Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Finally Home - Jerry Falwell (1933-2007)

"But just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven, of touching a hand and finding it God's, of breathing new air and finding it celestial, of waking up in glory and finding it home. Oh that would be glory to me."

As a Liberty University alumna, I was very sad to hear that Jerry Falwell died today. When I heard, I thought of W.A. Criswell - don't ask me why, because I don't honestly know - and in looking for the words to the hymn "Finally Home" (excerpted above), I found this quote:

Criswell suggested ministers use this prayer at a committal service: "Dear Lord Jesus, all that hands could do have we done. Where we leave off do you take up and take care. Watch over this hallowed place in holy remembrance until the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised in glory. Give us back then, these we have loved and lost just for a while. Bless the family that waits in earth until that triumphant day when we shall be joined together in heaven. Send us away to our homes and to the work that awaits us in thy love and grace, and in thy dear name, Amen."

The thing about Jerry Falwell is that people either loved him or hated him, but they knew how they felt about him. When I was in college, he was the chancellor of the university, but he also was the pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church - and since we all were students at Liberty, we were part of his congregation, too. He spoke regularly at Sunday services on "Liberty Mountain" as it was called, as well as at the church itself, and at chapel services during the week, so we saw him and heard from him more than one might see or hear from the chancellor at any other school.

In addition to church and chapel services, he also attended sporting events, concerts and other activities at the school when he was in town. I've said it elsewhere (and it bears repeating here) that my favorite memory of him is from a basketball game in the old gym. He was sitting in the very top row along the back wall with a group of students - he was still in his suit from whatever he'd been doing that day - with a necktie around his head like a bandana, banging on the air ducts to cheer for the team. My sister used to have a picture - I'll see if I can get a copy from her one of these days.....

He used to quote from the old testament: without a vision, the people perish. He certainly had great vision - he wanted to see us as graduates of Liberty University going out into the four corners of the world as "young champions for Christ." It wasn't about him or his own legacy; it was about spreading the gospel to a world that desperately needs it.

Because of his willingness to be a fool for the sake of the gospel, there is a university, a seminary, a law school and a church created and continuing with that goal in mind: to equip its students and parishioners to spread the gospel wherever we go.

Thanks, Jerry.

From: one of Jerry's kids

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