Everyday Christian: farewelling Eternity's greatest fan

When you pass away, I wonder if the local shops in your suburb will put notices in their windows farewelling you.

The shops in my suburb have done this for someone I believe might just be Eternity’s greatest fan, Rodney.

He would bail me up in the street if the print edition of Eternity was late arriving at our church, St James, Croydon (the Sydney Croydon), pre COVID.

Or my wife.

You could not miss Rodney. He looked different. Towards the end of his life he had a marked growth on the side of his neck. I suspect people found that hard to take; it was certainly confronting to me.

But he always wanted to read Eternity! A fan like that is gold in the media. And he was a sincere brother in Christ. So sincere, that he had to decided to forego medical treatment. He was seeking healing and, perhaps, reasoning that whatever happened, St Paul was right and so Rodney was “full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 NET).

Now you might disagree with Rodney about seeking medical help. I do, but there’s a lot to admire about that sort of confidence that Jesus cares for us.

Al Lukabyo, my minister, wrote this about what he and others learned from Rodney:

“Rodney was a Croydon identity. He had significant mental illness, but apart from being dishevelled and having bad teeth, my primary experience of Rodney was of a total extravert, and an entertaining (if argumentative) conversationalist.”

“He attended St James and Malvern Hill Uniting, and happily disagreed with the teaching of both. His objections were not lightly dismissed; he had an unnervingly brilliant memory for scripture. In the book he gave me for my 50th birthday he wrote ambiguously, ‘I hope you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed your last sermon.’

“Rodney’s criticism was that we didn’t take discipleship seriously. He was impressed by the New Testament expectation of suffering, and he thought we fudged. He was right. On the other hand, his obstinate belief that Jesus would miraculously heal him meant he refused care that could have saved his life.

“Rodney’s final months saw spiritual breakthroughs, facilitated by gracious relationships with St James people, who were the majority at his funeral. In their care for him they exemplified a verse he often quoted to me: ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.'”