by Rev. John H. Farmer
God is always near
Well now, every so often a friend, neighbor, or even a ministerial colleague will ask me about the greater issues of faith. Beyond the surface question there is always a deeper yearning. Once I thought these questions sophomoric! Time has shown me my error; for there are things of this earth I find so completely mystifying that I cower in the face of all that is Holy.
A decade or so ago, while coming through Christmas with all of you, and its attendant stress, I was forced deeper into my own psyche with the timely, though unexpected, death of our 38th President Gerald Ford. Nine decades of patriotic service is a history lesson worth emulating.
At times, I’ve set aside my Santa suit to preside at the service for a family too often, too soon struck by tragedy. That hardly over, a similar charge came when one of my best friends wound his way toward heaven. I felt bruised by both invitations. Yet I found grace that even in death Christians serve a noble purpose for the rest of the world. I always view the death of a believer as a call to evangelism for folks who come to remember must contemplate what they actually believe about God. I try my best to honor the departed whose absence so often attracts sanctuaries to overflowing.
I am confident that what I love most about the ministry, what I love most about America is that when extraordinary times prevail, we go to church.
My heart warmed at the new president and family found church together last weekend.
As cynical as we all are at times, America can still hold her head high while proclaiming “In God We Trust.” It is evident in the fact that tragedy, or for freedom’s sake America will fill the pews. Do we always fairly represent God? Are we all always the epitome of decorum? Do we make good ambassadors for our particular house of faith? The simple answer to these three questions is “no.”
I even think that God still has his hand on the pulse of things that really matter.
I am absolutely positive that we live in the grandest place of all.
The images I have of other world leaders who’ve marched across the pages of my history are not so grand. I grew up in the shadow of the war that was to end all wars. I was part of the radio audience that cringed beside the radio when Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds caused a near epidemic within the depths fertile minds. It terrorized many who believed it not a hoax, not a drama, rather a real invasion of the world.
I remember the shadows of days cowered by the fear of radical communism, when we dug holes in the ground to hide until danger abated.
I’ve seen titular kings, rulers, presidents who come to power and act out their prejudices without regard for humanity or the need to implore God’s blessing.
I’ve joined in disgust with you, as we witnessed non-believing political leaders march to center stage. I’ve watched Khrushchev bang his shoe on the table, watched the self-proclaimed Lion of Judah strut his defiance, and the Shaw of Iran fall off the world scene. I even believe that I have lived through the total reign of that once-fetching Caribbean leader toss aside culture, neuter religion and install himself as head of Cuba’s government. We have seen oil-rich leaders fire guns into the air, puffing their own macho emblem of leadership.
Jesus, gone from this material earth, can still fill the pews of Christian churches at least twice a year. His birth, life and death, so compelling that even scores of non-believers rally.
The savior, present within the hearts of His followers, can and does still the storm, gather His flock and bend the knees of many whom we’d never suspected could sit aside of another in worship.
Great tragedy also takes us to a great God. Great celebrations of life, weddings, baptisms and even death can garner a crowd larger than Hollywood can attract.
All of which is to ask, might not we do better at everyday faith than we presently accomplish? As proud as I am to be a Christian American, as proud as I am of all those of similar construct, I know that God wishes better from us.
Given our respective ages we might remember Pearl Harbor’s senseless attack, when Roosevelt died in Georgia, Eisenhower’s death of heart trouble, Kennedy’s assignation, while I was standing ankle deep in cement, in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco and multiples of serious sad and joyous times.
I want to ask a few questions? Where were you when Jesus found you? Did you respond to his call? Have you accepted Him as both savior and Lord of life? Has it made any difference at all? These are the questions I continually ask myself.