Personal, Sermons

Running well: On Grandpa Ralph.

September 11, 2020

It is an honour to be able to share a few reflections with you today. For those of you who may not know me or no longer recognize me, I am Mat- or Matthew Ralph Lortie, grandson of Ralph MacDonald. It was a couple of years ago that I was bold enough to ask to be able to speak at Grandpa’s funeral. There is a certain strangeness in making that request but, through my mom, I did and I received a reply in a letter a short time later. He wrote: “I think this is wonderful except for one tiny detail, I won’t be around to hear it.” He then continued “Please be assured the idea is great – so plan on it, sorry but I can’t give you a time or date- life is funny that way.” Well, the time and date have come upon us, so let me offer a few reflections.

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There are many things that I share in common with my grandfather and I guess you can say inherited from him. We have already heard that I have his name. I also have his almost insatiable desire for sweets, which I know some of you share also. There were always good desserts and baking at Grandma and Grandpa’s and I remember a Christmas almost 30 years ago where he helped us make Christmas chocolates. And I am of the opinion that what would annoy Grandpa most about a funeral in the midst of COVID is that we cannot all gather around and fight for the best sweets afterward.

I also share in the belief that as a whole Hymns are better than modern worship songs and that they should be done well. The difference is he could play them well and I, thanks to quitting the junior choir he led at least twice, can hardly sing them well.

There is more that we could go on and say but let’s leave that because as comforting as those shared elements are and as meaningful as they might be let’s talk for a few moments about the thing Grandpa and I share that matters more and that is his wholehearted, complete hope in and allegiance to Jesus and the power of his resurrection.

I would be doing a disservice to Grandpa if I did not spend a moment highlighting what this hope was and why it mattered to him. This hope is that the Christian story, the story of Jesus was true and the core thing about which you should centre your life. That through Jesus the King, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself. That the gospel or the good news that through his eternal existence, incarnate birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and future return Jesus is Lord over all and has exclusive claim over all of our lives. That there is reconciliation, restoration, and forgiveness available for the ways in which we have failed, and missed God’s ideal so long as we truly acknowledge those failings. That is too briefly the hope my grandfather held and strived to live out.

He was a man who lived out this hopefulness by being actively involved in the life of his church for his entire life, whether using his hands to play the piano or organ and direct the choir but also in smaller tangible ways. I remember him taking me along when he did meals on wheels delivery, I am not sure how many times he ensured someone made it to their appointment on time, he was passionate about the House of Hope and doing what he could to help there.

I also know the grandpa lived out this hope by being steadfast in prayer for his family, his church, and the world. My mom recalls hearing her father get on his knees night after night after night in prayer. Something that he never stopped doing and we knew he was praying and that offered encouragement in the midst of all that life throws at us. This legacy of faith and commitment has been passed down to me. He never stopped learning and growing and searching for more understanding of who God was and now he no longer sees only a reflection in a mirror but sees face to face.

Again, there are many other ways that this is true and you probably have your own experiences witnessing Grandpa’s hope.

So, in light of this, we do grieve and we do mourn as we come to grips with the new reality that Dad, Grandpa, Ralph is no longer with us but as the Apostle Paul reminds us we don’t grieve as those without hope because we have assurance that Grandpa was welcomed into the arms of Christ as a good and faithful servant. Our tears are because things are different but even through them, we know that what he is experiencing is infinitely greater, immeasurably better than anything he or we could ever hope or imagine.

Once more Paul reminds us that for those who are ‘in Christ’ being ‘with Christ’ after death is far far better. Grandpa strived as best he could to model, embody, and live out this hope and commitment until he saw it fully realized. Like all of us, he did not do this perfectly but he never stopped seeking Jesus, never stopped learning of Jesus, never stopped caring, and never stop praying. He ran that race to the very very end and has now received his eternal reward, the imperishable crown the will not fade as he moves from a racer to a member of the great cloud of witnesses as he moves from leading the choir at First Baptist to being a member of the heavenly chorus. That was his hope, that was his story and I think he would want us to end with a question for all of us…Will you join me on this race? Please run well.

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