Ma's Homily

Ma’s Homily
July 23, 2012

Over the past few days, we’ve been reflecting on Ma’s life and our memories of her. As I sat down to prepare what I would say today, the first thing that came to mind was making cornbread in her kitchen. I would stand on a chair next to her, and she’d prepare the cornmeal mixture. Then she’d hand me one egg. My job was to crack the egg. This ritual was so vivid to me that as a sophomore in high school, I wrote a poem about it. The title of the poem was, “Cornbread Queen.”

Truth be told, the poem was as corny as cornbread.

All the same, after hearing of Ma’s death, I was determined to find the poem. Driven by sentimentality, I pulled out old files and began digging. As of now, I still have not found the poem. But I did find something else.

There was another poem that I wrote around the same time as “Cornbread Queen.” When I found it, I remembered that it was the one Ma talked about most. She made copies and gave it to friends. I didn’t understand why. In my opinion, it wasn’t anything great. It didn’t win an award. It was never published. It was just something I wrote to fulfill a creative writing assignment. But now, as we gather at this grave, I realize that she saw something we also need to see.

The title of the poem was “Joseph of Arimathea,” and it tells the story of Jesus’ burial from Joseph’s perspective. Matthew 27:57-60 tells us his story: “When evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.”

Even though he was considered “wealthy,” Joseph did not draw attention to himself. He simply wanted to provide what was needed when it was needed. He is not directly quoted in Scripture. He takes up the space only a few verses in each of the four gospels. But without his generosity, there would be no burial. Without his gift, there would be no resurrection. Willie Nell Barlow Duckworth was a generous woman, a disciple who also wanted people to have what they needed and when they needed it. Like Joseph, she was a simple, matter-of-fact woman who did not draw attention to herself. Like Joseph, she cared for the family & God she loved. Today, she too is teaching us about resurrection. In her death, we remember not only that she has entered into eternal life but also that we are alive and capable of being Joseph of Arimathea, too. Generous. Practical. And loving. In her death, may we learn to live. And may we hear these words that resonated with her 15 years ago—not because I wrote them but because God spoke to her through them.

I stare into the bleak, heavy blackness
Of the tomb where I lay the King,
Wrapped in the finest linen.
My rich, diamond-studded hands
Are poor
Compared to his cold, cadaverous fingers.
My gift to him:
What else could I give him?
I didn’t follow him as long as Peter;
I wasn’t as loved as John.
He deserved the gold bracelet
And silk garments that I wear,
Not the putrid, syrup-colored nails.
I may be mighty in society,
But I am unworthy
Of even touching the supposed criminal’s hand.
So I give him this burial,
All that I have left to give.
As I turn to roll the rumbling stone
Over the shivering tomb,
I do not look back.
We will meet again;
I know him that well.
The King does not die.


Praise be to God our Father who does not die but lives and reigns eternally with the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. AMEN.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian