen.

We see but dimly through the mists and vapours;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funeral tapers
May be heaven’s distant lamps
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
And a season for every activity under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.

Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name�s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
In the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
All the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 18:1-2
I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 27:1
The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?

Pslam 46:1-3
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

John 14:1-3
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Prayers

Holy God, we praise your name
for all who have finished this life loving and trusting you,
for the example of their lives,
the life and grace you gave them,
and the peace in which they rest.
We praise you today for your servant (name)
and for all that you did through him/her.
Meet us in our sadness
and fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving,
for the sake of the One who loves us all.

O God, who brought us to birth,
and in whose arms we die,
in our grief and shock
contain and comfort us;
embrace us with your love,
give us hope in our confusion
and grace to let go into new life;
through Jesus Christ. Amen

God be in my head,
and in my understanding;
God be in my eyes,
and in my looking;
God be in my mouth,
and in my speaking;
God be in my heart,
and in my thinking;
God be at my end,
and at my departing.
Amen.

Lord, in weakness or in strength
we bear your image.
We pray for those we love
who now live in a land of shadows,
where the light of memory is dimmed,
where the familiar lies unknown,
where the beloved become as strangers.
Hold them in your everlasting arms,
and grant to those who care
a strength to serve,
a patience to persevere,
a love to last
and a peace that passes human understanding.
Hold us in your everlasting arms,
today and for all eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer of Peace

Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, your pardon;
Where there is discord, union;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O divine master, grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to consoled,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

St Francis of Assisi (1181- 1226)

 

Crossing the bar

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

 

Footprints

One night I dreamed I was walking
Along the beach with the Lord,
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints.
Other times there was only one.
This bothered me because I noticed
During the low periods of my life when I was
Suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord, “You promised me,
Lord, that if I followed you,
You would walk with me always.
But I noticed during the most trying periods
Of my life there has only been
One set of prints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most,
Have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
”The times when you have seen only one set of footprints
It was then that I carried you.”

Anon

Woodland Burial

Don’t lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wall
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all.
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold,
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There, kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way
To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done
I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun.

Pam Ayres

No Sorrow To Die

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.
I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.
My cheek like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have kissed young Love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,
I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.
I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.
I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I give a share of my soul to the world where my course is run.
I know that my another shall finish the task I must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

Amelia Josephine Barr

 

The Divine Weaver

A man’s life is laid in a loom of time
To a pattern he does not see.
While the Weaver works and the shuttles fly
Till the end of eternity.

Some shuttles are filled with silver thread,
And some with threads of gold;
While often but the darker hue
Is all that they may hold.
But the weaver watches with skilful eye
Each shuttle fly to and fro,
And sees the pattern so deftly wrought
As the loom works sure and slow.

God surely planned that pattern
Each thread – the dark and the fair –
Was chosen by his master skill
And placed in the web with care.
He only knows the beauty
And guides the shuttles which hold
The threads so unattractive
As well as the threads of gold.

Not till the loom is silent.
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the pattern
And explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful
In the weavers skilful hand,
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he had planned.

Anon

 

A Gaelic Farewell

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rain fall softly upon your fields until we meet again,
And may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Anon

 

What is Dying?

A ship sails and I stand
Watching till she fades on the horizon
And someone at my side says,
”She is gone”.
Gone where?
Gone from my sight, that is all;
She is just as large as when I saw her.
The diminished size and total loss of sight
Is in me, not in her,
And just at the moment
When someone at my side says
”She is gone”
There are others who are watching her coming,
And other voices take up a glad shout
”There she comes!”
And that is dying

Bishop Brent

 

The Pilgrim’s Progress (extract)

I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that head which was crowned with thorns, and that face which was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with Him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot too. His name to me has been as a civet-box; yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet; and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun. His word I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings. He has held me, and has kept me from mine iniquities; yea, my steps hath he strengthened in his way.

Now, while he was thus in discourse, his countenance changed; his strong man bowed under him; and after he had said, ‘Take me, for I come unto Thee!’ he ceased to be seen of them.

But glorious it was to see how the open region was filled with horses and chariots, with trumpeters and pipers, with singers and players on stringed instruments, to welcome the pilgrims as they went up, and followed on another in at the beautiful gate of the city.

John Bunyan (1628-1688)

On Death
You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Kahlil Gibran

God looked around his garden

And He found an empty place.

And then He looked down upon the earth,

And saw your tired face.

He put His arms around you,

And lifted you to rest.

God’s garden must be beautiful,

He always takes the best.

He knew that you were suffering,

He knew you were in pain,

He knew that you would never

Get well on earth again.

He saw the road was getting rough,

And the hills were hard to climb,

So He closed your weary eyelids,

And whispered, “Peace be thine.”

It broke our hearts to lose you.

But you didn’t go alone,

For part of us went with you,

The day God called you home.