I usually refrain from making any comments or “tributes ” when I hear of the death of someone famous.
It’s not that I don’t care or feel sad at the news, I do, but feel that my thoughts are irrelevant especially as in the majority of cases I have not actually met the person and am mindful to respect their families and loved ones as they have lost someone precious to them who is more to them than a famous person (singer/sportsperson or whatever they may have been)
So what is special about today?
Well today we heard the news that Billy Graham had died at the age of 99.
No I never met him and as far as I can recall never attended any of the meetings that he spoke at but have met people who’s lives were changed from hearing him speak many years ago and have always been inspired by the wisdom with which he spoke or in his writing.
His message was always simple and to the point. We are all sinners and need to repent and accept the love and forgiveness offered to us in Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
The number of people his ministry impacted is immeasurable as there are many who went on to impact the lives of others (like me)
He was an example of simple faith and humble obedience to God and although recognised accross the world and by Kings, Queens and Presidents did not let this fame affect his message or attempt to achieve personal gain from his fame. He spoke the same message to his farmer neighbour as he did to a president.
Now there is another reason why I have a particular “fondness” for Billy Graham.
Before I tell you though, please do not take any of this story to be disrespectful as it is not intended to be but has always captured my imagination and sense of humour since I was quite young.
Although as far as I am aware there is no family connection to Billy Graham, my Grandad was also a Graham and although not his first name was always called “Billy”
Born in 1907 in a small remote village in the far North of England, my Grandad was a quiet simple man who worked hard. He was never a man of many words and would usually be quite happy with the simple life he lived.
Like many hardworking men of his generation a Friday evening vist to the local “Pub” was his weekly treat.
Now because they lived quite frugally and they lived in a small town, they didn’t have for a long time things that we living 250 miles away in the South took for granted. They did not own a telephone or television so most commuication was done by letter or in an emergency a neighbour could be called upon to get them.
Alternatively my Mum would wait until Friday evening when she thought her Dad might be at the pub and telephone there.
Can you imagine calling a small village pub and asking “is Billy Graham there?”
As a youngster it would amuse me to think “I wonder what would happen if the evangelist Billy Graham was actually there, not just my Grandad” Of course I would think that there was no way that a Godly man like him would frequent a pub, but now I’m not so sure.
You see in my reading today Luke 8 begins with Jesus travelling from one town to another proclaiming the good news and he would mix with the ordinary people and love them and gently teach them.
I see now that Billy Graham would have been quietly following the example of his Lord and sharing the gospel message with those around him over a soda. I imagine too that the religious leaders of today would be horrified but he would simply say as Jesus did in Luke 4 v 43 “I must proclaim the good news”
So I will remember both “Billy Grahams” with great fondness and gratitude for what they both meant to me in different way.