February 7, 2021
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
The following is a transcript of Larry’s spoken words as recorded on video. The transcriber apologizes for any errors.
Okay, good morning.
As a young boy, I remember seeing my beloved grandmother kneel down, join her hands, close her eyes and pray. It was a silent prayer. I didn’t know what she was saying or thinking. But I knew who she was praying to her love of God, and of her children and her grandchildren was evident in her daily life.
I remember many years ago, working in a tobacco barn. My grandmother looked at me and she gave me the most amazing smile. To my surprise, she was able to save enough money to buy herself a set of dentures. She proudly showed them off to me that day.
Although not a regular churchgoer, she was dedicated to Billy Graham, through radio and television. Just as I saw her kneel down to pray, I also watched her put money in an envelope and mail it to his organization. She believed in him and trusted his word. More importantly, you know, she was an amazing woman. And she taught me to skill and finesse of flipping a pancake without making a mess. I took me a while to get that. Her full name was Helen Sims Rawlings. She passed away on April 8, 1986. You know, I love her and I miss her and I send her this prayer.
Glory to God and the highest and on earth peace, people of goodwill. We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, oh, God Almighty Son of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. You take away the sins of the world, receive our prayers. You are seated at the right hand of God, have mercy on us. For you alone are the holding one. You alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High. Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit in the glory of God. Amen.
Rest in peace, grandmother, I’ve always wanted to say something to her.
You know, I use that story about my grandmother, and a relationship with Billy Graham, as a segue from my relationship between me and the Church of Bible Understanding and its leader, Stuart Traill. Some of you may have heard me speak of my connection with this organization. But there’s been an update and I wanted to revisit that a little bit.
I joined the Church of Bible Understanding in 1980 despite my dreams and desire to join the roller derby at that time, and I’ve got a screen share — I want to put up about get smart get saved photo. Yeah, see that the big Get Smart Get Saved, that was actually a small orange button that you had to earn as being a part of this organization. But those people are part of the fellowship that still exists.
John 3:16, in the New International Version, says “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Can we as Christians use the term saved? I believe we think about the following concepts: getting forgiveness of sense, escaping hell going to heaven when we die, and receiving eternal life. There’s a certain prayer that has to be said, in order to be saved. For some, I don’t know that it applies to all. This is not the exact prayer that I did in 1980. Because it started off different. I got this version off the internet. I’ll share it with you. It says,
Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am sinner, and I asked for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and invite you to come to my heart and life. I want to try and follow you as my Lord and my Savior. Amen.
I did some part of that prayer on a Saturday night, at the [something] Row skating rink, on a bench surrounded by church members and I became a member of that church. The idea of having friends that I could love and trust, that looked beyond possessions was very important to me at that time. I stuck with that church for two years—Bible studies, witnessing, gatherings of two or 3000 people—all engaged to hear our leader Stuart Traill, and his visions of life in the second coming of Christ.
At the end of my second year, I was asked to move into one of the houses consisting of six brothers and sisters. They provided the transportation for us, they provide the food for us, they provided shelter, anything that you want, but we had to work, we had to find a job. And we had to give our paychecks to the treasurer. Out of that paycheck, we were given a $10 weekly allowance. The house money, the money that was collected, took care of all the expenses on the house. And the rest of the money was sent to Stuart Traill in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
And so I’ve got another screen share that I want to put up there. This is a picture of Mr. Traill’s estate in Florida. The church goes on. But it’s not confirmed that Stuart Traill is still alive. In 1980, I would guess he was about 50 or 60 years old, which would mean he would be probably 100 years old right now. But I’m not sure. Despite his seemingly cult like leadership, that has continued on for over 45 years. I did not move in. I turned my back on God and I turned my back on the church.
For some reason, somehow, I found Seekers church and I’ve been here for 14 years. And I’m here to stay. I’m here to stay. I’m reminded quite often my connection with the children here. It took years to develop patience and trust. There were times when I would have five teenagers and three six year old kids—energetic boys! On most Sundays we would spend time walking to the farmers market, sometimes to the playground. We’ve also gone the cherry picking, fig picking, and to the park right here in Takoma, DC. It’s amazing all of these places are within walking distance from the church. The teenagers are off to college now and the little boys are all in middle school. You know, life does not stop for any of us. I wish them all the best in life and decisions that they make and continue to be happy and peace with God and others.
In line with what Ron Kraybill’s message to us a few minutes ago, I say to us all, let’s keep an attitude of gratitude when all else fails. When I pray, I ask “why me, Lord?” The answer comes in silence, if I ask again. Did I forget to say please? The answer whispers through a tiny crack. “No, child, you’ve got to say thank you.” Thank you works when please doesn’t. Sometimes the only answer to why me is in the silence that reminds me, “This isn’t about you.” The ones we miss are fine. Their accounts have been settled in full and they are at peace. So be it. I mind my own business and keep track of my own account until it’s fully accounted.
When the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in a perfect position to pray. As long as I’m aware of the sunrise, so shall I. As long as my legs carry me forward, I will walk and run. As long as my lungs for gather my breath, I will ride my bike. As long as my muscles abide my demands, I will live. As long as my spirit is worth sharing, I will teach. And as long as my heart beats, I will love.
Rest in peace, Andy Vogt, Frank Wagoner, LaJuana Clark, Kathy S., Jessie McGee. Five more friends have passed on within the last few weeks. It’s sad, it’s depressing. It’s a bit overwhelming. May God bless them all.
In conclusion, practice courtesy, kindness, justice, and love in all of your affairs. Love will always conquer hate. Amen.