“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” ~Revelation 14:13
What a week it’s been.
It started when Erna West passed away Sunday afternoon. Erna is the grandmother of John West, the friend who is helping me almost daily with this blog. He’s the tech guy here at Legacy, but I feel like since I’ve been here he’s been my personal computer guy. Love him. His wife, Suzanne, is our secretary here. The sweetest, kindest, funniest, most sensitive lady you’d ever meet. Love her. And they were both extremely close to their “Granny.”
Tuesday one of the dear sweet ladies of this congregation, Doris Burleson, was taken from a rehab center where she’d been since a recent car accident to the HEB hospital for a scope to determine the extent of a staph infection and blood disease. I prayed with her and her son, Fred, and her grandson, Taylor, about 30-minutes before the surgery. And then yesterday, I prayed with her and six of her kids and grandkids about 30-minutes before she died.
That was about three hours before Erna’s funeral down in Hillsboro at which John & Suzanne both spoke of their love for their “Granny” and had the whole house in tears and laughter at the same time. And now I’ll be preaching Doris’ funeral on Saturday in Bedford.
What a week it’s been.
Death is our enemy. Hebrews 2:15 says the devil uses our fear of death as a terrible weapon against us. He holds the power of death, it says, and holds us in slavery, paralyzes us, by our fear. But praise God, death is no match for the Lord of Life! Thank God that for Erna and Doris and for you and me death does not have the last word. Death is not the bottom line. Jesus Christ is the ultimate power with the ultimate authority, and he always writes the last chapter.
Our Savior said he was the light of the world. And he made that much more than just a concept when he gave sight to the blind. He called himself the bread of life. And that became much more than just an abstraction when he fed the 5,000. Christ also called himself the resurrection and the life. And he proved it by raising Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, and Lazarus. But the fullest meaning of that—the resurrection and the life—is realized completely in the ultimate defeat of the forces of sin and death and Satan and all the things that work so hard to separate us from our God.
Christ is the one who personifies life & victory & resurrection as a powerful reality, an indisputable truth, an undeniable fact. And those truths, those promises, those guarantees belong to us! Death is swallowed up in our Lord’s victory!
“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection.” ~Romans 6:3-5
I hope the Rangers are happy. They brought an aging and selfish has-been with a tainted reputation to join a clubhouse of young and selfless superstars with reputations beyond reproach. They knew going in that all the focus of the entire season would be on their newcomer and that his pitiful self-centered chase for #600 and personal redemption would overshadow everything else the rest of the team would do. They knew that. And they chose to do it anyway. And they joined in, promoting Sammy Sosa and his quest above all else. And last night he did it. A solo shot in the bottom of the 5th with nobody on and two outs in a meaningless game in Arlington. Meaningless, because the Rangers are 27-44, 18 games back, and completely without hope. The Ballpark was packed with nearly 38,000 fans last night. And all their flashbulbs were popping to capture Sammy’s historic blast. But 22,000 of those fans won’t be back today. And they won’t be back next week or the week after. I hope the Rangers are happy.
Wow. That was harsh and cynical. Sorry. That’s one of the reasons I got out of the business.
On to much happier things: there are only 70 more days until football season. And there are SO MANY great #70s to choose from. Many of the giants of the game wore #70. Some of my favorite players of all time wore #70. And they all wore #70 in college, too, so I can’t play around with the numbers like I did with Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen. The legendary Jim Marshall and the great storyteller and pioneer Art Donovan each wore #70. Ernie Stautner, the long time Steelers great who once punched a Giants punter, Tom Landry, in the nose and then coached the Cowboys defensive line to five Super Bowls wore #70. And so did the Big Cat, Rayfield Wright. Wright was maybe even better than John Hannah on leading the backs on sweeps. He was just so big and fast, a former basketball player like Too Tall Jones. And such a nice guy. I had the pleasure of getting to know Ray during his two tumultuous years of Hall of Fame induction votes and Ring of Honor honor. His stories have made it into a couple of my sermons. Great guy.
But the all-time greatest player to ever wear #70 has to be New York Giants great Sam Huff. Huff actually played for Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi on those Giants teams of the ’50s when Landry was the Defensive Coordinator and Lombardi the Offensive Coordinator. Huff was a fierce tackler, a super hard hitter, and the first defensive player in the NFL to gain national attention. He made the cover of Time magazine in 1961 following a national TV documentary titled “The Violent World of Sam Huff” that glorified the vicious hits and the bone-rattling colissions he was making famous. He played in six NFL title games and five Pro Bowls and became the first great middle linebacker of the NFL, the ancestor to Butkus and Lambert and Singletary. Sam Huff is the best of the great #70s.