kingdom of God

A Eulogy for Troy Washington: A Reason Not To Grieve

We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, to make sure that you do not grieve for them, as others do who have no hope.  

1 Thessalonians 4:13

 

First Light (© John Gresham)

This morning as I was shooting photos at Hughlett’s Point, my sister-in-law called me to give me some bad news.  My young cousin, Troy Washington, died late last night.  This news hurt me.  Troy was only a couple of months from graduating from King & Queen Central High School.  He took college courses at Rappahannock Community College and was preparing to go the University of Virginia.  His talents on the football field and basketball court were almost as good as his academic record.  Troy was a devout Christian young man attending First Baptist Church of Hockley.  He knew how to hang with his peers, respect his elders, stay away from trouble, and make the most of the opportunities that came his way.

Immediately, I wanted to grieve about his life being cut short.  He had so much to live for.  Education, career, most likely marriage and family.  His parents shouldn’t have to bury a son.  His brother shouldn’t have to attend his only sibling’s funeral before his commencement from high school.  I couldn’t wait to see him when I visited my in-laws in Charlottesville.  I didn’t get a chance to congratulate and tell him how proud I am of him.  So, despite what was in the text, I really wanted to grieve about this.

Breakfast Ripples (© John Gresham)

But, then I thought about it.  Those who have died in Christ will arise first, and only after that shall we who remain alive be taken up in the clouds together with them.  I considered myself waiting in line to get in to a great resaurant.  There are people standing there before me and some behind me and all of us have been waiting for a long time to get in.  An usher from the restaurant comes out and walks by those ahead of me, myself, and most behind me and speaks to someone who hasn’t been in line as long as most of us.  “Sir, the owner of the restaurant has a table prepared for you now.  You don’t have to wait in this line.  Follow me, come inside, and be seated.”  Here it is, members of our family have been striving for heaven for years.  We are in our 40’s and 50’s up to our 70’s and 80’s.  And God sent and angel to a teen-ager to go ahead of us.  Troy made it to the great feast of our Lord and Savior before we did.  The rest of us have waited for a long time and God gave him the break instead of us.   Grief for a life cut short?  No, I feel glad for him.  I feel a touch of envy for him.  Instead of crying aloud in sorrow, I want to tell him, “Troy, save me a seat!  Put in a good word for me!  Look out for your cousin, boy!”

Many times I have heard preachers and others say these words at a funeral, “He has been called from labor to rest.”  Ninety, eighty, and seventy year old saints have labored long in the world.  Sixty, fifty, and forty-year old believers may have lived  abundant, spirit filled lives.  Troy wasn’t even 20.  Labor?  I don’t think he had anything more than a summer job if he had that.  He never worked at the mill in West Point as did three generations of his family.  His only labor was pursuing knowledge, playing games, striving for excellence in his activities, loving people and the Lord.  And is there a labor more important than this?  No.  Troy did the labor of a child and did it well.  Unless we make ourselves like children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  Troy didn’t have to make himself one.  He was one.  He was without the adult angers, anxieties, pains, stresses, and strains.  In his life, Troy showed us what good labor as a child was all about.  How can I grieve when God used his death to teach us a great lesson of life.

Wave on Barnacles (© John Gresham)

I do grieve because I miss him.  I didn’t see Troy often.  But when I did, I always smiled knowing that he was doing something positive.  Troy was a kid we could brag about.  And because we believe in eternal life, I can still brag about Troy.  He won’t have a cap and gown.  But he has a white robe and golden crown.  He has already moved into the Pearly Gated community.  His mansion is of a building not made by man’s hands but founded on the Word of the Lord.  I don’t have to hope and pray Troy makes something good of his life because he has made it into the life eternal.

Good-bye my dear young cousin.  You got a break ahead of me.  You can rest from your labor.  Save me a seat.  I will also be ushered in one day.

Rest In Peace Troy

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A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Holy Saturday)

… “You see these great buildings?  Not a single stone will be left on another; everything will be pulled down.”  Mark 13:2

We are often awestruck by the things we make.  The disciples, some poor Galileans perhaps, couldn’t help but to note the enormity of Jerusalem’s skyline.  There is no crime in noting good craftsmanship or recognizing feats of labor and skill.  Yet, they tried to get someone greater than the city to be as awestruck as they were by it.  The “stone the builders refused” proclaimed an end to the ones that had been erected.

We make such fuss and fanfare over the things we build.  Skyscrapers to shopping malls are our landmarks.  Our homes are our castles.  Churches are being constructed as grandiose “worship centers” with every amenity we can think of.  Those who shepherd in such places can expect to be well housed themselves even as the one in whose name they preach had no place to lay his head.

Path to a Great Stone (© John Gresham)

We need buildings for everything.  Mega-churches are not inherently bad.  And pastors should receive compensation according to the church budget.  But, let us not be distracted by what we have made because it will all come down.  Even, dare I say especially, the things that we make for the sake of holy worship.  The disciples were raving about buildings while their master was about to be put in a grave.  So if Jesus was to be brought down, what is a temple?  The Hagia Sophia and Notre Dame are tourist attractions.  Other great churches of the east and west have fallen into rubble.  Likewise, our storefronts will be stores again while our “praise tabernacles” will one day meet the wrecking ball.

