Linda Bryant 1954-2011

Our dear sister Linda, departed this life January 20, 2011. She is missed, but we trust God. Below is a video montage, set to Linda singing.
After that her Eulogy, as delivered by her Pastor, Rev. Cyril T. Jermin...

God's Grace: The Root and the Proof of Love...

Psalm 95:3-7
3 For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods.
4 In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also.
5 The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand.

1 John 3:1-3
1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

As Christians, when we have to deal with death, we are Caught in the paradox that exists between the idea of an eternity w/Christ, which is very appealing, and the reality of the fact that we must die in order to get there. Going from stress, strife and struggle to Peace, Joy and Rest is appealing, but the door we’ve got to pass through, well that’s another story...
Probably one of the reasons that people hope for the rapture.

Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

This is a statement that is true on both a physical and Spiritual level.
In order to get to heaven you do have to die.
Twice in fact.
Once to your will, your old life, and your sin,
As one of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said:

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."

and there is the once that brings the rest of us to occasions like this one.

When I considered what to talk about tonight, I knew that I had to talk about Love.
Indeed, Love is the reason that we are here. Love for Linda.
But I knew also, that it is impossible to speak of Love without first speaking of Grace. Specifically, GOD’s Grace, For the reality is that GOD’s Grace is the Root OF, and the reason FOR what we understand and experience as Love.

Without understanding GOD’s Grace, it is impossible to speak accurately of Love, because it cannot be understood in its proper context. Without understanding GOD’s grace, what we understand of love is merely experiential, carnal, and temporal.
It is infatuations and flowery words, ethereal concepts and a definition that says that love is an uncontrollable emotion, something that we fall helplessly in and out of..

But the BIBLE says that Love is an act of the will, in that it is a command…
In His Gospel, John records Jesus saying the following:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. - John 13:34-35

But we must, in order to TRULY understand Love, and obey the command to do it, first understand God’s Grace…

But What is Grace? Why that’s Christianity 101:
Grace is ‘unmerited favor’

Pastor David Reagan puts it like this:
Grace is God doing good for us, and affording blessing to us that we do not deserve.
In the Bible, grace and mercy go hand in hand.
Mercy is God withholding judgment or evil that we deserve;
Grace is God giving us blessing or good that we do not deserve.
Because of God's mercy, we do not receive the judgment of God against our sins; because of God's grace, we receive eternal life and a promise of heaven though we do not deserve them. Both mercy and grace come to us though the Lord Jesus Christ.

But is that all? No. There is yet another meaning:
“Grace can also be defined as God's sufficiency or God's fullness in the life of the believer. God told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:9)
That is, the grace of God in Paul enabled him and empowered him in his weakness.
Another verse states, "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work" (2 Cor 9:8)

God's grace working in us supplies the sufficiency whereby we may abound to every good work.
Grace, says Reagan, is "God's enoughness."
By this he means that God is enough for us no matter what the situation we face.

Now with those definitions in mind, let’s go back to what John records Jesus saying:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. - John 13:34-35

Notice that He did not say that your Love of the Father would identify you as a disciple. Notice that He did not say that Love for HIM would identify you as a disciple. He was specific. It is our love for ONE ANOTHER that identifies us as His disciples to the world.

It is this LOVE that is your badge of identification, not your church, or your Pastor, or your denomination or your clothes. Not the music that you listen to, or your tithe, how many tracts you give out, the catchy slogan on your desk, or your clever bumper sticker.

It is how you LOVE your brother and sister. No more, no less…

There is something unique and intentional about the way that Christians Love. This is because of whose we are, and this is how HE LOVES. Uniquely and intentionally… The cross is the proof of this . The single most unique, well known and intentional act of LOVE in human history.

And the truth of His words is seen so clearly when you read Acts Chapter 2 which says of the early church that:

…all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. - (Acts 2:44-47)

This is repeated in Acts 4,

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. - (Acts 4:32-35)`

In these passages, you see Love in Action; Love for God, and Love for one another. Unique and Intentional LOVE. Why did they do it this way?

Because they all knew that they were recipients of a great grace, forgiven a debt that they could never possibly repay, bought with a price so great that they could never hope to cover it.
They knew that there was nothing special about them at all, save the Grace of God that had saved and made them one with eachother. This understanding framed and defined their LOVE. Their unique and intentional LOVE…

Linda was loving, and all of you can attest to that.
Quick with a smile, a kind word, an encouraging word, she was good with that.
It was just her. She could find a way to make you laugh even in the worst of times, and situations…

During the course of our time together, our relationship evolved.
For 10 years I was Linda’s choir director, for 2 years her Worship Leader, and for the last 3 years, I was her Pastor. She was in fact, the first of the Fellowship members to call me Pastor Cyril, which she later shortened to Pasa Cee, then to P.C. That was our pattern.
I had nicknamed her Qwaa, which was short for Dinquanisha, which she got because of these big earrings she used to wear…

If you knew Linda, and she loved you, you had a nickname. It signified your special place in her heart…
A unique and intentional LOVE…

