Margaret (Margi) E. Parks
October 5, 2013
Death and a Paradox of Emotions
In death we experience unspeakable sorrow, grief, and mourning at the loss of a loved one—in this case, Margaret (Margi) Parks: wife, mother, friend to countless people, and, most importantly, child of the Most High God. Yes, as we gather, we grieve.
But the gospel of Jesus Christ offers unshakable hope for life beyond the grave. Death, we trust, is not the final word for Margi, but life, everlasting life.
Today, of all days, we resonate with the Apostle Paul when he describes Christians in 2 Cor. 6:10 as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” Sorrowful, because we miss Margi, miss seeing her warm smile and hearing her encouraging voice in casual conversation or in harmony with the choir she loved so much. But rejoicing because we know that Margi suffers no more as she has received the goal of her faith, the salvation of her soul.
And so it is with heavy hearts in the midst of this heavy providence that Jesus bids us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
We are gathered here today to share our sorrow, to carry one another’s burden of grief, to mourn what feels like an untimely loss even as we trust in the perfect timing of the sovereign Lord who’s eye is on the sparrow and has every hair on our head numbered. We have come to this church, on this Saturday, to remind one another of gospel hope so that in due time our mourning will turn to joy.
I wish I had gotten to know Margi better. Unfortunately with my voice I did not have the opportunity to sing with Margi in the choir. The choir was to Margi an extension of her family. It was a place of refuge from the very real trials and sufferings she experienced on earth. The choir for Margi was a foretaste of heaven when sorrow would be no more and everything would be conducted in perfect harmony—nothing out of key, no dissonance; just perfect melodies of grace for all eternity.
Margi’s life gave us glimpses of this reality. We saw it through her love of family—both her immediate family and church family. Margi’s love of family dinners, family birthdays, women’s retreats, Bible studies, and the choir are well known. But we also learned of the glories of heaven through Margi’s all-too-real sufferings and the way she endured them. In her 55 years on earth, Margi experienced the pains of a fallen world such as the loss of children, physical health problems, and seasons of depression. But as her husband Mark has written, “in spite of it all, Margi looked forward to heaven and singing for God.” Margi’s life sang the gospel song, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through.” This is the hope that helped Margi weather the storms of life and give still greater joy in times of relative calm. Margi understood, perhaps better than most, the words of our Lord in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The Promises of God as Strength for a Weak Soul
In times of grief like this I run to promises. The promises of God are strength for a weak soul. “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my Hope and Stay.” Yes, the solid rock of God’s Word is the only place to stand when the ground of our heart is collapsing under the weight of sorrow.
- John 8:51: Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.
- John 11:25-26: Jesus said to [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
- Rom. 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 2 Cor. 5:1 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
- 1 Pet. 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
- Rev. 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
These precious promises are all blood bought. The cross of Christ—His death and resurrection—opens the floodgates of salvation to all those who believe, to all those who sing from the heart, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe; sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” Praise God, Margi sang this song from the heart!
The Mysteries of God
William Cowper was writing rich, biblical truth when in the late 1700s he composed the hymn, God Moves in Mysterious Ways. One stanza seems particularly appropriate for us in our grief:
[God’s] purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Much of Margi’s life was hard, difficult, bitter. But I can assure you on the solid rock of God’s Word, that sweet is the flower of Margi’s life. For even now, Margi’s life has blossomed into something beautiful beyond description. For Margi has received the goal of her faith, the salvation of her soul. And in this we rejoice.