Funeral for Ora Collier

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Ora Collier may have been the greatest woman that I’ve ever known. I can unashamedly tell you that Miss Ora has been one of my heroes of the faith for some time now. But, what was it that made her great? Miss Ora was never wealthy. She didn’t have a book deal, and she wasn’t featured on any TV documentaries. Truthfully, most of the world didn’t even know that she lived. Ora was an obscure woman who passed away quietly on a small county road in rural Alabama. But, Ora was great. Ora was successful.
Ora lived a life that transcended fame and prestige and prosperity. She lived a life that was so great that it is a disservice to even mention those things that moth and rust destroy in comparison to her. You see, this world that we live in tells us that we can know that we are great and we can know that we are successful by looking at how successful our career is and how well known we become and how large our savings account can grow. But, none of those things made Ora great. Ora was great because she had a singular focus in her life that she saw as being far bigger than her alone. Ora was great because she didn’t seek to be great. She simply lived to bring glory to God and to show love to others. That’s why all of you braved icy roads and frigid temperatures to be here this morning. She loved you. And, if she loved you, then she told you that she loved you because God loved her and she lived for him.

God’s Word

"Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?" These guys aren't asking Jesus a philosophical question about greatness. They weren't asking Jesus to define greatness in the Kingdom of God. They were asking, "How great are we in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Or, "Which of us are the greatest in the Kingdom of God?" We know this by Jesus' answer, and we know this because this has been their constant question. In Mark's account of this same story, he tells us that they spent their entire walk that day arguing about who the greatest was in the Kingdom. The disciples are wanting to know how they measure up with one another. They want Jesus to settle for them how they compare to each other and who comes out on top. They always want to know their rank in the Kingdom.
"Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest" It's interesting here that Jesus does not rebuke the pursuit of greatness itself. Jesus doesn't want his disciples to stop pursuing greatness; He wants them to stop pursuing the wrong definition of greatness. He wants them to abandon false greatness. He wants them to hate God-robbing greatness and to embrace God-exalting greatness. So, Jesus redefines greatness for his disciples so that they might pursue it. And, I love the way that Jesus does this. Jesus says to his disciples, "Well, guys, since you like comparisons so much; let me give you something to compare yourself to." You can imagine that all of the disciples are expecting him to bring up Peter or James or John so that they could all see how they measure up. And instead, Jesus brings in a young child. The concern here for the disciples is about their status. How high is their status in the Kingdom? And, Jesus brings to them a child, one with no status at all, as an example of how his disciples should appear. He has no education, and he has no reputation. He has not accomplished great things in his life, and he is not a person of influence. Nobody comes to him for counsel, and he doesn't even have any money with which he can help the poor. If you compare the disciples of Jesus to the boy, it would seem to be no contest. And yet, Jesus points to the child and says, "This is greatness in the Kingdom of God. Compare yourself to him. Be like him, if you want to be great."

Dependent and Submissive

What is great about the child that Jesus wants to see in his disciples and in us? "We are given no indication of the identity of the child, and that is as it should be: the child's very anonymity helps to make the point." (France) The child goes to Jesus not seeking status or rank, but simply because the child trusts Jesus and submits to him. He simply does what Jesus has told him to do. He comes to Jesus as immediately as Jesus calls him. And, he is totally dependent on the provision of others to sustain him. The child doesn't think, "Man, I am great." He think, "My dad is the strongest man in the universe. My mom is so smart. They always take care of me." Humility and dependence go hand-in-hand. It is pride that tells you that you are the ruler of your own life. But, the child knows better. He is submissive to those above him and utterly dependent upon them for survival.

“God is Everything to Me”

I can still hear Ora talking about her relationship with God. She had known pain, and she had known suffering. She had faced discrimination in her life, and she had buried both a husband and a son. And yet, her most common phrase was: “God is everything to me. I cannot live without him. I cannot make it one minute without him. He loves me, and He takes care of me.” Ora lived her life totally dependent upon the Lord.

Ora Was a Praying Woman

Prayer is the ongoing declaration of dependence on God. We pray out of acknowledgment of our weakness and dependence upon God, and Ora was a praying woman. Rhonda Turner told me a story not long ago about a night she spent with Miss Ora. She said that she had always wanted to pray with Ora, and so, when bedtime came, she asked Ora to pray with her. They knelt beside Ora’s bed and prayed together. But, she said that the most remarkable part came after that. She went to bed in a room beside Ora’s, and as she was preparing to go to sleep, she heard Ora began to talk. She said that she talked as though there was somebody sitting in the room with her. Rhonda realized that Ora was talking to God, and she prayed until ultimately Rhonda fell asleep.

Earthly Greatness Verses Kingdom Greatness

This is the difference between earthly greatness and Kingdom greatness. Earthly greatness tells the story of how you came from nothing to build for yourself a great life. It's a story of adventurous, courageous pride that leaves everyone in awe of the obstacles that you've overcome and the good things that you've accomplished against the odds. Kingdom greatness says the opposite. Kingdom greatness tells the story of how you once thought you were strong and great and mighty only to realize how wretchedly weak you really are. Kingdom greatness tells the story of your weakness being overcome by God's strength so that you are actually joyful and useful and peaceful.

Ora Lived for God and Was Great B/C of It

This is why Ora was great. Ora had overcome great things in her life. She had looked hatred and racism right in the eye. She endured through segregation and had to move in order to be educated. And, she did it with heroic grace and humility, and she kept none of the credit for herself. Ora could have found many reasons to be bitter and filled with hate, but she had found an even greater reason to be filled with love. She knew his love, and it was more important to her that everyone know that He is great rather than believe she was great.

“Whoever Receives One of These little Ones”

“whoever receives one of these little ones in my name receives me” And, Jesus said that people that are great in his Kingdom will be marked by a very particular type of love. They will be marked by a love for people that is self-sacrificing and generous. That is, they will love people and care for people who have nothing to offer them in return. They will love the lowliest child and the greatest outcast. They will offer kindness to people who have never experienced kindness before.

Ora Gave to Children Who Couldn’t Give

Ora used to tell me about how children would be brought to her class from other classes where they kept getting into trouble. Everyone at the school would be finished with them, but Ora would take them into her class, and she would love them. Charles has described Ora as having a remarkable ability to soften the spirit of a child. And, Ora would say, “Before you knew it, they would be making good grades and be leaders at school.” These children had nothing to offer Ora, and Ora had everything to offer them. And so, she gave of herself.

Ora’s Godchildren

And, do you know the clearest way that I know that Ora is great in the Kingdom of God? It’s her godchildren. I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. I’ve met people from New York, Virginia, Chicago, California, and Florida. I apologize to all of you who have received sermon CD’s from me. Ora tells me that she would have so many children in her home so often, that she had actually been asked by neighbors how many children she had. They were always confused when said she just had one son, but so many godchildren. She left a legacy of love to you because of her love for God. She gave of herself to you, because Christ had given of himself for her.

You Need Jesus Like Ora

If Ora Collier needed Jesus, so do you. Some of you who have been impacted by Ora may not even believe in Jesus as she did. But, you know what she would tell you? She couldn’t have even loved you without him. You can know him like she did. And, I know Ora would want me to tell you that today. She loved you, and she wanted more than anything for you to love Him.
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