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Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

by the Rev. Paul McLain

 

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.


30 thoughts on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

  1. Once again, Paul, you write with love and compassion. And, sir, you are so right… the circle is and always will be inclusive and ever expanding. And lines from hymn 469: There’s a wideness in God’s mercy…there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in his blood. Sending hugs to my hometown.

    1. Thanks, Malinda. It just so happens that “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” is one of our hymns this Sunday. The Holy Spirit and the Circle at work:) Thanks for sending your loving hugs to Memphis. We need them!
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  2. Oh, Paul, You always make it seem so clear and simple – at least for a moment. And that is enough to keep despair at bay. Thanks and peace.

    1. You’re welcome, Nancy. As you well know, it’s not so clear and simple, but sometimes we just have to hold onto the Circle or whatever metaphor we can find to make it through a week like this. We just hold onto hope and trust that God’s holding us.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, Carter. Glad this spoke to you in this week of a tidal wave of feelings while reeling. It’s hard and humbling to know what to begin to say as a fellow faith leader. We just got to hold on to hope, hold on to each other, and trust that God’s holding on to us.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, Linda. I’m glad this reflection offered a little comfort and hope at the end of a tragic and traumatic week for all of us.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  3. Paul, we have all been thru a tear filled week. Thank you for your words, they are a healing balm for our many wounds.
    Hugs to you my friend. Peace and love, Rick

    1. You’re welcome, Rick. Glad this offered a little salve to your soul after this tragic and traumatic week. We all need that healing balm.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  4. Thanks Paul for those comforting words, they are really needed while we try to make sense of these past days. Your words always calms my spirit. I thank God for you.

    1. You’re welcome, Robbie. As fellow veterans of tragic and traumatic times, we need all the calm and hope we can find. I thank God for you too!
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  5. Thank you, Paul, for the comfort of your words of this sad week. I have felt so drained, as I am sure so many have! Your words have helped so much!!! I am thankful that you are at Calvary.

    1. You’re welcome, June. Glad these words provided you a little comfort at the end of a very sad week. I am thankful to be at Calvary too and hope we all find healing together as we hold on to God and each other.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Your carrot priest Paul:)

  6. Paul, I felt that Circle of Love today when a friend and I took advantage of the free day at the zoo. There were beautiful families of all colors enjoying the cool breezes, the shade of the trees, and the magnitude of all God’s creatures. Most of all I felt peace and comfort among other people seeking the same. I’m grateful to the leaders of Memphis who offered us these opportunities for refreshment and recreation. May God bless us with hope in these uncertain times.

    1. Kate, the zoo and nature sounded like the perfect place to be at the end of this tragic and traumatic week. Glad you found the Circle of Love there and shared it with us. And we all share your prayer for hope in these times.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, David. And bless you and all who create beauty and find meaning in the midst of loss and brokenness. Your artistry gives us hope.
      Grace, pace, and love,
      Paul

    1. You’re welcome, Julie. I’m not sure there are any words for this week, but I’m glad you found my meager offering helpful. All we can really do is hold on to hope, hold on to each other, and trust that God’s holding on to all of us.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

  7. Paul thank you for this meditation and for the many ways you are a comforting presence. I am so glad to get to know you and learn and worship at Calvary with you. Peace,
    Mary

  8. Paul – I needed to hear your comforting words! Thank you for being a wonderful guide through all of this misery. Take care – Cathy

    1. You’re welcome, Cathy. Glad this reflection provided some comfort after a long, hard week. Hope we can all hold on to hope, hold on to each other, and trust that God’s holding on to all of us.
      Grace, peace, and love,
      Paul

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