My Remarks at the Memorial of Kenneth McCormick Laster
On behalf of my family and myself, we would like to thank you all for coming and remembering my Dad. We thank everyone who has prayed for us, visited Dad and the family, sent us cards, sent us food, sent us chicken, and sent us love and words of encouragement. We appreciate your time and love and support, and we will continue to need that in the days, months, and years to come. We would like to thank our Antioch Baptist Church family, the Arlington Church of God family, the Vera O. Bouie Circle, Nu Theta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, and Gamma Alpha Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated. We would like to thank Rev. Dr. Ronald Fowler for his eulogy and the Antioch church staff and many others. In addition, we would like to thank Ms. Marcella Boyd-Cox and the staff of E.F. Boyd & Sons for their patience and service. We would like to especially thank Ms. Sheila Fantroy, Mrs. Jarmellia Armwood, Deacon Pamela Ashby, Ms. Sandra Roebuck, and Mr. Darrell Mullins for their efforts above and beyond the normal in supporting us.
I will try to keep my remarks brief but I cannot help but realize that 10 years ago this month I was in this very same position in offering remarks on behalf of my family for my late grandmother Elaine Long. Now, with that said, I have told God I have every expectation that my Mom will live to at least the year 2055 when she turns 100 years old, and I plan on keeping a ledger. But, in all honesty, I am glad for the over 28 years that I had with my Dad. As many of you may know, I have written ad nauseam about my relationship with my Dad and his impact in my life and how that has shaped me today. Now, I want to reflect on his life using a seldom thought about story in the Bible that can be used to uplift my family, you all, and myself for today and moving forward.
The title of these remarks is called The Faith of Isaac. I want to begin with two (2) verses that will set the tone for what I will speak on. First, in Romans 15:4 NIV says that,
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
To me, that is short for saying, we shall have hope through the lessons learned, deeds done, and words said through the lives of folks in the Bible. The second verse in 1 Corinthians 16:9 NIV says that,
“because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.”
Once again, to me, that says God rewards those who do God’s work, and that there will be haters along the way. But, that will not matter in the end because you are protected by God. Remember these two verses throughout the message.
In the foundations of Judeo-Christian teaching, the pillars of the church that we know today come from God speaking to and working through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We know seemingly everything about the faith and leadership of Abraham and Jacob. However, Isaac is often overlooked in the Bible and its teaching. Isaac is so overlooked that in Genesis 21 is the telling of his birth and by Genesis 35 he has died and we are still talking about Abraham and moved on to Jacob. In Genesis 22, the very next chapter, we encounter God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering for the gift of having a son after many years of trying. This story is often taught in church from the perspective of Abraham showing great faith and leadership to give up his only son with Sarah in praise to God. However, overlooked in all of this is the faith and leadership of Isaac to be willing to sacrifice himself and trust the Lord to do what is right by him, his family, and the Israelites; because let’s be honest, nobody is going to just willingly give up their life just because God says so. We know this because Jesus, himself, went to the Garden of Gethsemane to see if being crucified and dying for the sins of the world was reallythe move. So, I know Isaac was not going on the altar as a sacrifice without a fight; but, it also took faith and leadership.
The faith and leadership of Isaac (and Abraham) is then rewarded by God through a ram being sent, eventually Isaac takes over leadership of the Israelites with less fuss as Abraham had, and he is the father of Jacob, and so on. That is because his understated yet unshakable faith and leadership is often overlooked and taken for granted because it doesn’t create a compelling narrative and we don’t really like that measure of consistency. But, this consistency of faith and leadership is also exhibited in the New Testament with Joseph, the husband of Mary and father of Jesus. Little is spoken of these men, Isaac & Joseph, who are in the shadows doing the hard work to set-up their family and tribe for something greater. This is the story of generations black men and women in this country as well. More importantly, this is the story of my Dad, Kenneth Laster. God is laying the foundations of something greater for my family and us as individuals through the words, deeds, life, and death of my Dad. We know that Isaac, much like my Dad, understood that faith requires sacrifice and leadership; and, that that leadership will be rewarded in victory, whether that is directly to them or to others that they loved and impacted.
This is how my Dad lived his life and what his death is teaching us even now and that is that God is always at work to build something greater and better for us because He loves us. We may not always be the direct beneficiary or recipient, but sometimes we are the pass-through for which values are shared and pupils are molded and that others embody the work that we’ve done and you may get the credit on the backend or not at all. Being a pass-through doesn’t ever diminish us, because God has got us throughout it all. We may not get the glory and fame of Abraham & Jacob, but you need folks like Isaac and Kenneth Laster to get things done and moving in the right direction. It’s no different than being in church with over 1,000 members and the same 50 people doing all of the work, and that example translates to work and other facets of life.
It is the continuation of the work and foundation laid by my Dad that is what will determine the future and outcomes for my family and myself and all of you. We are to live a life with the values, goodness, faith, and leadership embodied by Isaac and Kenneth Laster and be a reflection of them. It is the hard work and dedication that we are called to do now and for the rest of our lives to strengthen ourselves, help others, and train the next generation. I am grateful for my Dad for providing that model for me and family every day we got to spend with him. Quiet, consistent, faithful, loving, funny, and honest. Similarly, without Isaac and his faith and leadership and training of the next generation we would not have Jacob or David or John the Baptist or Jesus Christ. It is my hope that years from now that you can look upon my Mom, my sister, and I and say that Kenneth Laster laid the foundation for the greatness and joy in which we live our lives.
As I conclude, I want to again thank you all for being here on behalf of my family for the love, support, prayers, and chicken. We ask that you be with us in prayer and in deed, not just for today but, for the days to come. Acknowledge the words and deeds of the Isaacs and Kenneth Lasters in your life now, while they are alive, for the impact that they have had on you. Finally, I ask that you live a life of faith and leadership exhibited by Isaac, Kenneth Laster, and the many other understated and consistent folks in your life. There is much to learn from them and it could be what you need to fulfill God’s purpose for your life and the lives of others.
Before I sit down, I want to speak (because you know I cannot sing) two verses and the chorus of a song that we should all know. Please feel free to join in if you know it, and keep in mind that we should live by their words. My family and I will need this moving forward.
Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show
If there is a load you have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me
Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
’Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on