DOROthy Watkins Funeral

DOROthy Watkins Funeral

Dorothy Watkins Funeral

April 27, 2018 (died April 19)

Note:  Dorothy was the closest thing to a mother I experienced other than my own dear Mother.  She was a widow the entire 50 years I knew her, a godly woman who loved God’s Word like few others.  She also served as receptionist at First Free in Wichita for many years.

Welcome:  welcome all of you to this celebration of the life of Dorothy Watkins, a dear mother, grandmother, great grandmother, church member, friend, and saint.  

We tend to use the term “saint” in a variety of ways today.  The Catholic Church has a five-step process before a person can be declared a saint, and only 3,000 people have reached that vaunted status in the 2000 years of church history.  The process can’t even be started until at least five years after the person’s death, and several miracles must be attributed to prayers in that person’s name.     

On the other hand, the New Testament refers to all true believers as “saints.”  If you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you are a saint, one set apart for God’s purposes, and you don’t even have to be dead.  This room is full of saints.

But there is another use of the term saint that I think is also legitimate, and that is when we refer to a person as a saint because they are saintly.  They live and behave in a manner that is above reproach. They are godly, they demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, and they are devoted to God’s Word.  By this definition Dorothy Watkins was a true saint.  I don’t mean sinless, however.  I must admit I never observed Dorothy commit a sin, but I’m sure she must have, for the Scriptures say that “all have sinned.”  Come to think of it, she was known to lie, for on more than one occasion she told me I had preached a great sermon when I knew it wasn’t that good!  

It is our hope that this farewell service will encourage your heart, comfort you, and increase your desire to know God and to make Him known.

Prayer:  Will you bow with me as we commit our time to the Lord?  “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.  You have set your glory above the heavens.  From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise.”   Father, your Word tells us that precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.  It is our privilege to celebrate the life of one of those saints this morning.  We thank you for all you have done for us, first and foremost the forgiveness of our sin. One of the gracious things you have done for us is to give us individuals who touch our lives in an unmistakable way and leave us better than they found us.  Father, that’s how we feel about the dear friend whose memory we honor this morning.  Dorothy was a spiritual hero to many of us–not in as a public figure, an eloquent speaker, or a leader of crowds.  Rather serving behind the scenes, encouraging, complimenting, helping, giving, praying, and loving.

We ask that your Holy Spirit would be present here in a powerful way as we remember our Dorothy and hear from your Word.  I lift up her family—Keith, Linda, her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, and her extended family—that You will fill the huge void that is left in their lives. They will miss her terribly, but she has left them a legacy of love and generosity and godliness they will never forget.  

Lord, I know Dorothy would want the attention today to be upon You–Your grace and mercy and faithfulness–and upon her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It’s in His strong name that we pray, Amen.    

Song:  How Great Thou Art

Message:  I met Dorothy over 50 years ago at Pantego Bible Church in Arlington, Texas, where Jan and I attended during seminary days and where I taught a S.S. class that her son Keith attended.  Dorothy came to visit Keith and his family, and I immediately took a liking to her.  Little did I know at the time that in less than ten years I would become her pastor and she would eventually come to work for me in the church office.  

Dorothy loved the teaching of God’s Word and took notes assiduously.  I once found a notebook in the pew that contained the outline of every sermon I had preached at First Free.  It belonged to Dorothy.  She once told me, “The most important part of my life has been Bible study—not for facts but for knowing the God who gave us His precious Word to live by.”  

There are two main purposes of a Christian memorial service.  One is to honor the loved one who impacted our lives so deeply.  That we have tried to do through the words of Dorothy’s children, grandchildren, pastors, and friends.  I’m sure many of you could add to what they have said, and I trust you will share your memories with Keith and Linda and the rest of the family in the coming days.

But the other purpose of a memorial service is to speak to the living.  There are many passages we could focus on today with great profit.  I could talk about Dorothy as a premier example of the Proverbs 31 woman.  I could speak about the resurrection body from 2 Cor. 5 and how Dorothy is now walking, perhaps running, maybe even dancing in her new body.  I could talk about heaven from Rev. 21 and the fantastic things Dorothy is experiencing for the first time, as well as the joyful reunion she is having with Warren and so many others.  I could speak on any number of Psalms that offer amazing comfort for the broken-hearted. 

But Dorothy told me what I was to preach at her memorial service—the Good News, the Gospel, for to her the most important question for her family and friends is this:  Are you ready when your time comes?  Are you right with almighty God?

