EULOGY FOR THELMA S. MCPHERSON
Saturday, May 14, 2016, First Union Baptist Church, Bronx, NY
by Michael McPherson
The text I will read from today is Psalm 111
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
2Great are the works of the LORD;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
3Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
4He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The LORD is gracious and compassionate.
5He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
6He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
7The works of His hands are truth and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
8They are upheld forever and ever;
They are performed in truth and uprightness.
9He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.
10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.
The Scriptures tell us the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God. That wisdom is a thing to be sought and treasured more than gold or silver. That wisdom is to be treasured more than power and beauty or fame and position. The Lord tells us that the one who finds wisdom will find life eternal. And life eternal begins with the fear of God.
Thelma Seymay McPherson was a God-fearing woman. I saw this first-hand when on one occasion she had gotten into an argument with her daughter and she cursed her. And then later, in reflection, she trembled in her voice as she regretted what she had said and asked the Lord for forgiveness. And with tears in her eyes, she said to me, “Will God forgive me for what I said?”
You see she didn’t tremble because she may have hurt the feelings of her daughter; she trembled because she felt she had sinned before God.
Mom was a God-fearing woman. She knew the Lord. But more importantly the Lord knew her. She was a woman who knew sorrows. A woman who endured the trials and tribulations of life. A woman who in her life endured the unforgiveable and dishonor from those closest to her. Whether it was her own mother, her spouse or her own children, she endured much.
At 84 years of age she still cried and would ask me “how could it be and why,” her mother never loved her. She would cry and ask me how could a woman tie an 8 year-old’s hands around a scalding hot egg, so that the flesh burned, just to teach her a lesson. The scars of her childhood were ever visible. A child that is neglected of the love of a mother bears a scar that cuts deep. The wound may heal but the scar is forever visible.
But in those precious conversations she would recount how she heard the voice of God as a child. That she had conversations with the Lord Almighty. He was forever by her side. Folks thought she was making up imaginary things as kids sometimes do, when she would tell others she talked to the Lord, but the Lord would come to her and talk to her as I talk to you today.
She would say “I never had the love of a mother, and it was only through the grace and mercy of the Lord that I learned to love and care as a mother.” And this is the crux of my message today. A woman may bear a child but not be a mom. A father may bear a child but not be a dad. Ms. Mac was a mom at her core, who loved her children above all else. She loved deeply and cared deeply and sacrificed her own personal comfort for the sake of others. But there was something else to her.
At the heart of the remembrance of my mother; as we forged a deeper bond, based on this fellowship in Christ, I saw the heart of Jesus was in her. “Christ in us the hope of glory,” the apostle Paul would say.
A heart filled with love, and mercy. A heart able to forgive the unforgiveable. A heart that birthed far more children and grandchildren than natural birth. She often talked of the love and care from Gloria, Toni, Kenny, Teya – sisters and nephews and nieces not from natural birth but based on love. A family based on love and caring that grew around her to be greater than what she ever had.
The wisdom of God is foolish to men the scriptures say. Why how could a child be born of a virgin? How could a man die and be raised from the dead and ascend into heaven. Foolishness the world tells us. The Christian is regarded as a fool by the world. A believer in myths they say. Drink, eat and be merry for tomorrow we die is the motto of the world. And if you can do some good along the way so be it.
And so Thelma McPherson, was called foolish by some close to her when she continued to forgive and give. A fool she was called when she received a blessing and financial gifts in one hand and then with the other hand would give it to those in need. The wisdom of God is foolish to the world. And the wisdom of God, Jesus Christ, was in her heart. Merciful, giving, forgiving and loving.
In 2007 on August 23 at 2:00am I met the living God and was changed in my soul. What once tasted delightful became wrong. What once was meaningless became my life’s passion. And it was after this time that my relationship with mom became deeper. The Lord, my God allowed me to see into His Kingdom and I began to discern his children, this is a spiritual thing, a miraculous thing. And my spirit would rejoice and be at peace when was I with my mother. Truly she was the daughter of the Living God. You see my mother in birth had become my sister, in Christ.
And when I spent the night at her house and slept in her room, I would listen to her pray before she went to bed. And I was so humbled at the depths of her prayers. I could hear her soul and smell the fragrance of her cries out to the Lord. She had this connection, this reality of God. And the Lord was forever by her side. Praise the Lord for he is steadfast in his promises to those who love him.
