By this time Dad was mostly unable to walk, so he sat in a wheelchair, and my mother turned the pages for him.
This past Saturday, I read this sermon at Dad’s memorial service.
If you keep up with the timeline, you’ll notice that I added three paragraphs to this sermon. Nonetheless, we believe that this is what Dad might say if he could speak to us today:
HE TOUCHED ME
The Scripture today is about a man who was touched by the power of Jesus. He was a beggar who was lame from birth, and he was healed by the power of Jesus.
There have been times when Jesus touched my life.
As a new born baby, I was not expected to live. My twin was the stronger of us, while I was weak, frail, even unable to suckle. My death appeared so imminent that my parents delayed naming me. To everyone’s surprise my twin died and I was the one who survived. Yes, He touched me and let me live!
At age 13, during revival services at my home church, West End Gastonia, now Covenant, I felt God’s touch on my life during the moving sermons and even at meetings of the youth group.
When I was in High school, I attended the Youth Assembly at Lake Junaluska. I was touched by Jesus while walking from Shackford Hall to the cross. I knew that God was in my life and that I was His.
In February 1947, when I was nineteen years old, I went to The Christian Workers School at Main Street Methodist Church in Gastonia. Mrs. E. H. Ould led a class designed especially for youth. During this school I was asked to read the scripture at the worship assembly for the evening. Mabel Davis, a fellow church member from West End Church said, “Jack, you looked just like a preacher up there reading the scriptures.” Upon hearing this I felt elated, warmly proud and deeply grateful. He touched me again.
Later that year, the Western North Carolina Conference sponsored a three-day convocation in Salisbury for young men interested in entering the ministry.
Reverend Higgins, our pastor at West End, graciously took me to Salisbury. Throughout the conference we heard lectures on what it means to be called to the Methodist Ministry. Upon my return to Gastonia, at approximately 7:00pm on Sunday evening I attended a special Love Feast Service at West End Church. This was a time when those present would testify about the meaning of Christ in their lives.
Our Sanctuary was designed after the Akron Plan, which meant the pews were arranged in a semi-circle. The service was already in progress when I arrived. So, I slipped in quietly and took a seat on the back pew. People all around me were testifying regarding the meaning of Christ in their lives. After awhile, I could take it no longer. I stood up in my place and I said, “If I continue to feel like I do tonight, I will study for the Methodist Ministry.”
Reverend Higgins stood up and with tears streaming down his cheeks, said, “Jack, we have been praying for this night.” God didn’t just touch me—he grabbed hold of me and claimed me as his.
These were high points in my life where I felt God’s presence and knew he was there. You have had these too. Remember?
God has been with me in the low times, as well.
Once, about 1962 or 3, I began to feel like a failure. I wanted to be a perfect husband, father, and minister. But I was none of these. I was impatient with my child, I felt I was going nowhere as a minister. The system was oppressing me. I thought I couldn’t serve unless I could climb the appointment ladder.
At 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, I put on my clothes and went to the church. I fell on my knees at the altar and offered my life to God. And as I prayed, He touched me! He showed me meaning and purpose in what I was doing. He showed me that I was not in competition with anyone.
You can reach this level of trust with God. Let God touch you and you will know that He is good. He will give meaning to your life.
One of the biggest challenges to my faith was being diagnosed with cancer in 1987. I was not prepared for what could have been the end of my professional career, the end of my personal relationships, and the end of my journey with God.
But God is dependable. God is aware. God knows me better than I know myself.
He touched me, and healed me, and let me continue to serve.
Then in 2016—two years ago: I was in the hospital, and I was diagnosed with pancreatitis. There is no treatment, and at my age it was considered terminal. I was sent to Beacon Place Hospice Home to live out the rest of my days. But He touched me. After two weeks I got better, and they made me leave!
From there I went to Blumenthal Nursing and Rehabilitation. Again, it was thought that I might live out my days in that facility. But after two months of hard work, the doctors released me to live at home. He touched me again! I lived at home for two and a half years, with the assistance of my wife and some wonderful caregivers. I was able to be with my wife, to spend time with family, and to receive visitors at home. I had some wonderful moments of laughter, joy, and love.
But my body continued to wear out. And so, on October 22, 2018, He touched me for the last time on this earth. I was at home. I was at peace. I was in the presence of my dear wife, Claudette, with whom I have spent the last 65 years. And Jesus came into my room, and took me by the hand and said, “Jack, your work on earth is done.”
He touched me.
When I was serving Ward Street United Methodist Church in High Point, we had a Lay Witness Mission which began the day I brought my baby daughter home from the hospital. One of my members intentionally avoided the events of the weekend, but for some reason he came with his wife to the evaluation session. As we talked about the witnesses and what they had shared with us, Virgil publicly said, “I want what they have.” I said, “Virgil, if you mean a close relationship to God in Christ, we’ll just go upstairs to the altar for a service of dedication right now.” He said, “That’s what I want.” Everyone present went upstairs to the sanctuary together and Virgil dedicated his life to God.
Some of you here today might be like Virgil. You’ve been on the outside looking in at people who’ve been touched by God.
You don’t have to stay there. You can be touched by the master and get into the mainstream of Christian living.
I don’t have any monopoly on being touched by God. Virgil doesn’t have a monopoly on being touched by God.
You can experience the presence of a God who loves you, who heals you, who wants to be in relationship with you forever.
He touched me. Let him touch you. AMEN.