So I have chosen a passage that Dorothy listed as one of her favorites.  (By the way, when I asked her what her favorite Scripture passage was, she listed 17 of them!)  

I’m sure most of you know those verses.  They come from Rom. 10:

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved….   As the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”    

This short passage is obviously about being saved.  Three times in three sentences we are told what it takes to be saved.  Christians use the term “saved” a lot, but I wonder how often we stop to think about what it means.  The root meaning of the word is to be delivered or rescued.  But from what?  

It is clear when you read the Bible that a crisis is looming ahead for the human race and for each individual in it.  

One day Jesus is going to return and this world and everything in it is going to come to a fiery conclusion.  Here’s how the Apostle Peter describes it in 2 Peter 3:  ”But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?”  That sounds a lot like nuclear war to me, but whatever it is, it qualifies as a crisis!

But suppose you die before Christ returns.  Does that mean you will escape the crisis?  No, because the Scripture also says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that, judgment.”  (Hebrews 9:27). So, every one of us will face a crisis of judgment either when we die or when Jesus returns.  

But what has caused this crisis?  That can be answered in one word:  sin.  Not one of us has ever lived up to even our own standards, much less God’s.  We have fallen short; we have broken His laws, we have been rebellious, and our sins have ruined this wonderful world He created.  Therefore, God’s judgment looms over us.  

If we want to be saved, delivered, rescued from the coming crisis, then we’d best listen to the solution God Himself has provided to our sin problem.   

Here it is again from Romans 10:  “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved, delivered, rescued.”  The first important point that seems obvious to me is that there is a two-fold aspect of saving faith:

1.  Confession with the mouth 

2.  Belief in the heart 

Why is confession with the mouth required?  Can’t one be a silent disciple, a closet Christian?  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose amazing biography is a recent best-seller, is one who knew a great many so-called “secret disciples” in Nazi Germany.  He served in the state church, a church in which many claimed to be believers and yet never thought of paying the cost of confessing Christ openly.  Bonhoeffer fought such a practice, calling it “cheap grace.”  He wrote, 

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Bonhoeffer confessed Christ openly and was hanged by the Nazis at the concentration camp at Buchenwald just days before the Allies liberated Germany.  Many others practiced cheap grace, which is not saving grace.  

But simply confessing with the mouth that “Jesus is Lord” is not enough.  There are many who acknowledge Jesus as a fine teacher, an historical person who impacted His world for good, perhaps a great miracle worker.  Some may even mouth the actual words, “Jesus is Lord,” but to them those are only words.  They have not submitted to His Lordship or changed their lifestyles one whit.  No, says Paul, a person must also believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead.  He is more than a great teacher, more than a miracle-worker.  He is the one who died for our sins and then conquered death. 

This passage tells us that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.  And the clear implication is that this is the only way one can be saved.  (And of course, John 14:6 makes that explicit:  “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  And Acts 4:12 adds, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”)  

I am aware that we live in such a mindlessly pluralistic society that it is considered uncouth, if not downright immoral, to suggest that some religions are better than others or, even worse, that some religions may be wrong.  But friends, some are wrong.  In fact, all are wrong that do not call us out of our own inadequate self-righteousness to faith in Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord.      

But perhaps you wonder whether you are qualified to be saved.  Perhaps you have committed sins that you think are unpardonable or that you have waited too long.  Verse 13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  I like James Boice’s observation:

You may be rich or poor, educated or uneducated, advantaged or disadvantaged.  You may be passive or highly motivated.  You may be religious or not religious at all.  You may be moral, or you may be very immoral.  You may have lived in sin a long time.  You may have committed adultery or stolen money.  You may even have murdered someone.  It does  not matter.  The text says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 

As far as I know this is the only prayer of an unbeliever that God has obligated Himself to answer—the prayer that calls upon the Lord for salvation.  

The most amazing thing to me, and the thought I would like to leave with you this afternoon, is that no one, not one person, needs to go to hell.  God loves you and sent His only Son to die in your place.  Jesus has provided the grounds for friendship between you and God and has provided the means for you to escape the coming judgment.  

But you must believe, you must call upon His name, you must confess Jesus as Lord.  Dorothy Watkins did that.  In fact, it was a rare person who met Dorothy and didn’t discover shortly that she was a Christian who had a strong personal faith in Jesus Christ.  That is why I am absolutely confident that she is right now enjoying the presence of her Savior in heaven.  I know something else.  Nothing would give Dorothy greater joy than to know that you, her relative or friend, have placed your faith in Christ and thus will someday join her.  

