Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Words at the End of a Pilgrim's Journey

Ever since I moved to Michigan nearly seven years ago, Leroy Cole has been among my dearest friends and most respected mentors. When my father died this past April, many people had kind words to say to me, but Leroy's words were among the wisest, most pastoral and and most profound.

I was saddened this week when I learned of his mother's passing at the age of 96, and further saddened that I simply lacked the capacity to share with him words as wonderful as those he had shared with me.

When I attended his mother's funeral today, I was moved by Leroy's words once more. The cover of the bulletin for the funeral included the picture above from Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, as well as the following quote from Part II of the book:
Now the day drew on that Christiana must be gone. So the road was full of people to see her take her journey. But behold all the banks beyond the river were full of horses and chariots, which were come down from above to accompany her to the city gate. So she came forth and entered the river, with a beckon of farewell to those that followed her to the riverside. The last word she was heard to say here were, I come, Lord, to be with thee and bless thee.
So her children and friends returned to their place, for that those that waited for Christiana had carried her out of their sight. So she went and called, and entered in at the gate with all the ceremonies of joy that her husband Christian had done before her.
At her departure her children wept, but Mr Great-heart and Mr Valiant played upon the well-tuned cymbal and harp for joy. So all departed to their respective places.
Leroy commented,
And so it is that Bunyan pictures the departure of Christian's wife, Christiana. She and all pilgrims have their own path and progress, but persevere in the company of fellow pilgrims. Mr. Great-heart and Mr. Valiant-for-truth are the pastors who guide and protect believers along their way to the Celestial City. Their roll is not to secure them in this world, for all they are pilgrims marching to Zion.
So Monday, as a son, I wept at my mother's crossing. As a pastor, I rejoiced at her entrance into the presence of the King.
At times like these we try to humanize death, to think and say such things as, "she is now reunited with her husband after nineteen years of absence." But Darwin in life and death was valiant for truth and he, with great joy, accompanied her to the feet of Jesus: "the Way, the Truth and the Life." Faith gives way to sight and the face of Love is viewed.
"The Lamb is all Glory in Emmanuel's Land." (Rev. 5:4-10)

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