Last Friday I was on top of the world. We of Up Town Church had just completed a marvellous vacation trip to Deer Island. I arrived back in the city renewed and ready for fresh challenges, or so I thought. Little did we know that the next day one of our number would be brutally murdered! Suddenly I didn’t feel so fresh. In fact I felt disoriented and very fragile. It was a rude re-entry into urban ministry.
Mark loved going to Deer Island. Every year for him was a golden time of being with his daughter Jessie. This year was especially good for him. The last day he and his daughter walked the shore and shared that they loved one another. As we crossing the ferry headed home he said that at this juncture other years he was so depressed that the time was over but this year was different. He and Jessie had a happy good bye (little did they know it would be their last). Mark was filled with hope. I had arranged that he and two other guys would move into our Taylor College Community together, so he was going to be in cleaner, cheaper and safer conditions with friends. Now that Deer Island was over he was determined to find a job. Things were looking hopeful. Mark knew he still had to struggle with personal demons and addictions but for the first time in a long time it looked like there might be a dawn after a long Arctic like night.
I console myself, somewhat, with the remembrance of a great trip for Mark and that he was not in ‘the pit’ as he died but I am struck by the cruel irony that He should be beaten to death at time when it seemed hopeful that he might be turning an important corner in life. Now we do not know if Mark would have succeeded in his aspirations but we do know he will never have the opportunity.
I realise that when faced with these tragic circumstances I am faced with a choice. My choice is to be filled with doubt of filled with faith. I chose faith! As Tony Campolo’s pastor says “it’s Friday but Sunday is coming.” Here we wrestle in the darkness and disappointment and unknowing of Good Friday. The powers of darkness may seem to have the day but today I chose to recall that these, though very real, are Good Friday feelings and that hope is dawning as Sunday comes.
I wrote, last time, that my ministry is not in Eden but in the rough and tumble of the city of Saint John. Mark’s death reminds me that there are real powers of darkness and that life is short. We have only now to be reconciled to God and with one another! I pray that God will strengthen (that is comfort) me for the task according to His word “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted (strengthened)”. The world is a dark place and Jesus is the light.