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CHRIS LEONARD


Noted as the creator of the modern detective novel and the master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe's writings were shaped in large part by his experiences. His was a life fraught with death, denial, drunkenness, disappointment, disillusionment and deep despair. One look into the eyes of the man in any of the photos that remain, and you will see someone who appears to be haunted by life. In his 40th year Poe died in Baltimore and was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery. His death remains shrouded in the same mystery and manner that was reminiscent of so many of his short stories. It was as if, for Poe, life truly imitated art. 

As Jesus moved through the years of his earthly ministry, he encountered many whose lives resembled the same sense of turmoil as Poe's. Some were blind, others were dealing with the effects of a lengthy sickness, while others had lost someone special to them. Many were dealing with a spiritual sickness of the soul. In one particular story in the fifth chapter of Mark's Gospel, Jesus was approached by "a man with an unclean spirit who lived among the tombs," who "cried out night and day." When Jesus asked the man his name, the response was "Legion." The name was symbolic of just how many demons were tormenting the man. Legion cried out to Jesus for relief and mercy. And it was there among the dead that Jesus heard his cry and graciously provided for Legion, like so many before him, peace and new life. 

Jesus, it seems, has great affection for those whose lives aren't always worked out or put together, those who have lost much, or those who sometimes struggle to make it through the day. This means, of course, that Jesus has great affection for folks like you and me. So we should not be surprised when he meets us where we are, or when he calls us into the new story that he is writing for our lives. No matter how sad or desperate we may be, or how many bad decisions we may have made, or how much pain and angst we have felt or caused others, there is always an opportunity to know the love and care of God and to receive the new life that his son provides. All we must do is cry out for Jesus, and like the thief on the cross who acknowledged his need for a Savior, so will he hear our plea for mercy and heal us of all of our disappointments and despair. Our sins, which have weighed us down and prevented us from living the life that is good, will be forgiven and nevermore will they be remembered.

The restless nature of Poe's life culminated in something foreign to what we have come to remember of him through his writings. In what has been described as a moment of great "peace," something which had not been true of so much of his life, Edgar Allan Poe offered his final words. His last line bringing him the acceptance, affirmation and acclaim his orphaned and often broken heart had searched endlessly for in all of the wrong places.

Before breathing his last, Poe said; "God help my poor soul." As he confessed his need for God's mercy, like those tortured souls who cried out to Jesus before him, Poe was embraced by a love greater than all of the love he had lost in his life. And in that moment a weary life spent too often wandering through the tombs was raised up to a new life embellished by God's eternal peace. How incredible it is to trust that the same God who Poe called out to stands ready to hear our desperate cries for help, and in our most difficult moments of life provide for us, through Jesus the son, peace for our weary souls.

Chris Leonard is a pastor at Rock Presbyterian ECO. He can be reached at cleonard@rpcgwd.org.