I just wrote to someone who said they would be praying for me as I prepare to speak at Arnold’s memorial service two weeks from Saturday, “Thank you so much. I really need your prayers. I’m already nervous about this one — excited, but nervous.”
The more I hear about Arnold’s storied career and the colorful people around him including his friends and his enemies, the more intimidated I become. All of the final services I have taken part in have had mostly believers present. People are sad, but they’re hopeful. They have a belief that sustains them. They welcome the truth about Christ and the resurrection; it bolsters their faith to hear it again. This will be different. This could easily swing the other way.
This is not necessarily going to be a sympathetic audience for the gospel, and it’s going to be an audience where Arnold’s conversion is going to be the farthest thing from a lot of people’s minds. They don’t know the long process of change he went through — the hours, days, weeks, months on his back with nothing but the ceiling to look at and his life and future to consider. They don’t know anything of the consistent presence Marie and I were in his life — the love and care extended. They don’t know that before his raucous career, he had a church experience as a child to think back on, and even though there were things in that experience that led him to turn away, the truth was still there, however shrouded.
I can just imagine these people going, “Who is this guy? Let’s get the Reverend Doctor to deliver the message. Where’s the guy with the robe, or at least the collar. We want the stock service. We don’t want to be faced with any decisions for ourselves. This is hard enough imagining a guy like Arnold facing his death. We know what he was like. He was no saint. God probably wants to send him back.”
I’m serious; I’ve never been quite like this. I was up half the night thinking about this and it’s over two weeks away. That’s why I’m asking you to pray for me — not just on the 28th when the service is, but now, as I prepare my thoughts. Thank you in advance for taking this up.