Most of us grew up with the idea of a funeral looking backwards at a life. More recently, we have turned to celebrating someone's departure by recording the legacy they leave for the present.
Today in Charlotte was something extraordinarily different. Billy Graham's funeral neither reflected so much on the past nor considered our present indebtedness to him, instead, the whole focus was future. The beginning, the center point and the end were all pointing to Heaven.
The service was attended by the President, the First Lady, the Vice President and his wife and dignitaries from around the world. Except for profuse thanks for attending, their presence was largely ignored. Uniquely the focus was almost entirely on God.
Billy's own words in the program summarized it beautifully, "Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it! I shall be more alive then than I am now. I will have gone into the presence of God."
One of the speakers observed that God sent a messenger to warn people that the King is coming. Last week, the messenger died.The speaker wondered if that meant the King might be coming soon.
The whole of today's service served to encourage people, from pauper to president, that Jesus is coming. Heaven is ready, and we need to be too.
Billy Graham made that point all his life. Undoubtedly he was pleased to observe from Heaven that this was re-emphasized as friends and family honored his death.
Dr. Clive Calver has served in many leadership roles, including head of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK, president of World Relief and pastor of Walnut Hill Community Church in Connecticut. He also served as program director for Billy Graham's Mission England.