Genesis 4:8-10 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” But the Lord said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”
I “attended” two funerals yesterday, both virtually. Both deaths were from cancer. Both men were celebrated for the choices they made in life to serve not only themselves but other people, at significant cost. Both used the gifts God gave them to make a difference in the lives of the people in their spheres of influence. One was a dearly loved member of our church. We miss you, Bob.
The other, John Lewis, was elected to Congress in 1986 and re-elected sixteen times. Called the “conscience of Congress,” he served as a representative from Georgia until he died on July 17. I heard part of his funeral on the radio on Monday and watched it on YouTube with Dave last night. You can start at 1:06 to hear Rep. Lewis challenge us in his own words.
Rep. Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders. He was the last surviving organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, the youngest speaker at that event which was the setting for Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream” speech. An ordained Baptist minister committed to nonviolent change, Rep. Lewis lay down his life over and over again for the sake of achieving MLK’s vision for the “beloved community” (see https://www.gcorr.org/25-traits-of-the-beloved-community-2/).
Rep. Lewis’s story sounds very much like Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 4 and 2 Corinthians 6 and 11. He was beaten repeatedly, left for dead, imprisoned. By 1963, he had been arrested 24 times. His skull was fractured by police when he stopped to pray during his crossing of the bridge in Selma, AL in 1965, scars he bore the rest of his life. He was arrested in 2006, 2009, and 2013 for protesting peacefully. Yet he held tenaciously to his belief in nonviolence and the possibility of reconciliation.
I hope this is enough to pique your interest in learning more about this remarkable man, who has now joined the company of saints around the throne of God. A powerful part of his memorial service in the Capitol Rotunda was the special music offered by Dr. Wintley Phipps. For me, it was even more meaningful because the week before, Dave called my attention to this video, which gives background I wasn’t aware of before about the hymn Amazing Grace:
You may not agree with all of Rep. Lewis’s political positions—I don’t—but there is no doubt his life says to us, “Yes. I am my brother’s guardian. Like you, Lord—his blood cries out to me from the ground.” And watching people worship as Dr. Phipps sang in the Capitol Rotunda touched me deeply.