On October 17th we gathered to say “goodbye for now” to one of the saints of Bethel, Florence McLeod. Florence was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2020. She fought a brave fight; kept a positive attitude and I was genuinely moved by her resilient spirit. One of the things that kept her spirits high was our Bethel church family. Many of you were in the trenches with her as she battled her disease. At Florence’s funeral, Shirley Lewis read from a journal that Florence kept. The words that follow are Florence’s words that express her appreciation for our church.
“I know a church in Midlothian called Bethel Baptist Church. A band of angels are there. These angels have looked over me for the last 2 months. I was in the hospital and looked up and there was Todd and Lauren and James and they prayed over me. Gayle has been to visit me and we had a nice visit and we said prayers. Shirley has been my rock. She has done my medicine arrangements, been my caregiver, has done my transportation to the doctors and to my treatments, has cooked and done everything for me. Bruce has been there for me too. Tom and Brenda Kagels have taken me to raise, they have been there for anything I needed. Brenda was there for me one night when I was in the hospital and she stayed with me when I was having an awful night. To the Bethel Baptist Church Band of Angels who are looking after me and are helping me on the journey that I am on, from Todd and the entire staff, to the children who all signed a card and sent it to me. I thank you. Shirley has been with me from the beginning and she goes with me and asked the questions that I can’t remember. I am thankful for all the many prayers that have been said for me, they are already working because my pain has been short lived and my chemo treatments have gone well. Thanks to all of you for all your prayers and love for me. God Bless Bethel’s Band of Angels, keep the prayers going.
Florence declared us to be a “Band of Angels.” When I read those words, I thought of these familiar words that we will read later this month at our Christmas Eve Service.
Luke 2:8-11 says,
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”
When the Angel appeared to that rag-tag band of shepherds the text says, “The glory of the Lord shown around them.” The Greek word for “glory” can also be translated as “an especially divine quality, the unspoken manifestation of God, or splendor.” When the angel was in the presence of God, those shepherds basked in God’s glory. They were awash with the splendor of God. Perhaps I am reminded of this passage when I think of Florence’s words because your care of Florence in her final days reflected a divine quality. You reflected a divine quality and, dare I say it, even reflected God’s glory.
Florence loved many of you and many of you returned her love with countless acts of kindness, phone calls, cards, prayers and true concern. She felt your love and your prayers. She was so moved that she took the time to write about it. That’s something! Thank you for all you did for Florence. Not only do I want to truly thank you, but I want to affirm that you’re making a difference. The work we do at Bethel is important work. It’s Gospel work. Offering ourselves in love and service to one another is the work to which we are both called and commissioned. I’d like to leave you with one final scripture.
Galatians 6:9-10 says,
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
I believe we are living into this scripture. I believe Florence would agree. Let’s continue God’s good work in this place. If we do, we just may catch a glimpse of God’s glory. May God bless the McLeod family and our Bethel Church family. I pray you and your family will have a very Merry Christmas and let’s pray for a blessed new year!
With love and peace,