Summary: uneral sermon for a 93 year old man who gave his life to the Lord four weeks prior.
Adolph Allen Funeral
November 11, 2002
I met Adolph Allen a scant four weeks ago. The last four weeks of a ninety-three year life. Four weeks out of 4,836. In case some of you are not good with fractions that is 1 thousandths of Adolph Allen’s lifetime. In our first meeting he was very quick to get to the point at hand. After we had exchanged the obligatory introductions Adolph asked the question that many of us gathered here today wonder about. It is a question that has haunted many persons whom I have known in the condition and position of Adolph Allen for the last twenty-two years. Two minutes into our discussion, Adolph Allen asked the question, “Is it fair for someone to live their whole life one way and then at the end of their life ask God to take them to heaven?” How would you answer that question?
When I was a young pastor I tried very hard to explain its fairness in relationship to a loving God. I tried ever so hard to explain that God’s ways are not our ways. As a young pastor, I worked diligently to explain that God’s mind is not our mind and that we cannot fathom the depths of God’s perspective on the question, “Is it fair for someone to live their whole life one way and then in the final fleeting moments turn around and plead for mercy, and get it?” I used to try and do that. However, I found as a young pastor that 93 year old iron workers, while they may not know much about theology, they understand a lot about this world and a lot about life and a lot about what is fair and what is not. I have learned that 93 year old iron workers who are facing their last days on this earth and standing at the doorway of eternity have a earned a PHD in fairness. Those answers that I argued for the better part of twenty-two years don’t stand up under the scrutiny of ninety-three years of experience.
You’ve heard the question. Those of you who knew Adolph can hear it in your ears right now. The strong, resolute yet raspy voice, halting mid-question as he labors to draw another bit of oxygen from the tube, “Is it fair for someone to live their whole life one way and then in the final fleeting moments turn around and plead for mercy, and get it?” Now you will hear the answer that Adolph Allen heard four weeks ago. An answer that I wished I had known and given to 83 year old Lester Marshall in 1982, 82 year old Herman Walden in 1986, 94 year old Otto Elkins in 1989 and 99 year old Rosa Baldwin in 1992. In 93 years one learns to get to the point and ask an honest point blank question. In twenty-two years of ministry I have learned to answer in the same point-blank honest. When asked, “Is it fair for someone to live their whole life one way and then in the final fleeting moments turn around and plead for mercy, and get it?” I answered, “No Adolph, it isn’t fair. But, Adolph luckily for you and me, God is not fair.” We know that from the scripture passage I have chosen for today’s message, Matthew 20: 1-16.
(Read) Matthew 20:1-16
Does anyone in here think that the owner of the vineyard was fair? Paying men who work an hour the same salary as men who work 11 hours! Some of those men worked hard, and some of those men hardly worked! But they all got paid the same. It’s not fair!
If total fairness is something you value highly, this morning sermon is going to shock you.
If Old Testament “Eye for an eye” justice is what you like, you’re not going to like this sermon this morning!
Wait a minute Jeff! How can you say that? God is fair with each and every one of us.
NO, He’s not fair! He’s not fair with me. He’s not fair with you! If Our God was a fair God, we’d all be bound for Hell right now! We all sin…every one of us! We put nice clothes on… We hide our evil thoughts behind innocent smiles… We do our sinning in the dark, hoping no one else will see it…We all sin!
As a pastor, I just wish folks would quit pretending that they’ve got it so together and are so good, and just fall on the mercy of God once and a while…but that’s another sermon!
We seem to have an instinctive notion that life should be fair. Job, in so many words, says that it is all unfair in chapter 30 verses 25-27. “Yet when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, then came darkness. Good things should happen to good people and bad things should happen to bad people. Renown psychologist Dr. Larry Crabb explains that wrong thinking in his book entitled, “Inside Out” he says, “We are designed for a better world than this. And until a better world comes along we will groan for what we do not have.” Another writer, Phillip Yancey writes, “We still expect a God of love and power to follow certain rules on earth, Why doesn’t he?”