I watched the Memorial Service for Billy Grahm at noon today. I found the service moving so appropriate. I also found that watching Rev. Grahm’s service took me back to the Memorial Service for my Dad, Dr. A. Leslie Parrott, past president of Olivet Nazarene University. I found my remaks at Dad’s service and wanted to post them today. (The photo is Dad and Mom, 1940s.)
My father had an enormous capacity to learn from the past, enjoy the present and face the future with optimism.
Most of us master one or, at best, two of these qualities. But he could do all three flawlessly. If you have invested any meaningful time with Dad, one of these grand, spiritual competences has come to your aid.
Perhaps he helped you look back at your tragedy, your failure or your disaster through a new set of eyes; with deeper understanding and insight. He has helped so many, including me, to look through a broken heart and discover that your bad day does not have to be your last day.
Through the decades of his life, he spread the table of the present moment with unexpected joy for so many people. He could make the most mundane event, meeting, dinner or conference something memorable and meaningful. As a little child, it seemed his capacity to create excitement was like Christmas all year long.
He has peered into the uncertainty of tomorrow with an eye, a trained eye of realistic-optimism. With his conservative suits and a hairstyle that never changed throughout his adulthood, he lived on the cutting edge of life’s grandeur and God’s goodness. He believed that whatever we have known in God is only a fraction of what is yet to come.
I have been thinking, reflecting, and asking – what was his anchor, his touchstone, his compass. The answer rings with utter clarity. It is a Bible reading of five verses. It was his trademark and calling card wherever he spoke. He could stand in front of any crowd. He could preach any one of his masterful sermons. More often than not he would begin with these words from the second chapter of first Corinthians:
And I brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
What an anchor for the soul. What a compass for life’s journey.
But having just read this passage of Scripture, I remember that dad always had a word of wisdom for me, and a good word of wisdom at that. His expanse of knowledge and depth of insight was staggering. The thirst for knowledge and understanding energized him. In his study are binders filled with his notes, recent notes, on topics he was studying – heaven, the beatitudes, the Gospels, and the history of the early Church.
But, there was something underneath. There was a foundation, a deep faith that had found a resting place beneath all the wisdom and knowledge. It was not found in a book but in an experience. He spoke of it openly, but it was also a spiritual mystery that he hid in his heart.
He would share it in simple words like this: “In a little apartment, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, at a time of spiritual searching, Lora Lee and I knelt and settled it with God. And from that moment on, it is almost as if we have led a charmed life.”
This is not a display of human wisdom. It is the mind of God that transformed and sustained my father’s mind. Of course, dad expected you to use your brain to live out this experience, but he never wavered in his confidence that the source of life’s power is in God.
He would say to thousands of people in their troubles and trials, “There is a work of the Holy Spirit that can help you.” He said it to me, privately and personally. And I have found it is true. It is real. And it is life changing.
The cross looks like foolishness to the world, but it is the wisdom of God to the human soul. This eternal wisdom, the Cross of Christ, is the fountain from which my father received the power of life.
- For dad, the cross of Christ was the entrance to the temple of God where the human heart is purified from all its fears, resentments, and torments.
- For dad, the cross of Christ is the message for the market place of the world, a message of clear thinking, a positive outlook and the Spirit’s power.
- For dad, the cross of Christ empowered the sanctity and sanctuary of home so that even the prodigal son is welcomed back into his father’s arms.
- For dad, the cross of Christ is the ultimate and complete victory over sin and the grave. It is the trumpet sound on the morning of Christ’s return. It is the final ‘Welcome home faithful servant; you have fought the good fight, you have finished your course. Well done. Well done.’
Let me close with a personal memory that will console my heart for the rest of my days. In the home of my parents, in the last hours of dad’s life, he was on a small bed. I sat on one side of him and my son, Andrew, sat on the other. We each held one of his hands. He was between us. He was also between this world and the next, speaking to us and then looking to those we could not see.
When he would look into our faces, a sense of calm came over him. I prayed in my heart that the angels would come and take him home. It was time.
I believe that in my father’s heart he heard the angels sing a hymn he loved. It is a song he used to close more Sunday evening services than any other. I remember t as a child and it comforts me now. It is an invitation:
Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me.
See on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.
Come home, Come home,
Ye who are weary, Come home.
Earnestly, tenderly Jesus is calling…
And, forty hours later, my father went home.