A Gangster Funeral

 •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The ringing of the telephone interrupted brother Jay's early breakfast one beautiful summer morning in the southern city where he lived and labored for the Master. As he answered the phone his face plainly expressed to his listening wife the trend of the conversation.
"Yes, Mr. Poole," she heard him say; "I understand and will be there at eleven o'clock." Then turning to her he said: "That was Mr. Poole, the undertaker. He has charge of the body of the young woman found in the river a few days ago. Her friends, a group of underworld characters, have been trying to get a minister from one of the larger churches to preach her funeral, but Mr. Poole says not one of them wants to get involved. He seemed to think that I too would refuse, and offered all sorts of protection.
"As for myself, I welcome the opportunity this gives to present Christ to needy souls. The service will be at the graveside, and I hope you will now join me in prayer for divine guidance in all that is said and done."
Together, husband and wife besought the Lord to undertake in all things for His glory, and to prepare sinful, hardened hearts to receive the message soon to be delivered at the grave. With a solemn sense of responsibility they drove to the cemetery. From there they followed the hearse and the undertaker's car to the site of the open grave. Here the sheriff, also a Christian and well-known to the preacher, hastened forward to his friend, brother Jay.
In reassuring tones the officer said: "Don't be afraid, brother Jay. As you see, my men and I are here primarily to protect you. You may know that this is the body of a gangster's woman companion, and I suspect that only those so identified will be here today. If any resent the message and try to make trouble, you are our special charge for protection."
Surprised at this statement, brother Jay answered: "Sheriff, you and your men can look out for yourselves. I am in the hands of Him who promised that the angel of the Lord is round about them that fear Him, and will deliver them."
With full confidence in the Lord's presence, he then joined the procession of underworld characters who were following the handsome casket to the open grave. He had already noted the luxuriously expensive cars, the fashionably dressed and jeweled women, and the self-assured air of the male attendants. One of the latter had a fractured arm fastened to a shoulder-high board, and the sheriff whispered that he had participated in a recent "high-jacking." With these the preacher took his stand at the head of the grave.
A brief prayer preceded the usual identification of the deceased. Then the minister spoke briefly: "We are here to pay our last respects to one who is now beyond all earthly help. During her sojourn among you she may have been greatly loved, tenderly cared for, and now sadly missed. Or she may have felt unloved, lonely and misunderstood. Whatever her life may have been, she is now in the hands of Him who knows and understands all about her, a comprehending and righteous Judge. We can leave her with Him while we consider the case of each one here."
Then briefly and tenderly he presented to his hearers the sweet story of God's love to lost sinners and His perfect provision in the cross of Christ for their eternal welfare.
A solemn stillness reigned as each one listened intently. Tears flowed unheeded from some eyes, and wracking sobs convulsed the frame of one handsomely gowned woman. To her the preacher's wife made her way, and gently offered her sympathy.
When the weeping woman could control her tears, she inquired: "Do you know that preacher?"
The brief answer was: "He's my husband."
The next question was almost a wail: "Then tell me, oh, tell me, does he mean what he says?"
Most positively came the reply: "He means every word of it."
Next came the hesitant statement—almost a plea: "If I could just have something to hold on to."
And like a flash from the blue came that precious verse: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
This was followed by the presentation of a small "Gospel of John" in which that verse was already marked for her reassurance.
The cars were rapidly filling and leaving the cemetery and the earnest inquirer had to hasten her departure. As she turned to go her eyes filled again, but she could say emphatically: "I'll never forget what I've heard today."
With that, we must leave her as we left the deceased; in the hands of Him who knows all about her, and with whom each of us has to do.
But who can measure the results of that brief address on hearts softened even for a moment by the touch of sorrow? Our God has said: "My Word... shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isa. 55:1111So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11).
"Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days." Eccles. 11:11Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1).