From the Pastor's Pen
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The Pastor’s Pen
George Mc Connell February 2024
(John 11:21) “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”.
The Rev. John Gilkinson stood in his pulpit at Garryduff Presbyterian Church before a vast congregation. It was Friday, 7th July 2000 when the small country church was packed to the doors, and with thousands standing outside listening to the service that was relayed on loudspeakers. It was a somber day indeed. The Rev. Gilkinson then turned and opened his bible to the above text from which he was going to address this great congregation, both inside and outside the church, and also everyone that was watching on Ulster television.
This was the funeral service of Ulster’s motorbike racing legend, Joey Dunlop. After reading the scripture concerning the death of Lazarus, he then lifted out vs.21 as the text for his address. “Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”. Out of this text he then lifted out these two words “Lord, if”.
He said as he commenced his address, “everyone would be wondering why the accident happened. We will never fully understand the reason why, this side of eternity. Even if we did have a full explanation, it wouldn't bring Joey back to us and it wouldn't heal our aching, breaking hearts. One word that has been on the lips of everyone this week as they reflect on this sporting legend, Joey Dunlop, is the word, if. If only Joey had retired from motorcycle racing, this would never have happened. If only Joey had stayed at home, and didn’t go to Estonia, then he would never have died last weekend. If only he had refused to take part in that fatal race, he would still have been with us today.” Then the Rev. Gilkinson paused for a moment, and asked the congregation, “or would he?”
He then quoted the words of Hebrews 9:27 “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment”. He went on to explain that how we all must face death one day, and none of us know when or how it will come.
I liked the next thing he said, “That is why we all must make preparation before it comes”. From there on he preached the gospel for which the next day I rang him and thanked him for his faithfulness.
“Lord if”. In John 11, we have two sorrowing sisters who are mourning the death of a beloved brother. Hearts hurting within them, tears tripping them as they try to understand the situation and the reason of it all, as they meet the Master! Then Martha cries out from the depths of her sorrow and loss, Lord if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”. They were saying underneath it all, if only we could turn the clock back, things would have been different”. We still would have Lazarus with us. “If, If! If”!
Using the word if in whatever situation, is like chasing an unreachable dream, as we can never turn the clock back, and what has happened has happened. We can all find ourselves in situations that we would love to have been different.
If only! Many people turn to these two words today. If only I had tried harder at school, I wouldn’t be in this job. If only I had kept my speed down, I wouldn’t have had this accident. If only I had discovered this growth sooner there may have been a better chance of recovery. If only I had said yes instead of no, If only I had said no instead of yes, how it would have been so better and different. If only! If only! If only!
Every February, I think of a friend of mine, Cecil Mc Neil, who was murdered at his place of work on Friday 25th February 1983. Cecil was a part time member of the U.D.R. Only 22 years old he was gunned down sitting in his white Mark 2 Ford Escort. Many times I said, “if only Cecil had taken a different route to work. If only he had been able to use his personal weapon to defend himself, it could have been a different story. But no! It wasn’t!
Are these words on your tongue at present? If only!
Wishing you could turn the clock back to have things different than as they are now? Listen, my dear friend, there maybe a lesson the Lord wants you to learn in your situation that cannot be learned outside it.
Look at Mary and Martha in theirs. In their situation they could hear the Saviour say “Thy brother shall rise again”. (Vs.23) “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though her were dead yet shall he live. (Vs.25) “and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”(Vs.26) Both Mary and Martha never would have heard the Saviour speak these words to them outside this situation! If they never had experienced the tragedy of Lazarus being laid in the tomb, then they would never have experienced the triumph of Lazarus coming out of the tomb.
What is the Lord trying to say to you right now? Listen out carefully there is something He wants you to know. There is a lesson He wants you to learn out of the situation you are in at present.
What about the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.
Do you believe this? Can you rest your situation on these words? Do you really know that all things, even your situation is working together for good, because you love the Lord?
In a day to come, you will one day cry out like the psalmist, “in my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me”. (Psalm 120:1) Just remember, He knows where you are, and how you are, right know! Just trust Him where you are. He cares! Yes, cares for you, personally!