Tag Archives: conversion

Can these bones live?

Ezekiel 37.1–14
John 11.17–45

It’s 6 April in a few days’ time, on Thursday. I remember 6 April 1968 (forty nine years ago for the arithmetically challenged). It was a Saturday; 6 April was the first day I awoke after accepting Jesus into my life. I’ve already told you about that time, but today want to say a bit more.

The night before, 5 April, I had gone to the local Methodist youth group for the first time. I hadn’t known about this, but they were off to the Billy Graham rally in the Exhibition grounds that night.

I decided that I was glad to be going there. I had been wondering about God. I thought Jesus was a good man, the best who’d ever lived. I was shocked and distressed that Martin Luther King had just been assassinated just the day before, 4 April 1968. I felt confused about life.

I listened to Billy Graham preach. I didn’t understand much, but I did note he spoke well of Martin Luther King’s legacy. And that was important to me. But the rhetorical flourishes of a preacher from the South of the good ol’ US of A were really quite foreign to me. And he did go on a bit (over 40 minutes as I recall!).

Billy Graham finished (finally!), and there was an altar call. I felt an irresistible magnetic pull on me. I can recall the feeling still. I had to leave my seat—me, quite possibly the most introverted kid in the whole place that night. I knew I had to leave the people who had brought me, not yet knowing the leaders’ names, not even knowing how to find them later.

But I just couldn’t stay in my seat.

It strikes me that I can identify with Lazarus. When Jesus says, ‘Lazarus, come out!’, he just came. It wasn’t a suggestion—it was a command, a summons. Just so, I felt summoned that day. I had to come.

Jesus summons each one of us. Sometimes, we might even have given up on life when he summons us. We may as well have been dead.

As I reflect on identifying with Lazarus, I think How was I dead? In the story, Lazarus was just dead. As a doornail. How was I dead?

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Filed under church year, Lent, Martin Luther King, RCL, sermon

Conversion #1

It was 5 April 1968. Forty years ago today. I had gone for the first time to the Methodist youth group in Inala. My parents thought I needed to get out more, and had got a lad to invite me. He was apologetic when he realised that the group was going to the Billy Graham rally in the Brisbane Exhibition grounds, and said he would have told me to come the next week if he’d known. Since we were there, though, we might as well go…

I was secretly glad. The Anglican priest at school RE had suggested to the class that we should read the Gospel of Luke. I started reading Luke in my Gideons KJV, but I was hopelessly bogged down in the archaic language. But I wanted to know more about God.

I did have one test for Billy Graham: Martin Luther King had just been shot dead, and I had been shaken. I wanted to hear something positive about him. I wasn’t disappointed.

As far as I know, it was the first time I’d ever heard the Gospel. I’d never heard of altar calls before, but I couldn’t stay in my seat. I didn’t understand how anyone could! I went out—I was drawn out—and gave my life to Jesus. The youth group leaders were cheesed off that I’d held everybody up by going forward.

When I got home, I told dad what I’d done. He told me not to write to send the studies in, they would just send ‘begging letters’. Weeks later, I did write, and dad accepted it without comment.

I didn’t stay in the Methodist group for long; the leaders never spoke to me about what I’d done, and I just didn’t feel it meant anything to them. Months later, I started going to my best mate’s church, which was Open Brethren.

And the KJV? I found that it suddenly made sense to me, funny language and all. It was totally different reading it after giving my life to Christ! I don’t use it these days, but making sense of it was a wonderful gift and a clear sign to me of the rightness and realness of what had happened to me.

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