Wednesday afternoons were a busy time at our family business, McLain & Barnes Hardware. That was the time when the Orgill Brothers truck arrived from Memphis, with all sorts of goods for us kids working summer jobs to inventory, price, and prepare to sell in the coming days.
Years later when Ruthie and I settled into our apartment here in Memphis one of the first things I noticed at the Brewery development across the street was the Orgill Brothers sign on the old warehouse building at the corner. I smiled and thought it’s true: time and life aren’t linear. They, and we, move in a circle.
I later learned how the Orgill family has a long and continuing legacy in serving God through Calvary. It has been a joy to get to know and love members of the family. I already felt connected to them through memories of those Wednesday afternoon deliveries from that warehouse in Memphis to little Monticello, Mississippi.
I regret that I didn’t get to know Eliza “Liza” Fletcher, a member of that family. But I feel connected to her in part through the stories I’ve heard this week of your connections to her. Some remember her as an acolyte at Calvary; others remember her as a crucifer at a family wedding; still, others remember her as a track star. When she was lost this past weekend, we all felt as though something was lost within each one of us. When we received the tragic news of her death, we felt that loss more acutely.
An old hymn asks the question, “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” This week with Liza’s violent abduction and death and then the shooting rampage in our city and region Wednesday night, we wonder if the Circle is ruptured beyond repair. But we believe in a communion of saints in which our lives are forever intertwined in the Circle with Liza, and with Dewayne, Allison, and those others who died in the shooting rampage and at the hands of violence in our city this week.
Our lives are also intertwined with the perpetrators of violence. We deplore and may never understand the evil or madness behind their actions. Yet, we share a common humanity. For whatever reasons, reform and rehabilitation have not yet worked in their lives. When we’re really honest, we acknowledge that we are all a part of structural and communal sins, chains that are pulling down our Circle that need to be broken, with God’s help.
Isaiah writes of God:
“It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to live in.” (Isaiah 40:22)
Early this Friday morning, many gathered to finish Liza’s run and light candles in her memory. These were ways not only to remember her but to acknowledge that through the Circle of God, we will always be connected to her and to one another. It is the Circle that is inclusive and expansive and, at its best, still looks forward through time in hope. It is the Circle that ultimately brings us all back home together – by and by, Lord, by and by.