Robert and Maureen McQuillan write:
Recently we attended the funeral of a friend who loved Jesus. Held in a local Uniting Church, we were impressed as the minister, Tony Johnson, shared from his heart.
Space doesn’t permit us to detail all that this soft-speaking Geelongite said but we’ll always recall the following– truths that are relevant to every Christian in their understanding of God, their following Jesus and living as he did. And in honouring God’s word and reaching out to everyone.
Tony’s welcome to the mixed gatherers – family, friends and those who were strangers to each other but had known the deceased through her lifetime daily exhibition of love, is a classic.
Quietly and simply but meaningfully, he said: ‘Welcome to all of you – to those who believe, those who do not believe, those who do not know what to believe and those who have been too hurt to believe anything.’ In his eulogy, Tony made it clear that God is the God of determination – that through Christ he showed that he is the God of reconciliation.
We were reminded of 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Message, ‘God … settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.’
Tony, reminding attenders that the departed was a Christian who shared much love to all, then made it clear that love determines a Christian’s status. ‘One doesn’t have to be in church every week to be a Christian. One has to be a follower of Jesus Christ to be a Christian. Some of you may be thinking, “Yeah, that all nice but I can’t believe in the fairy stories you guys talk about.” Well, I don’t believe in fairy tales either!’
Celebrating the life of the deceased, he pointed out that she loved God and was determined to love others because she was loved by God. She loved her husband, family, friends, even the unlovable in private life and in her public career.
We came away rejoicing in our spirits that all had heard a message free of religiosity, one that had touched many hearts, whether they knew Christ as Saviour or not. That we all had been challenged in a very simple but clear manner.
When welcoming attenders on Sunday, don’t take it for granted that everyone there is a full-on believer or fully committed dedicated follower of Jesus; that messed-up, mixed-up and hurt people can be present too.
Are we all demonstrating that God is real and that he is love? Do we love others, especially the unlovable, the forgotten, the ignored, the hurt and those who don’t know God personally through his Son Jesus and his personal sacrifice on Calvary?
Many are talking about reaching their communities. Surely being image bearers of a determined God of love and demonstrating godly love determinately is a major key.