Connections 06.30.2024: God’s Anointed One Grieves

2 Samuel 1:1, 11-12, 17-27

During high school, I worked weekends and summers at the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. This historic site includes a museum and gift shop as well as the main attractions: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s small white cottage, servants’ quarters, guesthouse, and garage, built for his times of respite and treatment in the tiny town. He came there to take advantage of a pool filled by the warm spring waters, 88 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, which soothed his polio-weakened legs.

Our work schedule had us rotate to a different area each day, and I spent many hours at the Little White House itself. In the living area stands the chair where FDR sat as artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff painted his portrait on April 12, 1945. She paused when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, dying moments later, and the painting, known as the “Unfinished Portrait,” is on display at the museum today. The image is both eerie and moving.

But I found another image even more powerful. Hanging on a wall among pictures and information about FDR’s death is a photograph of Chief Petty Officer Graham W. Jackson, weeping as he plays the accordion while Roosevelt’s casket passes by. This Black man’s grief is palpable, despite the fact that the President was slow to act on issues of race and class. Leaders don’t have to be perfect to receive honor and admiration; in fact, no leader is ever perfect.

King David knew this. His relationship with his predecessor, King Saul, straddled the line between friendship and enmity—beginning with Saul’s appreciation for David’s music and ending with Saul seeking to murder David out of jealousy. In spite of the hostility, David still grieved Saul’s death, respecting some aspects of his leadership and especially his role as the father of Jonathan, David’s closest friend. Grieving the loss of both Saul and Jonathan, David says they were “beloved and lovely…swifter than eagles…stronger than lions” (v. 23).

This story, and certainly the actions of Jesus, indicate that every life has value and that loss of life matters, regardless of who dies. May we recognize that all human beings, no matter who they are in life, will die. And may that encourage us to share the love of Jesus Christ with everyone we meet so their lives will be better and their deaths merely a transition into eternal life with God.

Sources: Ben Cosgrove, “Mourning FDR: In a Classic Photo, the Face of a Nation’s Loss,” LIFE,https://www.life.com/history/mourning-fdr-in-a-classic-photo-the-face-of-a-nations-loss/; “Roosevelt’s Little White House,” Georgia Department of Natural Resources: State Parks and Historic Sites, https://gastateparks.org/LittleWhiteHouse; Michael L. Strickland, “Features: Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff and the Unfinished Portrait of FDR,” Portrait Society of Atlanta, https://portraitsocietyofatlanta.org/features-madame-elizabeth-shoumatoff-and-the-unfinished-portrait-of-fdr/.

Discussion

• What well-known people have died in your lifetime? What were the reactions to these deaths?
• Can we still honor people who die with a troubled legacy?
• The Bible tells us that David mourned Saul and Jonathan’s deaths by tearing his clothes, mourning, weeping, and fasting (vv. 11-12). We can understand his grief for losing Jonathan, his closest friend, but why do you think he took part in grief rituals for Saul too?
• Is there a way to mourn a person’s death while also being candid about their faults and failures in life?
• We cannot share our faith with the dead; it’s too late by then. What practical actions can you take today to share the love of Jesus with others?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!

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