For Jack Sharp

On Sunday, May 17, 2015, I spoke during worship at Little Falls Friends Meeting. Following is approximately what I said.

jack-sharp-125x159Almost two years ago, Jack Sharp spoke to us about the Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO), which began in his encounters with people in need of appropriate and affordable housing. Jack, who died on Monday,1 challenged us as Quakers to do more to meet the needs of our communities. He called us to do more than we think we can do, to be more than we think we can be.

During worship that morning, with Jack among our small congregation, I gave a message based on Don McLean’s song “Vincent,” noting that it presents Van Gogh as something of a Christ figure and suggesting that, in the song’s bridge section, we might even substitute the name “Jesus” for “Vincent.”2

Jack, who was called an angel of Baltimore,3 was also such a figure.

In that section of the song, the vocalist sings, “I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” I understand the sentiment, but in a way I disagree. Sometimes this “sad old world,” as someone put it during worship soon after the Baltimore riots, produces angels, people like Vincent, Jesus, and Jack, who bring beauty, liberation, compassion, positive change. They are its loveliest and most necessary flowering.

Through his life and words, Jack invited us to be such people. Although “Vincent” ends on a note of pessimism, earlier the song is more hopeful, repeating the phrase, “They would not listen, they did not know how; perhaps they’ll listen now.” Knowing that this sad old world has lost a needed angel, perhaps we’ll heed Jack’s call.

[1] Baltimore Sun obituary notice (link to Web page).
[2] I also changed “you took your life as lovers often do” to “you gave your life ….” For a message on Jesus as artist (poet), see my “Some Messages Given in Quaker Worship.”
[3] Christine Montemurro, “Soups and Sandwiches with Baltimore’s Angel, Rev. Sharp” (link to PDF). “Angel,” from the Greek aggelos by way of the Latin angelus, means “a messenger sent by God.”

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