A fair number of people have found this site by searching for funeral sermon material. Therefore, I might as well make some comments.
I clearly have developed a pattern and am filled with biases about funeral sermons over my years as an ordained pastor.
I believe that a Christian funeral should ultimately be about Christ. What does the Christian promise hold for those who die and those who live? Christ’s death and resurrection mean something. There is no denial of death in the Christian funeral. There is no denial of sin in the Christian funeral. There is no denial of the need of God’s grace in a Christian funeral. If those are not lifted up, we probably don’t have a Christian funeral.
Having said that, the funeral is not the time for an “altar call” or to drive the assembled family and friends into the arms of Christ. Simple statements about the impact or importance of faith are usually sufficient. A simple homily, very focused is usually best. It is hard for family and friends to endure long or complicated proclamations of the Gospel. My pattern is usually to acknowledge the loss, to give thanks to God for placing the person in our lives to know and to love, and to recall the promises of God in Christ (forgiveness of sins and everlasting life). Beyond that, the funeral liturgy is allowed to speak as it has for centuries.
There are many “Celebration of Life” services available, and this is becoming the usual thing people request. The person’s life can be acknowledged in the loss and the giving thanks to God sections of the homily. There is nothing inherently wrong with a “Celebration of Life” except that too often the emphasis solely on the deceased and usually one particular view of that person’s life. A Celebration of Life might not include Christ at all. It is rare that an eulogy is done well. (If pastors would stop making their relationship with the deceased normative, that would go a long way to improving the funeral sermon.) Consider that each person’s relationship with the deceased is different. Each have their own disappointments, their joys, their struggle, and their wonderful memories. The funeral sermon should be shaped so that people might be able to recall elements of their own relationship with the deceased.
The funeral service should be long enough to know that something significant has happened, and not so long that people begin looking at their watches. Funerals are places where people who normally don’t attend a worship service might have experience with Christian worship. It should be relatively easy to follow without compromising the integrity of the funeral liturgy. The funeral is no time to get “cute” and “innovative”. The liturgy has developed out of faithful experience over the centuries and should be maintained.
When the military is involved. I try to finish the Christian burial pieces, and then let the military conduct the services without trying to integrate the two. It just seems to work better.
Oh, and be sure that the cell phones are off.