Now that several of Finn’s beloveds have spoken, there’s little that I need to add; the collective memories of the people who love Finn would fill volume after volume on miles of shelves. But allow me to add just this: that it was one of the great privileges of my life to pastor one of Jesus’s own favorites.
Oh, I know it doesn’t sound quite right that the Lord himself would play favorites among the billions of God’s beloved children. But it’s clear from the stories in the gospels that he did. He clearly favored those who were small; those who were vulnerable; those who were, shall we say, uncelebrated by a culture too rough to recognize what is truly beautiful in God’s sight.
He said it that day, right there on that mountainside where his followers gathered, thinking perhaps he would give them marching orders for the revolution against the powers that oppressed them. But instead, he gave them a list of congratulations that sounds at first like a cruel joke.
“Congratulations to those who are sick and sad [those that are mourning]! Congratulations to those whose voices cannot be heard or understood [the meek]! Congratulations to those who don’t have what they need to succeed [those that are poor in spirit, hungering and thirsting for justice]! Congratulations to those who are more kind to others than others are to them [the merciful]! Congratulations to those who don’t hide themselves, those pure in heart, those without sufficient guile to trick the rest of us into thinking they are something they’re not. Congratulations to the lovers, not the fighters [the peacemakers].
“Congratulations to you, little ones,” Jesus said, “because everything God has belongs to you. God’s kingdom is yours, God’s comfort is yours, God’s earth is yours, God’s provision, God’s mercy, God’s own shining face, adoption as God’s own children – God has chosen you for all these prizes. God holds nothing back from you, because you are God’s favorites.”
And so is there any question that Finn is one of God’s favorites?
At our church we begin worship each week with a query, an old question that people of faith have been asking each other for a long time. “How goeth it with thy soul?” we ask, and we take two minutes to talk about it with whomever we’re sitting next to. Some of you know that for just about the entire time the Blythe family was in my church, Finn sat next to me on the very front row, with a notepad and pen, ready to draw and take notes throughout the service. But when the query came, Finn would stop writing and wait for me. “How goeth it with thy soul?” I would ask. About half the time Finn would talk for the whole two minutes. I confess I often didn’t catch all the details, but the honor of Finn sharing life with me was no less for my lack of understanding.
The other half of the time Finn would give a shake of the head; didn’t want to talk. But Finn would listen to me, nodding sympathetically to whatever I poured out about the state of my soul. And knowing as I did that Finn is one of God’s favorites, I felt that God, too, was especially attentive to me in those weeks.
From that front row in our little church, I prayed with Finn, and sang with Finn – Finn sang with gusto, my favorite way to sing, too. I served communion with Finn, lots of Sundays, as I often forget to ask someone before the service, and Finn knew the drill and would join me at a moment’s notice if I asked. Usually with a look of reproach, because Finn knew I was scrambling, but Finn never turned me down.
And one beautiful day, Finn and I baptized Song together. We sat on opposite sides of the cattle trough and cooperated to get her in and out of that water. It remains one of the holiest moments in history, in my estimation. Because of, you know, what Jesus said about Finn: pure in heart; blessed are those; blessed is Finn.
See, it’s not just that Finn was an excellent specimen of a human being. I mean, that’s true, no question. It’s that Finn helped so many of us recalibrate our own sense of what makes a human being excellent, what God actually wants from and for us. We receive our Lord’s congratulation insofar as we are like Finn. And so to have lived any part of this life alongside Finn, to have been invited into Finn’s heart, is valuable beyond measure. I am forever grateful. Thanks be to God.