Only one that had been brought low was resurrected and done so with even more power than before the fall.  Only one was the temple that is the temple that makes us temples.  Only one can bring us to a city that can never be ruined by the will of man.  That city is built on the word of God.

Your Brother In Christ,

Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene

 

Seeking Thirst (Good Friday)

“I am thirsty.”  John 19:28

It would seem more reasonable that we seek refreshment than thirst.  Any trip to a convenience store or grocer will provide us with a wide range of beverages from upscale fine wines to bottled water.  Our consumption of high calorie sodas and juices is responsible for much of our diabetic and obesity issues.  In fact, often what we seek is not refreshment.  Rather we indulge in our taste which results in problematic consequences.

Living Water (© John Gresham)

Here we have hanging on a cross an innocent man who without proper clothing cannot enter 7-11 or Food Lion to buy a drink.  He has been unjustly condemned, brutally beaten, and assaulted with insults.  And now, after showing mercy to the woman who bore him, Jesus gives this one complaint of torment in John’s account of the Gospel.  “I am thirsty.”  I offer you tonight that the thirst of our Lord has nothing to do with not having change for a vending machine.  No, this thirst comes from completing the task God had for him and a desire to fulfill the word.  I challenge you that our true calling is not to over-indulge in this worlds offerings.  But, to seek Thirst.

Jesus knew that everything had now been completed.  He said all and done all he was called to do as the Messiah on earth.  He humbled himself to be baptized by one he could have baptized himself and kept wine at a wedding party.  His compassion went to a Pharisee and Samaritan woman who were willing to listen and learn.  Where there were ill and infirmed people, He gave healing.  Where some built walls with legalism, he tore them down with the word of love.  He proved that God gives life in resurrecting Lazarus, gave his disciples the example of faithful service, and has combined all of the lessons, love, and power into one simple sentence.  Jesus was thirsty.

The prophets declared his way would be made straight  by a voice crying out in the desert.  He offered living water so that no one would thirst again.  His food was to do the will of the one who sent him.  His very flesh became bread and blood became wine so that anyone who ate and drank of him would have eternal life.  Where as the religious authorities taught only from a handed down tradition, Jesus taught as he was the word, the word was with him, and the word was him.  And now the embodiment of the law, prophecy, and the pre-existing truth makes one last claim on the world that knew and received him not.  “I am Thirsty.

Thirst is the condition of completion and fulfillment of God’s will in our lives.  Too often we settle for foretaste of God’s glory in worship on Sundays, Wednesdays, or special conferences and concerts.  And yes, the foretaste is divine.  But, if we are to claim his name, we must aim for the same.  The true pursuit of Christ has nothing to do with our sporadic moments of “getting a praise on.”  We are called to complete his will in our lives.  That is to be done with the utmost diligence and persistence.  We are called to fulfill the word of God in how we live.  Not being moral fearing God’s wrath.  But, living in the Spirit because He is Spirit and gives his Spirit to dwell in us.

The point of thirst cannot be reached easily.  It requires us to be pierced with thorns and climb a difficult hill.  In spite of what we endure, we must still have compassion and seek the preservation of humanity even as ours has been shamefully mistreated.  And even still, the best the world can give us is sour wine.  Let us seek this thirst.  Those who are thirsty shall have a refreshment and restoration that the world cannot give and never take away.

John Robert Gresham, Jr.

Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church

Moderator, Pamunkey Baptist Association

PBA Division of Clergy Good Friday Service 2012

Rock Spring Baptist Church in Manquin, Virginia

A Lenten Journal: A Pursuit of the Doctrine of Christ (Holy Thursday)

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”    Mark 12:14

Standing on the Seat (© John Gresham)

What puts us close to the kingdom of God?  A scribe listened carefully before putting his question to Jesus.  His question was sincere with no ulterior motives.  He asked for the true source and not trivial matters.  And when he heard truth as the answer, he confirmed it from what he knew.

What puts us close to the kingdom of God?  When we stop assigning Jesus to a particular human line and accept him as the Savior.  If the anointed King of Israel is subject to one greater than himself, we must not limit the Christ to any border or boundary.

What puts us close to the kingdom of God?  When we who lead refuse to do so for the sake of honors and power positions.  We are called to reject gain from the powerless.  No amount of prayer can hide such exploitation.  Such self-serving hypocrisy decisively separates us from the presence of God.

What puts us close to the kingdom of God?  When we give all we have out of poverty.  To give out of luxury is no great feat.  To sacrifice when poor shows great faith.

Lent is coming to a close.  Easter and Pascha are approaching.  But, the kingdom of God is near.  Let us always draw near to it.

Yours in Christ,

Brother Cyprian Bluemood

Order of Saint-Simon of Cyrene