This is how Jesus commands us to Love: Selflessly, sacrificially, allowing ourselves to be open, vulnerable, honest, naked and unashamed with our brethren, trusting that they will do the same with us, and have our best interest at heart, and we have theirs.
We are to be a safe place for one another

But for many of us, we can’t risk that. Cannot risk being vulnerable, or open.
There is too much at stake, too much to lose. Our carefully crafted images, our reputations, our safety and such…

Others of us don’t want the responsibility, the weight of care for someone else. It is difficult, costs too much in terms of time and energy, and emotion…

This is because we do not truly understand God’s Grace.
We forget that all that we have, we have because it was given to us, as Paul puts it in
1 Cor 4:7:

For who made you better than your brother? or what have you that has not been given to you? but if it has been given to you, what cause have you for pride, as if it had not been given to you?

Sadly, many of you in here tonight, live this way, with fellow church members who are supposed to be your brethren, some of you even with your spouses, and in doing so, not only do you deprive yourself and others, (especially your spouse) of a deeper more Christ-filled life and fellowship, in fact, you sin.

I know because that is how I used to live; In a superficial, way which satisfied my shallow, self-serving religion.
But I have found that there are benefits to submission to God’s will. I have found that daring to love and be loved the way God ordained it, has made my life real, and rich, and full.

It is the difference between having LIFE and LIFE more abundantly…

Often, we cannot see past God’s salvation to God’s provision.

Linda used to always say, ‘God is my Father, He’s got to take care of me’, and this was and is the truth.

What we do not understand is that one of the main assets, and means of provision that He provides us with is EACHOTHER!

More Often than not, WE are the very riches in Glory that He uses by Christ Jesus to supply eachother’s needs.

This is so clearly exemplified in the passages from Acts that we read earlier.

Yes, you are saved, if you have repented of your sin, and trust in the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, and know that it is by HIS grace through faith, and that not of yourself, that it is the gift of God. Yes, you believe and have received righteousness unto justification, but where is the ‘more abundantly’ that Jesus speaks of in John 10:10?

In the three plus years that Jesus worked on, with, and later through, His disciples, He took them from independence to dependence to interdependence, and this was what the church should be: A body of interdependent persons, focused on the concept of living life in community to the glory of God, and the benefit of one another. It is in this that we experience the abundance.

This is what I believe that the Bible teaches. This means that we are to actively engage God and each other as best we can; giving access to one another in intimate ways, striving to do our best to love and give grace to one another as it has been extended to us…

This is the mark, the Love that identifies us as Christ’s disciples.

We must accept and cling to the grace to trust and truly acknowledge the Father in all our ways, if we want our paths directed by Him. If we want to truly experience life more abundantly, we must deny our very selves, with all of our delusions of supremacy, and submit them to Him in full, even if it means our lives. It is that dying that we spoke of earlier. So must we all, because there is only one God, and we are not Him. (*)

One of the things that we do not seem to realize beloved, is that the ability to RECEIVE LOVE is as important as the ability to GIVE love. You cannot LOVE on your own terms. You cannot love only when and whom you find it advantageous to…

You cannot love others until you Love yourself, and you cannot love yourself, until you Love God, and you cannot Love God until you are born again, and He places that ability and desire within you, by replacing your heart of stone with a heart of flesh…

You cannot be born again until you understand the cross, and..
You never really understand the cross until it takes your breath away and becomes the most important thing in your life,(**) and even then, you’re at a loss…

There are those of you in this room tonight, who believe that you are saved, but when it comes to your relationship with the Lord, you do not participate fully, as though your life in Christ is a coat, a garment to be shed when the weather changes, and not the core of your very existence. It is that same shallow self-serving religion that I knew so well…

But God is not a convenience; your brothers and sisters are not a convenience.
God is all, and your brethren are priority.

Yes, Sometimes it is messy, and sometimes it hurts (like right now). Sometimes it is scary, it is rarely easy, and sometimes, (like right now) it is not fun at all…
But it is not a suggestion, it is a command, that you should love the Lord your God with All your heart, Your mind, your soul and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself…

This is how we must live. This is what we must understand.
This is what we MUST do.

When we live this way, when we LOVE this way, there are no regrets, no ‘what if’s’, no ‘shoulda-woulda-couldas’, no ‘if onlys’ , because you do all you can, and then you DO ALL YOU CAN.

When you look around you, do you see disciples?
When you look in the mirror, does a disciple return your gaze?
How can you tell?

Grace is the ROOT,
Grace is the REASON,

(*) - Thanks to Brother Steven Fortt
(**) - Thanks to Brother JM Vergara
God used both of these men (and Pastor Jeffrey Wicker) to minister to me through their words as I prepared the eulogy.


covnitkepr1 said…
I’ve been enjoying your blog for a while now and would like to invite you to visit and perhaps follow me . Sorry I took so long for the invitation.
Jeffrey Wicker said…
Very uplifting, challenging, convicting, and true. You have honored our God, your departed friend, and you have blessed me to be my friend. KEEP PLOWING!


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