A "Go with God" moment:
For more than the last two decades, my deepest desire has been to bring the light of the Gospel to my family. For some reason, my light has been “dim” to say the least. My true disappointment is that I have been able to take the Gospel around the world, but been unable to touch my family with a transforming message. As many of you know, I have been home with my ailing mother for the last week, watching her pass from this life to the next; still waiting for God to speak through me. It did not materialize, at least as I expected.
First, as my family and I sat in vigil around my mother’s bed; we began talking about spiritual things like never before. Wonderfully, it was triggered as I was grading Inductive Bible Study assignments. My family asked me questions about the type of students at IWU. I related story after story of who you are and why you are at IWU, and most importantly what God is doing in your lives. It was your lives, my friends, that brought the gospel light in my conversations. My family wanted to hear more and more about you. Further, I told them about students who were gathering together for a prayer just for us, and our needs in this difficult time. Students, it was you and your actions that were bearing testimony about the goodness of God to the most important people in my life. Thanks be to God for you.
Second, the funeral home visitation took place during a terrible winter storm on Thursday evening in Columbus Ohio. The turn out was a bit less than I had hoped for to comfort my father. Just before we left, in walked my pastor, Rev. Steve DeNeff. He had driven from Marion in the storm to spend time with me and to pray with my father. All evening long Dad kept asking me, “What kind of man is he and why would he drive through a snow-storm to be with us?” Seemingly, “self-less Christian love” demands an explanation. As Pastor Steve was driving home (it took him 6 hours for a 3 hour drive), I text-messaged him these words, “Steve, you are a great preacher but the best sermon I have ever heard you preach was the one you whispered to my family through your presence. Thanks be to God for you.”
Third, Friday morning I was trying to calm my emotions as I was to deliver the eulogy for my mother. I desperately want to house my love for her within the greater story of love, Jesus’ Gospel. And these are the same words that I have wanted to share with my family for decades. As I walked into the sanctuary I gazed upon the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. In the pew directly behind mine was the entire Religion faculty in prayerful support. They had traveled hours to be with me at that pivotal moment. My emotions let loose in a strangely comforting manner. God was freeing me to house my words with tears. After the service, the Religion faculty was the first to greet my father. One after another they expressed their shared sorrow for his loss. Another sermon was being preached by lives lived for Jesus. All day long my family inquired why so many sacrificed so much of their time. “Christian love” was the topic of the day. Thanks be to God for you.
Each of you became the living embodiment of the Gospel. I am so tired today, emotionally and physically. But spiritually, I am singing the song by Twila Paris:
How beautiful the hands that served
the wine and the breadand the sons of the earth.
How beautiful the feet that walked
the long dusty roadsand the hills to the cross.
How beautifulhow beautifulhow beautiful is the body of Christ.
You, Body of Christ are beautiful. And this Monday Morning, I am “Going with God” because of your prayers for the presence of Christ in my family. Thanks be to God, for you.
Now, God with God