I’ve attended more funerals in the last year than I have in my entire life. Of course, I got the worst one out of the way when Dad left us last February, but every one after that has reminded me of his death. There is nothing worse than watching a grieving family take that long walk together into and out of a church. I’ve been there, and every time that I see it, I’m there again.
Today, we had another funeral. It was for an old friend and former pastor, Bill Beard. When we attended church with them, I was in my early twenties. I always quipped that if I had trust in someone other than Jesus for my salvation, it would be him. (Put down your torches. It was a joke. Nothing more.) He was the kind of guy who you could go to with anything, and we always did. He prayed for us when things got ugly. When we were both sure that our marriage was over, he was there. When my past caught up to me, he advised me that if I had to go to jail to pay for my crimes, I would be okay. (I didn’t go to jail, and that was okay, too!) He walked the lonely road of infertility with my wife and I. He was also the first person who suggested we look into pursuing adoption. At the time, none of us, not even him, knew what that would lead to, but praise God that he helped us take those steps. We’ve since adopted three awesome kids, who I’m sure are cuter than anything we could have produced the old-fashioned way.
He was there in more tangible ways, too. When they left our church and moved in to a motor home, we received more books than we could ever read, a drill, mixing bowls, and a rocking chair, and all at low, low prices. He and his wife didn’t want money. They wanted to bless us. They were both just like that.
We spent a lot of time with both he and Sister Terri in and out of church. We spent afternoons in their living room, and evenings at Subway. It didn’t matter to Pastor Beard who you were, where you’d been, or where you were going. Regardless of anything that most would consider a hindrance, he loved you. If we missed church, he called to make sure that we were okay. He couldn’t bear the thought of us having been in an accident on the way to church. He taught us consideration by being considerate. I now text my pastor if I’m not going to make church.
Pastor Beard was arguably the best man I have ever met, and if I can be half the man that he was, I will be better than most.
Lastly, Pastor Beard was the first who really led me into the Pentecostal experience. I’ve slipped a fair amount from where I used to be, but I’m certain that there is more to this whole Christian life that I’m living.
There really isn’t anything I can say that hasn’t been said, but I know that the world is a darker place without him in it. So rather than ramble on endlessly, I’ll leave you with a Pastor Beard quote that was shared at his funeral: “God is good, the devil is a liar, and prayer changes things!”
With that, it’s time for a hymn. This particular hymn, “He the Pearly Gates Will Open,” was penned by a Frederick A. Blom, a grand Swede who ran with the Salvation Army for a season, but then fell away from God and did some time in prison. Later, he said of this time that “I drifted from God, and became embittered with myself and the world.” We often say that everyone finds religion in prison, but Blom really did, and after his release, he penned this song to describe his rebirth. Following this, he pastored a Swedish Congregational Church in Pennsylvania before returning to his Swedish homeland, where he died in 1926.
There is no partiality with God. He doesn’t care if you’re an ex-convict. He doesn’t care how far you’ve fallen. He doesn’t keep score of every bad thing you’ve done. The only thing that God is concerned about is your heart. Fitting, seeing as this song was song as Pastor Beard’s funeral.
You can view the original lyrics here.
The unchanging Christ pours
His unchanging love for all.
It’s not because we are worthy,
For we cannot be from the fall.
We’ve run and hid from His stare,
But He pursues us to the end.
It’s all about his longing to be
Our ever-faithful friend.
I’m made holy through His mercy.
His stripes have left me healed.
I stand righteous under His blood.
By His Spirit I am sealed.
As death pursues, we stand together,
Side by side, until the dark
Consumes my flesh to snuff me out,
But will miss the spiritual spark.
Heaven’s gates are opened wide
To all who know the way,
the truth and the life in Christ.
We’ll live in the eternal day.