Yesterday I attended a funeral for my boss’s father-in-law. It was the first funeral for a non-professing person I have attended in a long while. Over the years since I have left the meetings, I have attended probably 5 funerals locally of friends who were particularly close to me or my family. I was interested yesterday to see how/if this one would affect me. It didn’t really except I found myself moved by some of the prelude music (piano) when some familiar hymns were played. A feeling of thankfulness along with an awareness of being moved by familiar words that had new meaning….“swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day, earths joys grow dim, its glories fade away…” The older I get, the more true those words become to me.
And so, speaking of funerals, I have been pondering for a few weeks now whether or not to share the strong, powerful, stirring impressions left upon my heart and soul from another “non-professing” funeral I watched online a few weeks ago. It was the funeral for Billy Graham.
As soon as the news was released that he had passed, clips of his life and preaching were being broadcast over the news, and for the first time, I really listened to those words he preached and what was being said about him, his ministry, and his life. I was immediately drawn in, and that fact intrigued me right away.
I’m now ashamed to say the memories that surfaced from years gone by of comments made by workers, friends, and possibly even myself about Mr. Graham over the years. How he was a false preacher, how he was all about the money, how he got thousands of people to come forward (accepting Christ) but then he left them on their own without shepherding them himself etc. etc. I am/was terribly ashamed at things we/they said about a man we never knew personally. Because I now believe we were terribly wrong.
There have been many a TV evangelist over the years who got caught in horrible scandals and thus totally ruined any ministry they may have had. But Billy Graham was never caught up in any of those. He was a godly man, truly. Faithful to his God, his wife, his children, his ministry. Billy Graham was an evangelist; that was his gifting and his calling. He wasn’t called to shepherd his own church and that is why he would always tell the people who accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior at his revivals to go and find a church where they could become a part of.
I watched his funeral from beginning to end and that was where I was impacted the most. In so many ways. Here is the link: http://wlos.com/news/local/video-billy-grahams-funeral-service-in-charlotte
First of all, the similarities to a workers funeral or one of the friends. It was held outside in a tent. (He made all the arrangements himself prior to his passing) Nothing pretentious about it. Just a tent with folding chairs. No huge screens set up so folks in the back could see better. There were just a couple flower arrangements up front. The prelude music was one man playing the piano. People in the audience were dressed up; suits, dresses.
The casket was carried out and placed in front. Yes, there were many dignitaries there but this was a funeral for one very famous man who had touched millions of lives in his career. The first song sang by was a female quartet. No other instruments; just their voices and the piano. But this is where the similarities ended.
Michael W. Smith played and sang one song. (I am a HUGE fan of his and was so touched to see his humility and deep care) I was very moved and blown away by the sincerity of the prayers and the messages delivered by his children and several pastors. The prayers and messages were powerful, not scripted, and most of all, delivered with authority. Authority because they believed in Jesus Christ 100%. It made me think of the times the Bible records the crowds being amazed at the authority with which Jesus spoke:
Matthew 7:28-29 “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
Of course the scribes couldn’t speak with the same authority Jesus did, but neither can the workers. (and I include myself in that when I was in the Work) The workers can’t speak with that same authority because they don’t believe in the power, the life, the message of Jesus Christ to the extent that the pastors at Billy Graham’s funeral did. They don’t have near the confidence in Jesus that I heard and saw day. That authority was powerful and very, very inspiring. When one of his daughters was speaking and declaring how she was purposing to carry on her father’s message, I wanted to be her! I wanted to have her faith and conviction and hope and courage! I wanted to be a woman of faith like she is.
The graveside service was also very moving and powerful for me to watch. Here is that link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf69NfO0XBw&feature=youtu.be The pastors message was amazing and passionate. Again, just the simplicity of it touched me.
One more impression that I have to comment on: Watching Billy’s children speak at the funeral and then seeing his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren all at the graveside (a small crowd attended that part of the service), I was so aware of the wonderful legacy he left behind. What a privilege they had to be with him! And I thought of how the workers are not allowed to marry, have children and how tragic that really is because they never get to leave that kind of legacy behind. Oh I know what some will say; that they left a legacy of their lives, their messages, lives they touched and yes, that is true to some degree, but not like leaving behind your own children and grandchildren. And no, Jesus didn’t have children, but He had to focus on his ministry to an extent no one else has ever had to nor been expected to and in a very limited time frame.
I came away from this whole experience empowered and inspired like I haven’t been in years. Also, very deeply thankful for his faithful life and love for His Savior. And for that, I will be forever deeply thankful. Billy Graham preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to millions. A modern day Moses really….bringing so many people up to the promised land. All we need now is for Jesus (Joshua) to bring us all right into the Promised Land, our forever home!