On Billy Graham’s Repose

Billy Graham has passed away.

“God of spirits and of all flesh, Who hast trampled down death and overthrown the Devil, and given life to Thy world, do Thou, the same Lord, give rest to the soul of Thy departed servant Billy in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, sighing, and sorrow have fled away.”

I remember when I was perhaps 10-years-old listening to a sermon he preached on an LP and was inspired to write my first sermon. My text was Matthew 6:33 and my illustration was the boy Solomon asking for wisdom rather than wealth or power.

I was thinking this week about ways in which his sermons shaped the North American telling of the Gospel (for good or ill). Then on Sunday, Paul Young mentioned the beauty of the response hymn, “JUST AS I AM” and how it was first published in the 1800s in “The Invalids’ Hymnal” … when it was still pronounced “in-Valid” and was written for those cast off by society is in-Valids–the mentally ill and irreparably broken, consigned to institutions.

The words of the hymn are that much more powerful and beautiful than the “if-your-heart-should-skip-a-beat” ultimatums in many of Graham’s altar calls. The hymn goes a long way to explaining the immense heart response to Graham’s messages:

3. Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

4. Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

One friend pm’ed me today, “Although I disagreed with some of BG’s theology and praxis, I do not comprehend the vulgar, unhinged, and cruel vitriol aimed against him.” Agreed. And particularly when it comes from those who think themselves ‘enlightened.’ Apparently, the accusing spirit survived through their deconstruction. Even the Russian Orthodox were able to partner with him because the invitation to draw near to the love of God transcended their substantial differences.

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Brad Jersak

Bradley Jersak is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He serves as a reader and monastery preacher at All Saints of North America Orthodox Monastery. Read More

3 Responses

  1. Amen! Billy Graham’s heart was true, and his heart always spoke louder than his words. He impacted me greatly. Thank you, Brother Graham! Enjoy the blessed Trinity, and the Cloud of Witnesses!

  2. Agreed! Will never forget my only time hearing him directly. Bristol Football (‘soccer’!)Ground – May 1984 – part of ‘Mission England’ 1984. When he invited ‘a response’ over 3000 people moved forward. And NO music at all. Only the sounds of seats tipping back, and the subdued fluctuations of feet traversing the grassed pitch. I still get goosebumps in recalling it all…
    “Finish then thy new creation, Pure and spotless let us be; Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee. Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place; Till we cast our crowns before thee’ Lost in wonder, love & praise!” Charles Wesley.

  3. Thanks Brad, I’ve read so much nonsense lately about Billy Graham, from believers. And again regarding Stephen Hawking since yesterday.

    I only hope God is as magnanimous as I imagine Him to be, is my thought. I’m already ascribing to Him more than the usual Christian theology grants Him, and I don’t easily have the “Scriptural” backing I’d hope to find for it. But I will keep hoping He will reveal it to me, in the meantime He is my sun.

    The Cloud of Witnesses… wow, what a thought to have this morning! 😉