Written by Scott Taylor
A few years ago Rob Blackburn, one of our former pastors, came back to Waynesville to preach a funeral. As his homily moved towards the conclusion, he quoted a passage from Thornton Wilder’s iconic play, Our Town. Depending on how old you are, you either were required to read Our Town in high school, or perhaps missed it all together. If the latter is true, I highly recommend this to your end-of-summer reading list; it is a quick read packed with meaning. The passage Rev. Blackburn read that morning comes at the end of the First Act.
I never told you about that letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope the address was like this: It said: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America…Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God – that’s what it said on the envelope. (I.441-3)
Mike Blackburn, Rob’s son, has told me this is a common anecdote in his father’s eulogies. While I can’t recall Rob’s exact words, I believe his remark went something like this, “Isn’t that something? We all live in the Mind of God. We are all born in the Mind of God and even death cannot change this.”
This time last week I was on my annual family vacation to the South Carolina coast. I like the beach. However, I don’t like it as much as some folks. It is hot. It is crowded. Homes and high rises are built far too close to the rising ocean and the landscape is drastically altered for our commerce. Even so, I like the beach. I enjoy the waves and tidal pools. I like to run on the beach and I love fresh seafood. I also know a secret about the beach. Very few people get up early enough to really enjoy a sunrise! This is my time to be out on the beach. No one else is there at 5:30am. It is still dark and cool (relatively speaking!). As the earth turns towards the sun, time moves slower. I stand still with my feet in the surf; my vision widens just like the address Grover’s Corners. I am literally seeing the Solar System work its science. Inevitably, my mind will rest in this one thought: the sun rises every day and has risen every day since the beginning of time – and yet, there has never been a sunrise exactly like this one! In a moment like that, all things merge into one, my vision expands and sharpens, and I take my seat in the Mind of God.
As wide as my vision is in front of the sunrise at the beach, I know I need an even wider vision when I return from vacation. I need the kind of vision that sees the Mind of God at play in places far less grand than a sunrise. I need Jo’s vision.
I’ve been thinking about Jo Roberts a lot this week. Jo was a long time member at FUMC and she died last Sunday after a courageous battle with cancer. Whether you knew Jo or not, if you’ve stepped inside the church, you’ve seen her photographs hanging on the wall. For years, Jo would be present at any and all church events and take photographs. She captured shots of children playing, pastors preaching, choirs singing, bells ringing, families worshiping, flowers blooming, and leaves falling. Her photographs always seem to speak with clarity and honesty. Nothing was ever staged. Seldom did a week go by that Jo would not bring a packet of pictures to the church from some event. A few years ago, a large picture of my daughter’s baptism just showed up on my desk with a note that simply read, “Love, Jo.” This picture still sits on my desk. I’ve been trying to calculate just how much time Jo spent looking at this church through a camera lens. I’ve really just been admiring her vision. She saw what I sometimes miss.
First United Methodist Church; Haywood and Academy Streets; Downtown Waynesville, Haywood County; North Carolina; United States of America; Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the Mind of God.
God grant us such vision.