“We say against the powers of darkness and the powers of hell, ‘On this day—this day that God has made—we will rejoice and be glad,’” Second Presbyterian Church pastor George Robertson told hundreds gathered at the funeral service for 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher this morning.
It was a backwards, upside-down message, capping off this last horrific and bizarre week for Fletcher and her family. On September 2, the kindergarten teacher was on her morning run in Memphis, Tennessee, when she was kidnapped and forced into a vehicle.
Three days later, her body was found near an abandoned duplex. Cleotha Abston, who has a history of violence and kidnappings, has been arrested and charged.
On this day—this day that God has made—we will rejoice and be glad.
Today, eight days after she went missing, Fletcher was laid to rest. Her casket rested at the front of her church, in front of a 50-person choir, a pipe organ, and an orchestra pit. It was the same place she’d stood to marry Richard—whom she’d met at church—nine years ago. Before taking his seat, her husband kissed her coffin.
“I don’t know why God allowed evil into the world,” said Robertson, who drew his message from John 11:17-44. “I do not know why God allowed Lazarus to die. I don’t know why God allowed Liza to die. I don’t know. You don’t, either.”
Every religion—and nonreligion—grapples with the coexistence of good and evil in the world, he said. But only Christianity explains how they fit together.
The existence of evil infers the existence of good, he said. “And how can we explain the origin of good except by a loving God who says, ‘I will cure your evil by entering into it, dying in the place of sinners, rising in victory over it, and coming again?’”
How can we explain the origin of good except by a loving God who says, ‘I will cure your evil by entering into it, dying in the place of sinners, rising in victory over it, and coming again?’
God still enters in. Like Jesus listened to Mary and Martha and their friends weep and rage against the death of Lazarus, he listens to Fletcher’s family and church community, Robertson said. Like Jesus wept with Mary and Martha, he weeps now. And like Jesus liberated Lazarus from death, he will liberate Fletcher—and all of those who believe.
The funeral was thick with Scripture—Psalm 23 and Psalm 42 and Romans 8—and Fletcher’s favorite songs, including “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” and “In Christ Alone.”
Robertson shared how he and Fletcher’s mother, Adele, wept together this week.
“We’d studied Revelation in our church together, and I taught the congregation over and over—no matter what we don’t understand about Revelation, we understand this—Jesus wins.”
“It seems like Jesus lost this one,” Adele told him.
“I agreed,” Robertson told those at the funeral and watching online. “It does seem that way. When the Bible teaches us that Jesus wins, it means the great day. [But] it doesn’t mean that he loses now. The darkness has tried to overcome our little light, but the light pierces through. That’s Jesus.”
Fletcher didn’t have “the resume of a world-changer, as we count world changers,” Robertson said. Though she was born into a wealthy family, she struggled through school and didn’t join the family business.
But over the past week, millions around the world have followed her story, mourned her loss, and seen testimonies of her faith. A video of Fletcher singing “This Little Light of Mine” to her students at St. Mary’s Episcopal school during COVID has garnered thousands of views.
“God has designed this world in such a way that darkness, no matter how deep, can be pierced by the tiniest light,” Robertson said. “On November 8, 1987, a light was born, and her light was Jesus Christ.”
It’s right to grieve, but let’s not grieve without hope, he said. “Let us carry on the legacy of our dear sister. Let’s obey her commandment, sung to us out of pitch.”
He said it gently, and paused while the congregation chuckled.
“But now she sings in perfect harmony,” he said. “And she says, ‘Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Let your light shine. Come to Jesus.’ Keep coming to Jesus, as she did, and let your light shine.”