Please welcome guest blogger Rev. Dr. Jim McCoy of First Baptist Church of Weaverville. In this month's letter to the congregation, Dr. McCoy reflects on recent events, both national and local. I was challenged by his words and asked if I could share them with you here. Be blessed.
Dear Loved Ones,
Two high profile funeral services were held this past weekend. On Sunday, a congregation gathered at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Rochester,New Hampshire for the funeral service of James Foley, the photojournalist who was murdered by radical extremists from a group called ISIS. On Monday at the Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, another congregation gathered for the funeral of Michael Brown, the teenager shot and killed by a police officer under disturbing circumstances that are still under investigation.
Given the fury of the events themselves plus the bright glare of a 24 / 7 media, the funeral services provided not only some much-needed context but also profound insights into what these agonizing events mean. The Bishop who preached at James Foley’s funeral reminded his parents of the blessings they received at their eldest son’s baptism, and how the priest at that time had prayed that they would “see hope of eternal life shine on this child.” Then the Bishop told Diane and John Foley, “Rarely do we recall those words, but I bring them to mind for you, as they are more poignant and prophetic.” Imagine that – the remembered vows and promises of baptism provide the mooring when, years later, the floods of chaos threaten to overwhelm.
A cousin of Michael Brown said that Michael had told the family that one day the world would know his name. “He did not know he was offering up a divine prophecy,” the cousin stated. “He did not know how his name would be remembered. But we are here today remembering the name of Michael Brown.”
The funerals of these two men also offered direction and challenge on how to move forward. Foley’s photojournalism calls us “to see the world through a different lens” and to “hear the cries [of those suffering in war-torn regions] that are a world away.” Michael Brown’s death in the week before he was to begin college brings to a head a host of long-simmering realities of racial inequities. “We will not accept 3/5 justice,” the family attorney said. “We will demand equal justice.”
There was another momentous event this weekend, one that for me was even more intensely personal. I sat by the bedside of Geneva Cheek and sang hymns shortly before she departed this earthly life. The death of this dear sister in Christ, the blessing of her presence in this church family, and the unshakeable hope that all our lives are woven into the larger story of the Gospel, are a part of the brightest light of all that shines in the darkness. As we prepare for her funeral, Tom Long’s unforgettable words come to mind: A saint has died, and is traveling to God, continuing the baptismal journey toward the hope of the resurrection of the body and God’s promise to make all things new. We have been given the blessed burden of carrying a child of God to the waiting arms of God, singing as we go.
Thanks be to God!