The world suffered a significant loss last week. A great man passed away, and his death has left an empty space where once there was a substantial presence. You may not have heard about it, this was not a banner on Google. Matt Lauer did not interview a family member, and world leaders did not gather to pay their respects. Rather, a small group of mourners came together to glorify God and honor a man who lived a quiet life of simple faith. His name was Charles, and he was a man of very few words. He rarely spoke in his small group, but he attended every week. He served faithfully at GRACE Ministries, serving as a quiet runner and on the cleanup crew. He attended worship every week, always sitting in the back left of the sanctuary, in front of the sound booth. He would speak to you if you spoke to him, but he did not want to chat. You might even call him meek. Jesus spoke of the quality of meekness in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Many of us Northern Virginia, Type A, fast-moving people have a hard time understanding that meekness is not weakness, rather it’s a sign of surrender to God.
All authentic Christian congregations have people of meekness. Their presence among us is an indication of God’s blessing and a reminder to all of us to conform our life more and more to kingdom values. A truly meek person reminds us that Christianity is not just a system to protect ourselves from illness, reduce stress or solve problems. Christianity is a way of living based on the firm and sure hope that meekness is the way of God, that we really don’t need to be in complete control of our lives and that the here and now is enough. God is present right now and loves us as we are, this minute.
Charles embraced this life. Shortly after I learned of his death, multiple people came to me and said, “Charles was so sincere.” “Charles was so caring.” “Charles was so faithful.” “Charles served with such diligence.” “Charles was so reliable.” And on and on. This quiet man, who rarely spoke to anyone, is going to be terribly missed. He practiced his faith, and that diligent practice led to a life of blessing and community that did not come easily to Charles. But Charles figured it outhe kept showing up.
My favorite image of Charles is of him coming forward to receive communion. He would cup his hands and instead of just holding them relaxed and at waist level, he would stretch them out toward me at chest level, almost as if he were pleading for just a small piece of grace. He never looked directly at me; rather he would turn his head slightly. I think it was an act of daily courage for him to come forward but he could not not come forward. For Charles believed that this small, simple act would fill him to overflowing with the grace of God. He could not stay away. I believe that his faith became simpler the longer he practiced it. He simply served. He simply attended worship. He simply attended small group. And as a result of this simple faith, he embraced the community of the church and lived a life devoted to Christ.
I am sad that Charles is no longer on this earth. I will miss him on Sunday nights at worship. And I am not alone. He will be missed at GRACE Ministries and at his small group, and the world will miss his faithful presence. But I also rejoice that he is experiencing the blessedness of heaven and learning firsthand the truth of God’s promises.