Summary: Sermon preached at a parishioner's wake.
Last week, most of the world said goodbye to a legendary figure. A man who was able to draw thousands of people, both physically and via the airwaves, to one single event. He reached over 200 million in over 180 countries. He was able to bring them together regardless of race, color, age, sex, denomination, or socio-economic status. And they came together by the masses not to hear him sing, do stand-up comedy, or watch him perform some acrobatic or magic act. No, they came to hear his message. But his message was not just any ordinary message. It definitely wasn’t about social justice, racial equality, political agendas, or how to be rich and successful. His message was always the same. It was simple, yet profound. It was not eloquent, yet it pierced the heart of its listeners. It was a message of hope. Hope in the midst of a world filled with hatred, pain, lewdness, violence, hypocrisy, sickness, suffering, and even death. Hope, not only for the here and now but most importantly for the hereafter.
One may ask, how was he able to cross political, religious, social, and even racial lines to gather so many people and get their attention? How did he do it? Well, for one, he didn’t! He didn’t do anything but stand on a platform and speak from the heart. It wasn’t his charisma, looks, eloquence, or oratory skills. No, it was the essence of his message. The message that God placed in his heart and which he delivered through the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what allowed him to reach the world. Who was that man? He was a true patriarch of the faith. He was none other than the late Reverend William Franklin Graham. Better known a Billy Graham. Billy Graham died last week, but the message he delivered throughout the world for over 60 years did not go to the tomb with him.
That message, which he spent most of his lifetime sharing, was a message of GOOD NEWS. Good News that began as a promise made about 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden. “..and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel " -Genesis 3:15. And one starry night, about 2,000 years ago, that message was mortalized in a little town called Bethlehem. 33 years later that MESSAGE became the MESSENGER. Who was He? He was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Jesus, the Good News of God’s salvation came to proclaim the eternal Kingdom of God to everyone in His path. And He did not vacillate in telling his audience that HE was the Good News and that the only way to God the Father was through Him. “Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” - John 14:4.
You see, while taking the form of a servant in a human body, Jesus was still 100% divine. He came to the earth He created in order to rescue mankind from the penalty of sin, which is eternal damnation. After completing His redemptive work on Calvary’s cross, Jesus ascended back to heaven, but not before he himself prepared 12 other men and entrusted them with the task of proclaiming the Good News of His salvation to ALL mankind. That same message, which has been passionately preached for centuries, is the message Rev. Billy Graham preached. It is the same message I proclaim to you today. It is the message that our beloved sister, Lorraine Ahrens, heard and believed in. It is the message that gives true PURPOSE and meaning to life on earth. The message that promises a PEACE beyond human understanding, a JOY that is unspeakable, a LOVE that is unconditional, and a HOPE that is ever-lasting. It is the message that promises STRENGTH in times of weakness, SECURITY in times of fear, FAITH in times of doubt, ASSURANCE in times of uncertainties. And most of all, ETERNAL life in times of physical death.
Many cultures and religions around the world believe that death is not the end but the beginning. In other words, they believe in the continuation of one’s soul or consciousness in some shape or form after it has ceased to exist here on earth. Among them were, and still are, many cultic, false, and pagan ideologies such as those of the ancient Egyptians. They believed that the soul would be weighed against a feather in order to determine its eternal fate, which was either the ability to travel to and fro the after-world or disappear into oblivion. The four major Asian religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism) believe in reincarnation, which is living a cycle of aimless drifting and wandering with the goal of escaping the death cycle and achieving spiritual liberation determined by Karma. Mormonism teaches that the soul re-embodies so that the embodied material soul can continue toward achieving the (God-like) perfection for which it is striving.