My husband and I attended the funeral of an old friend last week. I must admit it’s one thing when you must bury your elders but when you start losing contemporaries it’s a sobering moment so I’ve been processing this. Gives one pause, you know.
We had a 1-1/2 hour drive to a bucolic Georgia town, that was established in the 1800’s. Like any other small town USA, population 6000, there’s one funeral home; the venue for last rites for many decades.
The ceremony opened with a minister’s gentle sermon that began with a recollection of speaking with the deceased about his faith many years ago. Our friend, his wife and family, was raised a Methodist but was converted to Baptist, due to his wife’s urging, shortly after settling there 45 years ago. They both attended the one Baptist Church and served the small congregation in many capacities for decades.
The sermon that followed the introduction was so clean, so pure, so completely on point, I sat next to my husband soaking it in as though I was parched ground grateful for rain.
The topic was centered on faith, what it is and how to get it. The minister’s steady, non-judgmental voice offered up words of hope and quoted Scripture, not like a weapon to prove a point, but like water offered to a thirsty soul.
I don’t go to church, as a rule. I’ve been in a wilderness for so long I simply can’t endure the agendas in hopes of receiving a morsel of truth. So, sitting there listening to the pure verity of what it is like to be in love with Christ, to be committed to His will, to accept His grace, in the simplest terms of what faith truly is, was somewhat overwhelming for me. It has stayed with me for nearly a week now. I guess I needed the reminder.
In all the years we called this man our friend, I don’t recall one single conversation with him about his religion or denomination of Christian belief. He lived his religion, openly and honestly. He had no ill will toward anyone, not a judgmental bone in his body. And he never condemned anyone else for choosing to reject religiousity.
I am quite sure he is in heaven with Jesus, not because he was religious, nor because he followed a set rules of doctrine, as defined by another human, but because, as the minister said, he believed that Christ is the Son of God who came to take our place, to save us from ourselves. Our friend's works were the natural result of his faith.