Shirley Walker, the mother of my good friend and preaching colleague, Ralph Walker, recently passed away.
Sister Walker was a wonderful Christian woman. A faithful wife. A devoted mother. And of course, a doting grandmother and great-grandmother. She was funny. And a joy to be with.
Ralph announced her passing, with these words.
“My mother, Shirley Walker, passed from death to life Monday evening, after 3 weeks of rapidly declining health. She died in courage and comfort, surrounded by her children and her sister.”
I’ve thought for the past couple of weeks about Ralph’s description of passing from death to life. It reminded me a story about C. R. Nichol, (1876-1961) one of the great debaters and preachers born of the restoration movement.
Nichol was taking a walk one morning, when a friend saw him and cheerfully quipped, “Bro. Nichol, I see you’re still in the land of the living.”
Known not only for his scholarly work, but his quick wit, Bro. Nichol retorted, “No. I’m in the land of the dying. But I hope one day to go to the land of the living.”
I’ve said it before. I hate death. I hate the sorrow it brings. I hate the emptiness it leaves. I hate the relationships it ruptures. I hate the burden it bears. Yet, personal observation reminds us that we’re in the land of the dying. Nearly 150,000 die every day worldwide.
However, Christians can face death like Shirley with courage and comfort when we embrace Jesus’ affirmation to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who had just died. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25).
Today, we assemble in our respective places of worship to remember Him who lives. We sing, pray and partake of communion that centers around this grand promise and motivating hope. As one hymn exclaims, “I serve a risen Savior…I see His hand of mercy…I hear His voice of cheer… I see His loving care…He lives. He lives. Christ Jesus lives today.”
Like Edward the Confessor’s last words, our worship today reminds us and allows us to confidently say, “Weep not, I shall not die; and as I leave the land of the dying I trust to see the blessings of the Lord in the land of the living.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman