Posted by: pmarkrobb | March 22, 2016

the kingdom of God is like…

On this specific day in the final week before the work of redemption is finished by Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, all those who were within earshot of the Savior went to school.  From an early morning lesson involving the fig tree Jesus cursed the day before to the last lesson of the day centered on the nature of a fig tree and His coming again, Jesus is in full-on teaching mode.  And with precious few exceptions, He teaches with story.

In preparing to write this week, I revisited my work from several years ago when I first started posting each day of holy week.  It has been a joy and also meaningful to be reminded where my heart, life and thoughts were as I began to intentionally consider the events, people and truths of this incredible week in Jesus’ earthly life.  The progression of posts about this particular day have become increasingly personal over the years.  Four years ago I focused on Jesus’ pattern of teaching and responding to questions on His final Tuesday.   I’ve since developed a particular love for His stories which begin, “the kingdom of God is like…”  God has blessed me with my own personal kingdom stories, and my pattern for posting on this day has more recently been to share those.  I pray He blesses my life with new stories in future years, but for today I revisit my very first one.

On March 26th (2014), I was copied on an email from a two-week old friend.  No, my friend was not two weeks old, but rather I had just met him two weeks earlier 🙂  Have you ever had the “chance” experience of meeting someone because of a mutual friend?  And within what seems like a breath of time, under “you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff-up” sort of circumstances, you become forever brothers (or sisters)?  That was the story of me and my friend Scott.

Scott’s email was an invitation; the result of an urgent and emotional phone call he received from a dear friend.  The invitation (to a group of several friends) was to attend a memorial service for a homeless veteran (Sam), at an inner-city Detroit church/mission.  That inner-city Detroit church/mission?  It just happened to be the place I met Scott for the very first time just two weeks earlier (under those “you-just-can’t-make-this-stuff-up circumstances” I just mentioned).

Scott provided a link in his email which told Sam’s story and the desperate search for anyone that might have known him.  The article began like this…

If you knew Sanderious Crocker, please read this.

He died.

He was 67. Folks called him Sam. He was living in poverty in downtown Detroit. A Vietnam veteran who was seriously wounded, he’d been homeless for a while. He struggled with alcohol. Maybe you know this. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you lost touch. Maybe you wanted to.

Whatever the case, you should know that Sam’s body had been sitting at a Detroit morgue for a week before a friend called me and asked whether there was a way to find his family — any family — because a soldier shouldn’t die alone and neglected.

My then fifteen year-old son joined me in meeting up with Scott and a couple of his friends in the parking lot of a local restaurant to share a ride to the memorial service.  I cannot possibly share all the sacred details of that day, but there is one which I must.

I met another new friend in the parking lot that day.  His name was John, and he was our “driver” for the day.  John, like Scott, was a Vietnam veteran.  I would later learn of the amazing things he was doing to heal both his wounds and those of others via service projects in Vietnam through the D.O.V.E Fund.  John had brought a personal memento which he felt had significance to where Sam had fought in Vietnam.  He intended to give it to Sam’s family (a very small measure of which had been found as a result of the newspaper article and the power of the internet).  I learned a forever lesson about the power of healing in simple acts and gifts of selfless love from John that afternoon.

The trip to the church was short.  As we exited the highway and turned the corner onto the street where the church stood, I was completely overwhelmed by what I saw.  Something close to a hundred motorcycles lined the street adjacent to the church, all with American Flags proudly flowing in the breeze behind them.  There was also what seemed like hundreds of people milling around in the street.  I was so moved; I couldn’t speak.

It was an amazing service, with all the solemnity and ceremony of a military funeral.  Tears drenched my handkerchief as scores of veterans paid their respects walking past Sam’s casket.  There was music, moving words from people who served at the church/mission, and a beautiful message delivered by the pastor of the church.  Sam was a close friend of the founding pastor (who had since passed away) and had been a resident at the mission several times over the years.  From the stories that were told, it was apparent Sam was well-loved.  He had a happy childhood and a bright future, but fell completely off the grid after returning from Vietnam with a body, mind and life ravaged by his experience of war.

In the days preceding it, I began to feel a prompt to prepare words for the service.  I fought those prompts and struggled with their source and reason.  I didn’t know Sam and had no earthly idea why I should be prepared to say something at his memorial service.  Yet, in the most ordinary of activities (like mowing the lawn), words began forming in my mind.  Those words found their context and resonance when we turned the corner that afternoon.

What I saw in the formation of motorcycles, and continued to see in the sacred souls who had gathered for that hallowed occasion, was a vivid image of the kingdom of God.  Unnamed people from every corner of life simply showed up, because a soldier shouldn’t die neglected and alone.

In finding an appropriate spot in the order of service, I chose to be obedient to the prompting of the past few days.  “Sanderious never knew my name, and I was only introduced to his a few days ago.  This section of the service reads, ‘Remarks …. Family and Friends.’  You might be wondering what right I have to be standing here right now.  What would motivate me to stand and speak?  I would quickly and confidently answer that although we did not know each other in life, I stand up as family for Sanderious today because we are brothers in the kingdom of God.  Sam believed in Jesus, and that makes him my brother.”  I went on to share how the images of that day were a loud and clear reminder of how we should all act as members of the kingdom of God in the here and now.  The simple act of showing up for one of our brothers or sisters … it should never be any more complicated than that.  With my final few words, I shared how it was divinely fitting that we were all gathered together on Good Friday to remember a precious child of God, and what Christ did for him, and for us all, by dying on the cross.

I apologize if my narration of the story sounded disjointed or carried on too long.  I wish you could have experienced it with me!  And I’ll be quick to draw attention away from my own words and actions, because they are not included for the purpose of inserting myself into God’s story.  All the attention and glory goes to the One who made it all possible by gifting that day to me, my son and all my brothers and sisters who attended.  All I hope to say, with this story is:  The kingdom of God is like … the sacred, solemn and joyous memorial service of Sanderious Crocker.

3_tuesday_the kingdom of God is like


Responses

  1. The Kingdom of God 🙂

    – “has come; has come near; has been given to you; has come with power; belongs to such as these; has been given to you; has come near to you; has come upon you; is in your midst; is near” – Jesus

    The Kingdom of God 🙂

  2. We are in Christ indeed a band of Brothers.


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