Luke 15:20 – we are told the story of the prodigal son.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Shortly after her surgery for cancer at age 83, the Lord graced Mom with a vision of heaven and her own appearance that I recounted in a book. And in that vision she was a princess, youthful, beautiful, and adorned in splendor riding the King’s chariot. And in that dream she was held aloft. But the Lord said to her in the same dream, it is not your time. It was a vision of things to come. You see she was fearful about many things and death.
Fear not, the Lord told her, when your bones ache, when you feel the pangs of disease or pressure or even death. Fear not, for the Lord thy God is by your side. And so I mourn but am not depressed, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that Thelma Seymay McPherson is in paradise with the Lord her God and your God.
The Lord let her know how dear she was to him. In her vision He adorned her in the best robe and precious stones and told her that when her time he came he had prepared a place for her in honor and esteem, worthy for a daughter of the King. Worthy for the child who had abandoned her own personal desires a long time ago and served Christ though a life that loved and lived and cared for others.
And it was after that vision I saw a change in mom. There was a continual joy in her voice. Things that might have gotten her down in the past no longer lingered. There was a refreshment in her soul. She had seen the Promised Land.
Dear friends, God Almighty loves his children. He loves them so. And he loves my mother. His love is greater than a mother’s love. For what mother would sacrifice her only begotten son, a son she loved so that you and me, rebels, might live. Ephesians 3:18 – Oh may it be so that we would comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, of the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding. A love he imparts freely in those that love him.
I miss her and my heart mourns, but for a night. I know in my heart I will see her again in paradise. I know not because of a wish, a hope, or a prayer or some religious belief. I know because I have been in the presence of the living God and my testimony is true and the Word of God is truth. And in her life the power of God was demonstrated time and time again, raising a testimony for those with eyes to see.
You see the testimony of the life of Thelma McPherson is that Jesus Christ is enough. Only he is enough. Despite the woes of life and dreams and expectations unfulfilled he became enough for her. And never once did he ever disappoint her.
My friends Mom was not a religious woman, not a church going woman, not a person inclined to rites and rituals. She was a woman who had been in the presence of the living God, who experienced truth, who saw the miraculous, who knew the reality of God Almighty and loved the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind and strength. And the Lord knew her.
Our mother has completed her course here on earth but her love will forever be with us. Her life was full not because of material wealth and experiences but because of Christ. The only life that is a wasted life is a life spent not knowing Jesus Christ. The only life that can escape being wasted and squandered is the life where Jesus Christ has come to fill the aching empty void.
Dear friends when God made you he carved into you an empty space that only he could fill. We vainly seek to fill it with less or other. And so to honor her memory, to honor the life of Thelma McPherson, my mother, your mother, your grandmother, your nana, your friend; I pray that your life not be wasted, that your days not be wasted, but that you might know God.
You say you loved her, well the test and proof of that love is the degree to which we are prepared to allow Jesus Christ to come into the empty chamber of our hearts and fill it with himself. And that we in turn shall share with others, as we shall meet them, giving to the Lord Jesus all that he has purchased with his blood, all that he has ransomed by his grace. The test and proof of that love is we will desire to be used by him, to show his love, mercy, kindness and forgiveness to others.
It is my belief that God intends for you and me that have been blessed by the love and life of Ms. Mac to allow Jesus Christ to do in us the same miracle he wrought in her. You then will be able to say, yes she was my mother, my nana, my friend, my teacher. Not because you can reminisce of days you spent together, but because having heard the Word you believed it.
And to those of us who mourn the passing of one whose memory shall enrich the days remaining, however long they may be, we might paraphrase those words. Saying if you love her, love like she did. A self-less love. And she loved because of Christ in her, the hope of glory.
Then the life and love of the one who has lived her life before us will have that enduring memorial, the reality of the love of Christ in our hearts that is poured out in love and care and mercy and forgiveness of others.
I end with Psalm 91, a Psalm that I see as a letter from the Lord himself to my mother and I hope a letter that provides comfort to all here today.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the LORD, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.”
AND THEN IN VERSE 14 THE LORD GOD SAYS to his beloved children
“Because YOU have loved Me, therefore I will deliver YOU;
I will set YOU securely on high, because YOU HAVE known My name.
“YOU will call upon Me, and I will answer YOU;
I will be with YOU in trouble;
I will rescue YOU and honor YOU.
“With a long life I will satisfy YOU
And let YOU see My salvation.”
Dear friends this is the promise of the Lord Almighty to my mother, to me and to all who love him. May God be with you.