“Abraham lived 175 years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.” –Genesis 25:7-9(NIV)
I was at a church conference when I heard the news. Rev. Billy Graham had just died hours earlier. He hadn’t lived 175 years as Abraham had, but a solid 99 years at any rate. All but the last few saw him fully engaged with life. He once was said to have had an offer in Hollywood to become an actor. His reply was he wouldn’t do it for even a million dollars a month; quite a sum back in the 1950’s.
My earliest memories of him were of a man who sold out Madison Square Garden 16 nights in a row, who would rent “all three networks” on the same night for a revival (Some will remember when three was all the tv stations there were.), and many a time did I remember seeing him in front of 100,000 or more bringing the message of Christ to a hurting, seeking world. He was a pastor to every president in my lifetime, a friend to thousands and an evangelist for the ages.
I couldn’t get Rev. Graham out of my mind for more than a few hours these last several days. I only knew 3 or 4 people who ever say him in-person. One was a female priest, now in her 70’s. Liz saw him lead a revival at Newell Field in Jackson, Mississippi. As she was walking home with her mother it was that very night the elementary student told her mother she was going to be a preacher one day. Her mother told her there may come a day when she could be a preacher. It never occurred to her that she’d be anything else. Indeed she would become a fine preacher.
Nearly all of us will never be known or remembered like the prophets from Scripture or the evangelists of today. I think what matters about the lives of these two is that both lived through good days and bad, both were blessed beyond imagination and both gave you and me examples of faithfulness and compassion, judgement and empathy, hope and a vision of what could be.
I don’t know about you, but it also reminded me of the ones in my own lifetime, long since in the Kingdom Triumphant, and how they made me smile, laugh, cry, suffer, thrive and know what love can look like in the eyes of a child; those prophets in our lives.
Quoting this ecumenical evangelist: “I’m not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds. I am going to Heaven just like the thief on the cross who said “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.’”
Rest in peace, preacher; on to paradise. “Flights of Angels take thee to thy rest.”
Tending the vineyard,