Summary: Funeral sermon for Doris Reynolds Parker, veteran teacher, civil rights worker, and mother, whose spirit of determination we can complete if we commit to justice, kindness and a walk with God.
Perfection is difficult to come by! No matter how good
something is, it is always possible to find flaws. It is always
possible to discover imperfections.
When I was in engineering school, I took a class in
drafting. My professor’s claim to fame was that he could,
without a compass, draw freehand a perfect circle. Just
with his pencil and muscle control, he could put on paper
what appeared to be a complete circle, with no variations in
the distance between the center and the circumference.
That’s what it appeared to be; but, of course, we students,
delighting in taking our teacher down a peg or two, found
that if you used a ruler to check it, the circle was not
perfect. There were wobbles and wiggles. Not perfect.
Perfection is difficult to achieve.
I have this terrible talent of being able to spot a misspelled
word in the middle of a text. I don’t know how I do it, but I
do it. I pick up a book or a paper, and immediately my eye
goes to the mistake. It drives typists crazy! Someone once
gave me a report, and said, “I have been over this a dozen
times. I have used my computer program’s Spell-check. I
defy you to find any mistakes.” So I picked up the report,
turned to the first page – the first page! – and there, about
halfway down, it said, “For the first time in several years,
our expenditures have exceeded our budge.” Our budge?
As in, “Here I stand and I won’t budge?” No, it was
supposed to be “budget”, and this eagle eye of mine was
the one to catch it. She wouldn’t speak to me for a week!
Perfection is so hard to achieve.
But the truth is that perfection never comes to you and me
without the involvement of others. Completeness never
comes to us without the contributions of others. And, most
important, our lives and our works are not complete until
they are taken up and carried forward by others who follow
us. Great authors’ books are not complete until an editor
revises them. Great artists’ paintings are not complete until
a framer puts them into a proper setting. Great musicians’
compositions are not complete until a performer interprets
them. And great lives are not complete, not perfect, until a
succeeding generation takes on the challenges they leave
I think that is what the writer of the Book of Hebrews is
talking about when he gives us the roll call of the heroes
and heroines of faith, but then says that they would not,
apart from us, be made perfect. All these worthies of the
Biblical record, having accomplished so much, having done
such daring things – their life stories are not complete apart
from us in this generation.
Doris Reynolds Parker lived a long and successful life. For
eighty-five years she fought the good fight, dealing with
discrimination and injustice, working to support her family,
but always determined, and always faithful. She lived a
long and successful life, and now, at her passing, we are
tempted to say that her life is complete. In a sense, it is;
but complete though it may be, it is not yet perfected. Her
life will be perfected only in you who survive her. Apart
from you, she is not made perfect. Perfection is so difficult
to achieve; in fact, it never comes without the involvement
To what did Doris Parker devote herself, and what will it
mean to perfect her legacy? What I know of her life and
legacy can be summed up in that powerful statement of the
prophet Micah, given some eight centuries before Christ:
“He has told you ... what is good; and what does the Lord require
of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly
with your God?”
If you would perfect Doris Parker’s legacy, turn to these
First, what does the Lord require of you but to do justice? I
am told that if you look at some of the old pictures of the
early days of the civil rights movement, and if you focus in on
some of those gatherings of the Montgomery Improvement
Association, you will see, right up there next to Dr. King and
the other leaders, Doris Reynolds Parker. She gave herself
to the cause of justice. She poured her energies into a
cause that was to grip the soul of America and bring us all,
black and white, to a new day.
Isn’t it a wonderful happenstance that Mrs. Parker’s death
and funeral come right during the time we are
commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board
of Education decision? Isn’t it somehow just exactly right
that the life of one of those pioneers should be gathered up