Will you bow with me in prayer?   In fact, I am going to offer a sinner’s prayer.  If God has convicted you of the need to confess Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, I invite you to quietly repeat these words:  

“Dear Father, thank you for the life and witness of Dorothy Watkins.  Thank you even more for sending your own son, Jesus Christ, to die on Calvary’s cross to pay the penalty for my sin.  I confess that I am a sinner, estranged from you, but right now I place my faith in Jesus and accept your free gift of salvation.  Thank you, Father.  Amen.” 

Tribute by Pastor Tom Macy

April 22, 2018

Upon arriving in Wichita in August of 1985, I met in the First Free office one of the dearest saints, who became a wonderful personal friend, Dorothy Watkins.  Dorothy was 65 years old when I met her and was already reflecting on her age, aware that her life on earth was closer to the end than the beginning; but not as close to the end as she expected or even wanted, as she had nearly 33 years more to bless us on earth before she entered the Lord’s presence.

Yes, Dorothy was a wonderful member of the staff, serving the entire church from the office, but also somewhat of a mom to the staff, reminding Skip Lewis or Brian Pantle when it was time for a haircut.  I think she even reminded me on one occasion.  I don’t hesitate to state confidently that Dorothy was loved by the entire staff – Beth, Skip, Steve, Brian, Gene, David, Jody, Gwen, Bill, Margaret, LeAnn, Susan, Bill, Melanie, Phil, Dan… and I’m too old to remember who all intersected with Dorothy on my watch, but we  We all knew we could count on Dorothy.  And after she retired, we called her back at least a couple of times.

Two of my children, Carolyn and Ben, upon hearing of Dorothy’s passing, mentioned her German Chocolate cake. It was a standard item at staff Christmas parties, and she left the rest for our family.  Linda says that’s what we had for breakfast the next morning.  

Dorothy loved the Lord with all her heart and truly looked forward to meeting him face to face, “absent from the body, present with the Lord,” where she now is.  She loved the Body of Christ, the church, and certainly did her part to make the bride of Christ more beautiful.  She loved the Bible and delighted in hearing it proclaimed, explained, and applied week after week; always learning and growing and rejoicing in God’s grace in the varied aspects of the Gospel.  One of her office ministries, both as staff and as a volunteer, was preparing copies of the message each week on cassette tapes, her delight in enabling others to hear biblical preaching.

Her personal encouragement of me as a preacher was a wonderful gift.  I recall one occasion when I visited First Free after I had moved to Indianapolis.  As Mike Andrus and I walked into the sanctuary, we stopped to greet Dorothy in her designated space, at the back on the center aisle.  It was explained to me that a key reason for sitting there was because it was under a can light where she could see her Bible more clearly.  On that occasion, she commented her delight in seeing the two of us together as those who preached the Word, in which she so delighted.

But far more than staff member or church member to Pastor, Dorothy became a dear and trusted friend who shared freely with me the burdens and concerns of her heart; and invited me to share freely with her the burdens and concerns of my heart.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul instructed the young leader, Timothy, about relationships in the church, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with all purity.”

Just a year and a half before I met Dorothy, my mom died at the age of 66 when I was just 33.  My wife, Linda, will affirm that mom’s death was a game changer for me.  I was never quite the same after that, and I hope at least some of that for the better in how I related to people in their suffering.  But I began to see the gift of God to me of a number of older women as “my mothers.”  Both in churches we served in Nebraska, older women at First Free, and older women from my childhood – not so much now in Indy where those old enough to be my mom are becoming rare, passing rapidly into glory.  

High on that list of moms to me was Dorothy.  Her regular understanding encouragement was such a blessing, but one memory stands out.  It was the summer of 1991, the year called the “Summer of Mercy,” when Operation Rescue came to town.  Emotions were high.  Committed pro-life believers had legitimate differences in the best approach.  Alliances were challenging.  I was involved with the pastors of the city and eventually drafted a statement of common pro-life affirmations that was placed in the Wichita Eagle.  After one particular meeting of negotiating the statement, I came back to the office emotionally wrung out and exhausted.  As I walked into the office, I spontaneously said to Dorothy, “I need a hug,” and she responded as a dear mother would to a needy son.

The only time I recall getting in trouble with Dorothy was when I predicted she would live to be a hundred years old and she protested, “But I don’t want to live to be a hundred years old.”  

So, Dorothy, you won that one, but not by much.  And I’m so happy for you!  But that pew at the back will look awfully empty the next time I visit First Free.  I love you!

Pastor Tom