Scotty's Church

It was eleven o'clock on a Saturday night when the phone rang. And it was not good news. My good friend Scotty passed away. Death is an unwelcome guest and to be comforted my thoughts drifted to these words from Isaiah.

Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. 
When we first met Scotty's 72 year old body was tired and weary. He was the retired chief of police in Athens, Ontario and I was the towns Baptist minister. At a younger age he served in World War Two and was the Canadian record holder for the mile run. Though we only knew each other for three years I soon discovered he was the kind man who soared through life.

Despite a gruff demeanour he cared deeply for people and was extremely generous with his time. Devoted to his wife Catherine, he visited her daily in a nursing home to comfort and feed her. He served on the town committee that built the community hall and hockey arena, and as a volunteer assisted in its operation. On a weekly basis he took his little brother for outings and if anyone in town needed a ride to the hospital they knew who to call. He was also an active promoter of minor and juvenile sports, and a strong supporter of Cubs, Scouts, Guides and Brownies.

And that's not all. Scotty was generous in his respect for God. My church was boxed in a building and was decorated with pulpit and pews. His was the great outdoors and was decorated with lakes, mountains and trees. I often went to his, but he rarely came to mine.

My fondest memories took place when we went fishing on Temperance Lake. It was here in this idyllic setting trolling for pike and bass that he discarded his gruff exterior. Out in the middle of the lake, with loons, blue herons and sea gulls as his congregation he would start singing Scottish ballads and older hymns. In those moments I understood he longed for a meaningful relationship with God. Especially when he sang these words from the song, Until Then. 

But until then my heart will go on singing
Until then with joy I'll carry on
Until the day my eyes behold the city
Until the day God calls me home

These words indicated that Scotty longed for entrance into heaven's eternal city. In our discussions  he expressed that his passport was good works. But I knew different. He needed a saviour. The only way the eyes of a sinner will ever behold its glorious splendour is through faith in Jesus.

Because he soared through life, my hope was Scotty would soar through eternity as well. But when our discussions went too far he would raise his hand and say, “Whoa!” He was a big man, over 6'2", and when he said whoa he meant it. Then one day he had a heart attack. Lying in his hospital bed he told me how excruciating the pain was. When I pointed out that God sometimes allows us to suffer to get our attention he replied, “Well he certainly has mine.” I then asked if it was enough to let me finish what I had been trying to share with him.

His quick answer was, “Yes.”

That night we talked about many things. The purpose of life. Why people die. And how a person’s sins are forgiven. Scotty was all ears as I related how God’s grace and forgiveness is a free gift that can only be received through faith. Faith that believes Jesus is the Son of God. Faith that confesses he died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Faith which discerns that good works cannot cancel its debt. The only work acceptable to God is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. 

Scotty not only listened he responded. In the prayerful moments that followed he received the gift of grace and invited Jesus to be Saviour and Lord of his life. This is why my thoughts turned to the words of Isaiah when the phone rang. Scotty left the land of loons, blue herons and seagulls and was now soaring in the land of eagles where he will never again be tired or weary. It was the natural beauty of his church that drew him into an awareness of God. But it was the life saving truth in mine that led him into his eternal presence.

This message which I shared at his funeral is centred on Paul's teaching in Ephesians 2:8-9.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves,                                 it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.

Scripture Reference


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