But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15
Sunday morning my prelude to worship was, again, a quiet stroll through the church rose garden. In a sense, each time a clicked the shutter I cut these flowers to take them with me. This bouquet is for Polly.
It seems I have written too many of these reflective thoughts this year. Here it is, only the second day of June, and already it is the third time we have lost someone we love to cancer. All from our church; all far too young; all the kind of people who help you build your trust in God.
About that last sentence. What I mean is my three friends (Tom, Cynthia, Polly) each demonstrated some unique and particular quality that was – and that remains – a testimony to the faithfulness and love of God, the kind of “Here it is!” evidence of a real and loving God that you hang your hat on.
This time it is Polly York. Polly was diagnosed with cancer the summer of 2018 and it wasn’t long after that she started to attend my Sunday morning class, along with her husband, Jere. Her explanation was simple: “I have loved Jesus my whole life,” she said. “It was time we went to Sunday school.”
Polly reminds me of the verse from First Peter quoted above. She is one of “the reasons for the hope that we have.”
She wore her love of Jesus on her sleeve:
We are a curious crowd in my Practical Christianity Sunday morning class. We tend to be more interested in exploring hard questions than swallowing easy answers, so it was a good moment for every last one of us when Polly showed up, wore her love for Jesus on her sleeve, and gave us all the gift of a gentle spirit, a pure testimony, and an uncomplicated hunger for God.
With the advent of COVID-19 some of our participants have found meeting in a virtual space hard to navigate. But Polly and Jere managed to connect by phone and their quiet commitment always inspired. Then, by what can only be describe as “an act of God”, three weeks ago they magically appeared on the Zoom screen and something beautiful happened.
Polly had some stuff she wanted to share with us; she was enthusiastic, she was clear, she was on top of our conversation. Her voice was strong, her spirit was serene, her passion for her faith was right there front and center, and her apportionment of moxie was ramped up to a notch or two.
“Polly!” I exclaimed at one point. “Wow! You are so strong today and your words are full with faith. I have to ask – would you like to teach next week?!”
That turned out to be her last visit with the class. But Polly most certainly made a lasting – eternal – impression.
But that is what genuine faith does, doesn’t it? Authentic faith communicates with grace and power, and with the compelling, living, unavoidable truth.
Rebekah and I had the privilege of seeing Polly once more, just a few days ago, when we took bread and juice to her home and we celebrated the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: gathered in a circle around her bed, sharing the elements, quietly crying with a mixture of sadness, and promise, and faith.
“And when Jesus had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me'” (1 Corinth 11:23-25).
My point today is this: Apologetics (the discipline of making sound arguments on behalf of Christianity) may be an interesting exercise, but it adds up to little more than a bunch of intellectual hooey when compared to the witness of an authentic relationship with Jesus experienced and shared; faith told without a lot of words but lived via grace and mercy and love instead.
That was my friend Polly, right there.
I really do pray that these words point to something of the substance of what Polly showed in her life. I pray that you meet Polly’s Jesus, and that you will know her kind of assurance, and hope.
“Because he lives…” – Derek
(Here are some flowers for Polly, from the church garden Sunday morning)