this poor man cried

I thought I would just give a brief synopsis of my dad’s funeral. Unfortunately there was no recording of it, I would have loved to share the preaching with you.My daughter in law and nephew provided a beautiful violin and piano prelude as we prepared for the service. The service opened with a vigorous congregational rendition of “When the Roll is Called up Yonder.” My parent’s pastor, Rev. Stephen Westhaver opened in prayer and directed the service. My brother-in-law, Rev. John Shearouse read 1 Th 4.13-18, followed by another congregational hymn, “What a Day that Will Be.” I grew up in this church and although I have taken a much different theological and ecclesiastical position, one thing I have always appreciated about the church is the enthusiastic singing. We were taught to ‘sing out’, skill didn’t matter. Today the singing was great.

I gave the eulogy, basically going through my last post, ‘poor boy off the farm’, but adding a few more details and correcting a few mistakes from the first written version.

Following the eulogy, one of the men of the church sang a solo of “The Ninety and Nine.” The hymn was my grandmother’s favorite, I was told by some older cousins. It was one my dad loved as well. The man who sang was our next door neighbour during our growing up years. His boys were among our best friends. Our soloist stood as the representative of several families in this little church that have had a lifelong relationship with our family – all united in Christian work, raising their children in the church and ministering to others through the church. As I looked at these now much older faces, I reflected on the grace of God represented in these life-long relationships. I counted at least five families who were connected with my parents and were workers in this church through the years – more than fifty years in several cases. There are some families in the church now that are the fruit of that labour then. It rejoices the heart to see that the labours of previous generations of Christians were not in vain in this place.

My brother, Rev. Paul Johnson, preached the sermon (he doesn’t have a church web site, but pastors the Grace Baptist Church of the Comox Valley in Courtenay, BC). I didn’t think I could hold together emotionally to preach the message myself and I have heard my brother preach funeral messages before. He is really a tremendous preacher.

His text was Ps 34.6. He tied in a story from his turn in staying with my dad in the hospital and helping to care for him in these last weeks. During that time my dad was in great pain from a broken hip and other difficulties. Paul heard my dad cry out in a weak, pain ridden voice, “O Jesus, help me, help me, help me…” This Paul related to the cry of the poor man of his text. He told us that the poor man of the text was not a man poor because of poverty or poor because of suffering, but poor in spirit, utterly defenseless and helpless in soul. Paul taught the congregation that this poor man is really all of us, and we must admit it. I had earlier given the testimony of my dad’s salvation, and it my dad’s cry to the Lord for salvation is the parallel of the cry of this passage.

The rest of the story about my dad in that hospital room is that after crying out to the Lord for help, my dad said, “… and I know you will.” This is the confidence of the believer who believes the promises of the Bible, the promise that the Lord would hear him and save him out of all his troubles.

Paul concluded the message by issuing a call to the audience to make the faith of the psalmist personal for themselves. He pointed out that my dad’s faith did no good for me, or for Paul, or for anyone else. I had to believe myself. Paul had to believe himself. All who hear the gospel must believe for themselves.

We closed the service by a congregational hymn, “Surely Goodness and Mercy,” then followed the casket out of the auditorium to my nephew’s rendition of “O Danny Boy” on the bagpipes. It was a glorious ending, although one dear wheel chair ridden long term friend of the family had to endure the pipes ‘full blast’ as she couldn’t escape the lobby where the pipes were being played.

We spent the rest of the day visiting with guests in the basement of the church. In particular several of my dad’s unsaved friends were in the service. My brother had an opportunity to speak at length to one of them, but he still quite clearly doesn’t get the gospel (or at least gives no sign of getting it). My unsaved uncle and aunt were present, along with several unsaved cousins and other friends of whom we are uncertain. We will see some of them tomorrow at the burial (too far from our home town to do it in one day). Pray that there might be some response. I’ll be seeing some of those unsaved friends next week also, so pray for continuing opportunities to speak to them.

Thanks for the expressions of concern and the prayers. We really appreciate it. I’ll return to my regular themes next week, but for now we are busy with some great opportunities to preach the gospel as we honour the passing of my dear believing dad to his heavenly home.

We will also hold a special service in my uncle’s senior citizen’s home tomorrow. My uncle spent 12 years in India, established Berean Baptist Bible College in Bangalore, pastored a church in Edmonton for many years following the India ministry, and continued to support mission work in India and Pakistan through these many years. My dad was his ‘rope-holding’ partner in this ministry. Since Uncle Jake (Dr. J. A. Johnson) can’t travel outside his home, we are going to bring the service to him.



  1. Cindy says:

    Paul captured much of the service on his iPod. Hopefully, he can post it with his archived sermons and send you the link–particularly for our two kids who had to miss being here.

    • Great! It was an outstanding message, as usual. That’s why I wanted Paul to deliver it. He has more emotional control than I do as well, which was a great blessing for us yesterday.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. Wolffe says:

    Sounds great…. looking forward to hearing the sermon Paul

  3. Don and Family,

    The church here has been praying for you. May God continue to give you His grace and peace and use you to demonstrate the life-transforming power of the gospel to your lost relatives.

  4. Casey says:

    Thanks so much for this synopsis, Uncle Don. It sounds like it was a wonderful service.

  5. Roger Carlson says:

    Thank you for walking us through this!