To the Pastor, Rev. Hector Ardoin, and church family of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church [of Beaumont, Texas]; to Aunt Katrina, Alfred, Albert and Louis; to the rest of the family and friends who have assembled here today … And to my brothers and sisters who serve in the ordained clergy, would you please stand and be acknowledged.
My name is Develous Alfred Bright and I am honored to bring the Word of God to you. I am here because I was named after my dear uncle Alfred and because I am an ordained Pastor it is fitting that my mother should ask me to serve in this capacity on this day. But that is not the only reason for my presence here today. I am here because somebody prayed for me, Uncle Alfred and our family for generations, right here at the Mount Zion church.
I am here because those prayers were answered. I am here. You are here. We are here because of the life of one extraordinary man. We are here to pay our respects and honor the life of Alfred Frank.
I don’t have to restate all of the stories of Uncle Alfred’s life, which has already been done. I am here to remind us of what God has to say on this occasion. I have strained forward to hear God’s voice because my heart is heavy.
Please allow me to share a scripture with you. Matthew 28:18-20 reads from the NRSV as follows:
 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” *
Please consider this message with me that is entitled, “A Charge to Keep.”
With all due respect to our gracious hosts here at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, there is an old Methodist Hymn, by Charles Wesley, the brother of the founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley. I respectfully mention the author of the hymn because my ordination comes in direct succession from John Wesley, making him my clergy father. (well great great, etc. grandfather). That means that Charles Wesley would be my clergy uncle, like Uncle Alfred is the sibling of my of one of my grandparents. Charles Wesley wrote songs based on his brother’s teachings and one of them is entitled, “A Charge To Keep I Have”.
The lyrics go:
A charge to keep I have,
a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
my calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage
to do my Master’s will!
Let me first characterize what we have heard about Uncle Alfred so far. We have heard that Uncle Alfred was the youngest of four siblings and a part of an army of family members. They worked horses and cattle. The family made an investment in the baby boy, Uncle Alfred. I would characterize what we have seen today is the very embodiment of the American Dream.
A family worked hard and sent Uncle Alfred to the world. What Frances and Pat and Jack and Chris and Clifton and Louis received as a return on their investment in Uncle Alfred has been on display here, today.
Uncle Alfred appeared to me, to be the type of man that always remembered who he was and the sacrifices it took to make him the man that he was. Because they invested in his education and opportunities, Uncle Alfred believed and acted as though he had a duty (a charge to keep) to every other family member that he could reach. Uncle Alfred made sure that he was there to witness the lives of his family members. Uncle Alfred made sure to be a walking testament to hope, faith and love.
Uncle Alfred had a charge to take the investment that his family made in him and to pay it forward in all us who pay tribute to him this day. Uncle Alfred is who I think of when I consider what it means to be faithful to the charge to being a good man.
Jesus gave us a charge too, in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus’ charge to us is called the Great Commission by some. In short, Jesus says that God has invested a lot in you (His Only Begotten Son is not the least of God’s investment in us). Therefore, Jesus gives us a charge to keep in the scripture. The charge is to go, make, teach and to remember.
If I could leave a word from God with us today it would be that we all have a charge to keep. Uncle Alfred has finished his race and he has done well as a good and faithful servant but we still have a charge to keep, a God to glorify.
Uncle Alfred’s life weaves a long strand into the fabric of our family’s history that is similar to the Great Commission that Jesus has given us all. That long strand weaves in and out of historical events, weddings, graduations, births and homegoing celebrations and ties us together on this day and forever. That long strand of Uncle Alfred’s life is woven tightly to the strands of the other ancestors who have also gone on before us. That long strand is knotted into the lives of all of us who loved Uncle Alfred so tight that it will never snag, pull or tear.
Jesus tells us that he has the all authority in heaven and earth to commission us to do God’s work. Jesus commands that we go to the ends of the earth. Uncle Alfred went to every corner of this globe in a way that most people who are of a mind to, never get to travel. Let us adopt his wanderlust and go to the ends of the world taking the investment of love that we feel today with us, like Uncle Alfred did. Let us go to Seattle, Go to Denver, Go to Chicago, Go to New York. But don’t stop there. Go to London, Go to Rome, Go to Bejing, Go with the wind, and send back pictures and souvenirs like Uncle Alfred did to inspire the next generation.
Jesus commands that we make disciples of Jesus Christ. There is no more effective tool of discipleship than a witness. Uncle Alfred did it the right way. You can take Jesus with you wherever you go and then Jesus will convict the hearts of others when the see Jesus in you, like the saw Jesus in Uncle Alfred. Uncle Alfred was concerned for the poor and oppressed and marginalized like Jesus. Uncle Alfred walked in favor and faith like we all do when the Savior dwells in you and you in him. Uncle Alfred was a witness to the power of Christ, in him, through him and with him.
Jesus commands us to teach all that he commanded us, but you cannot teach what you do not know. Uncle Alfred taught me a lot because he knew a lot. Although, if Uncle Alfred had never given me his name and spent time with me, I would have still learned a great deal from him simply by observing his life. Uncle Alfred taught about Jesus by living the way Jesus would have wanted him to. Being present, giving encouraging words and strokes, Dreaming big and always supporting your dream … that was how Uncle Alfred taught us to teach everything that Jesus commanded.
Finally, we are to remember that we are not alone. Jesus is with us, even to the end. Did anyone here ever wonder if Uncle Alfred was “with you”? Uncle Alfred remembered who was with him so that he could bring them with him as Uncle Alfred was with you. Just look at Louis Frank and tell me that Uncle Alfred is not with him. If Louis and my cousin Byron were to teleport back to the McFadden Ranch in 1913 instead of 2013, everyone would know they belonged there. That family tie is with us even to the end just as Jesus is with us to the end and we should remember that.
We have a charge to keep that has been given to us in the witness of Uncle Alfred’s life. Consider your charge to keep in the light of Uncle Alfred’s extraordinary life. If Uncle Charles Wesley met Uncle Alfred Frank I know they would have a lot to say about having a charge to keep. They would certainly collaborate to tell us that we also have a charge to keep. They would certainly tell us that our charge comes because a greater family has called you out for great things. They would tell us that we have a charge to keep by going and being present with the family at big and small times in our lives because that is what we are called to do.
We have a charge to keep, by making others see the love of Jesus Christ by looking at you, regardless whether you are on the continents of Africa, Europe, Asia or the Americas. We have a charge to keep, by never letting your academic achievement falter, suffer, or cease because it is through education that you know and only in knowing can you teach. We have a charge to keep, by remembering that we are not alone.
There is a great cloud of witness and we take all of our ancestors with us wherever we go, just as we take the living Christ with us even to the end of the age. We have a charge to keep as we leave this place of remembrance and go back to a place of work and of life and of love to be more like our newest ancestor, my namesake, Alfred Frank.