Thursday, November 14, 2013

A reminder from Billy Graham's brother-in-law

Billy Graham's 95th birthday celebration last week grabbed attention not only because it was a landmark in a legend's life but also because of the conservative personalities it attracted. The Observer's Peter St. Onge wrote a column calling it a "Fox News gala" and said: "Fox News and its combative agenda seems not to fit with the traditionally open arms of Billy Graham's message. Or does it?"

Now, Graham's brother-in-law, the Rev. Leighton Ford of Charlotte, has written a meditation for Graham's 95th birthday that reflects on the totality of Graham's life by emphasizing the centrality of Jesus Christ and the cross to Graham's ministry.

The gate to God's kingdom, Ford wants us to remember, is open to all people -- "liberal, conservative ... straight or otherwise ... Sarah P and Nancy P."

A Meditation for his 95th birthday, by Leighton Ford.
The cross!
The cross!
the young preacher cried
to the vast crowds
in the football stadiums of the world.
The cross!
the old man says in his husky voice
sitting next to his dog
on the porch of his log house,
gazing with faded eyes at the blue ridged hills.
The cross!
Above his chair in the kitchen
a small cloth banner … a reminder:
“God forbid that I should glory,
save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
But why?
Why glory in the cross?
Didn’t Jesus on the cross ask “Why?”
I think I know my brother-in-law
well enough to know
why the cross matters to him so
that after these ninety-five years
he makes it his last word.
He knows how much he himself needs grace.
When he meets the Lord
he’s not going to puff his chest, stick out his hand
and say, “ I’m Billy Graham, your chief envoy.”
Knowing him he’ll be prostrate, on his face,
Saying “Thank You for your mercy,
for choosing me, a sinner.
But it’s not as if he thinks of the cross only as a ticket to heaven.
He knows that coming to the Cross costs nothing, and everything.
How many times I’ve heard him quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“When Christ calls a man, he calls him to die.”
And Jesus: “Take up your cross and follow me.”
He knows that the Cross offers both free grace
And a call to die daily to self-glory.
Billy is a preacher, not a poet,
but I think he’d agree with a poet who writes,
“I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross
when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness,
cries out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’”
  (Christian Wiman)
I have seen him gaze with longing at the picture of
his departed and beloved Ruth, wince at the pain
that runs through his jaw and down his leg.
At the Washington Cathedral after 9/11 he said,
“I don’t know why God allowed this. It’s a mystery.”
But he knows that on the cross God was saying
 “I am with you, not beyond you, in suffering.”
There’s more. A Chinese scholar once told me,
“When Billy Graham came to China
he came not with a closed fist, but an open hand.”
That’s because he knows there’s a paradox in the cross
(though he might not call it that).
The cross is both the narrowest gate
and the widest welcome to new life.
The narrowest, for Jesus said, “I am the door, the way.”
The widest because he also said,
“Whoever comes to me I will not turn away.”
That gate is open to all who seek God’s grace
   and are willing to receive it,
   people of every kind and condition –
liberal, conservative
Tea Party, Occupier
Straight or otherwise
Republican, Democrat, Libertarian
Sarah P and Nancy P
Episcopal, Baptist, Catholic, or “none”
All kinds of sinners and seekers.
In the cross of Christ God throws open the gate of new life and says,
“Welcome. There’s room in my house for you. Come in.
And you’ll be changed into what I created you to be
 – a human fully redeemed.”
We can hang a cross round our neck,
gaze at it on a steeple,
but it is far more than an icon.
The cross tells us that life itself, creation itself
is cross-shaped, cruciformed,
the hope of  healing for a broken world.
The cross!
Billy has preached the cross,
He also has lived it, or, better
lived by it,
Leighton Ford
November 2013


Tsao Nima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tsao Nima said...

Whether it's Billy Graham, Ed Young, Jim Bakker, Ernest Angley, Steven Furtick or the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Louis Farrakhan...

Most of these guys live "better" lives than their followers or detractors.

And I mean that in the most materialistic way possible.

Wiley Coyote said...

..."Fox News gala" and said: "Fox News and its combative agenda seems not to fit with the traditionally open arms of Billy Graham's message.

As does the MSNBC blowhards who see a bigot and racist on every corner, even though our own local politicians practice hate and bigotry.

Mayfield, Cogdill, Leake, etc. all believe racist Louis Farrakhan is doing God's work.

I imagine that will be Pete's next fair and balanced column. Right?

tarhoosier said...

Billy (Franklin) Graham and the Pope see to have exchanged places

Willy Loman said...

"straight or otherwise"......just can't bring yourself to say the word GAY can you. Apples don't fall far from trees.

bobcat99 said...

Why such bitterness in these comments, from every perspective? Being cynical and angry is easy. I know that for a fact. I thank Mr. Ford for trying to express something that is difficult to express. It gave me something to think about.

Exit 0 said...


...but no msnbc commentators were invited, now, we're they?

Archiguy said...

Wiley would like to believe that MSNBC is as bad as FOX, that their commentators spew an equivalent level of vitriol. Perhaps it makes him feel better about backing such a nasty team.

But they are not equivalent. I've never heard any of the people he mentioned defend Farrakhan in any shape, manner, or form. And the article was about what Billy's birthday party was about: a guest list composed of some of the most anti-gay, anti-progressive, ultra-conservative voices in America today - a veritable rogues gallery of right-wing extremism. All undoubtedly orchestrated by Franklin. Never has an apple fallen further from the tree.

Poor Billy = being used as a prop by his son in such a degrading manner, and unable to offer much protest at his age and condition.

Wiley Coyote said...

Typical Archie...

Never heard racist, bigot, terrorist, hold hostage, blow up, hating a black man, etc come out of MSNBC because he believes the same vitriol they do.

ShowTruth1 said...


God is a majority of One. He's moved pretty dramatically in the past. Over 500 civilizations have a story of a worldwide, global flood.

So when God says something in His Word the Bible that is unpopular with some in our society, it doesn't make it untrue.

Here is a citation from Paul's letter to the Romans (people in Rome). Read it for yourself to see God's opinion on sexuality options.
or go to and pick a preferred version (and language) if you like.

When I committed sin by sleeping with women who I wasn't married to this did not nullify God's command to keep sex within marriage (to a person of the opposite sex). Please reference Romans 1 above (or other passages in the Bible).

God loves us, but if anyone chooses to ignore God's law of gravity and trys to fly off the top of a large building, or God's moral law, there is always a consequence - from a loving God who gave His Only Son Christ, to pay for sin we could never hope to atone for.
God bless you,

Tsao Nima said...

So what's the punishment for dishonoring your father?

Or maybe Franklin's been "forgiven" so it' OK.

Anonymous said...

"Fox News and its combative agenda seems not to fit with the traditionally open arms of Billy Graham's message. Or does it?"

More contradictory logic from Peter. If you assert Billy Graham's message is open arms, why do you question the invitation for Fox News..or if any invitee?

Shamash said...

From reading this piece, it seems that a LOT of Billy Graham's relatives are in the religion business.

Why is that, I wonder...