On Saturday, January 10,1959, in the city
of Detroit, Michigan, James and Earnestine welcomed their beloved son,
Derwin to the world. Here was a child of promise and a child with promise. It
pursuit of the promises of life that Derwin lived and finally died.
I am persuaded today, I am convinced that Derwin was on a journey. He was on a journey to a life, a world of promise fulfilled. Derwin was on a journey to Canaan.
In the Old Testament, or Hebrew scriptures, the land of promise was called Canaan. Likewise, for enslaved Africans in the Americas, they called the place where the promise of freedom was to be fulfilled, Canaan land.
For thousands upon thousands of years, God’s children have longed for Canaan, the place of promise fulfilled. And, so it is that I come today fully persuaded that our dear brother Derwin spent his life on a journey to Canaan.
For all who knew him can attest to the fact that he didn’t waste a whole lot of time on minor and frivolous things; yes, he knew how to enjoy life and he did have his fun. But, he lived life as if there was a goal, a destiny, a promise worth having and working for. Derwin saw a Canaan land of great promise just over his horizon.
On the afternoon of Monday, January 21, 2002, Derwin came to Canaan’s edge. As he climbed atop a spinning bike, he climbed atop Mount Pisgah like old man Moses and he looked over into Canaan land.
I believe he could almost see, almost touch, almost taste and hold the very things of which his mind had dreamed, his soul had desired and his heart had longed for. He looked over into Canaan. He looked over at promise fulfilled. He could see what he had been striving for and hoping for and praying for and working for, for forty-three years.
He looked over and he could see a world being blessed by the life of his dear sweet daughter. He looked over and he could see the world becoming a better place because God had allowed this old world to be graced by that earth angel called Pam, whom the Lord allowed him to marry over twenty years ago.
Derwin, looked over and he could see beautiful buildings yet unbuilt, buildings yet un-designed, that only existed in his blessed and brilliant mind. On a spinning bike, that became a high mountain from which he could see what you and I have never seen before, Derwin could see his siblings and nephews and niece, he could see his whole family growing more and more into who God wanted them to be.
On top of his own private Mount Pisgah’s lofty heights, he could hear laughter yet unheard. He could see beauty, yet unborn. He could touch dreams, yet undreamt. He could see and taste and touch and grasp the very things for which his heart longed for, his soul desired and his mind dreamed. He came to the very edge of Canaan.
I believe that Derwin heard a voice from on high. I believe he heard a voice like he never heard quite so clearly. I believe that Derwin heard the voice of God almighty saying to him as he said to Moses, “I will let you see the promised land with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
On that day, Derwin discovered what many millions gone have already discovered, and what we all will in due time. He discovered that we all will come to the edge of Canaan, the land of promise fulfilled. But, we never can really get there in this life.
You see, I want us to understand, the land of promise is too full of wonder, too full of grace, too full of God for anyone to fully receive it in these mortal bodies, with these mortal minds. No, only in complete union with God are we able to grasp, appreciate and obtain the fulfillment of the promises of God.
So then, in this life, the best that we can do is to make a steady, joyful, determined, Godly march to Canaan’s edge. There at Canaan’s edge, we go home to be with God; and God comes to be with those who yet remain here on earth, on their own journey to Canaan’s edge.
If I may, I just want to take a moment and help us to see, through Moses, something about Derwin and his journey to the edge of Canaan. Moses, here was a man, Moses was a man who had encountered God. He encountered God for himself, in his own way. He didn’t know God and serve God like everyone else had. Nevertheless, he was a man who had come to know and to love the lord our god. And, so it is with brother Derwin.
I don’t think he would object if I said that he was not a man who wore his religion on his shirt sleeves. He was not one who walked around full of religious slogans and bumper stickers. But, I know that this brother, this husband, this father, I know that this was a man who had good religion in his heart.
This was a man who was no stranger to Jesus. This was a man who lived a life of love; and the word of God says that love is the litmus test. Love is the proof of a child of God. Moses and Derwin, two blessed children of God, came to know God for themselves, in their own way.
But, let me press my claim on just a little further. Moses had been with Israel through some tough times. He had been with them when food was scarce and times were hard. God had used him to bring the people out of Egyptian bondage. He had been with them through the raging red sea.
He had been there through forty years of wandering around in a dry and dangerous desert. Moses was there when the aimless wandering was over. He was there just as the people, his beloved people, he was there just as they were ready now to finally get over the rough spots.
He was there just as they were ready to finally make it through the terrible times. He was there just when the people were about to move from sadness to gladness, from sorrow to singing, from crying to laughing, from pain to peace and promise. Moses stood on the very edge of Canaan, ready to finally get what he had dreamed about, prayed about, hoped for and worked for, for most of his life.
He climbed up to the top of Mount Pisgah to cast a look over into the place for which his fathers sighed. But, before he could finally and fully take hold of it, he heard the voice of God saying, “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
In the life of Moses, in the life of Derwin, in the life of every child of God, the day will surely come when we shall stand at the very edge of Canaan. But, if we have been living right, if we have been doing right, at the very edge of Canaan, we will be able to look over and see just what God has in store. We will be able to look over and see just what blessings God has in store for those who must remain on this side of eternity.
Oh, my beloved, think it not strange or out of order, but I do believe that I can almost hear Derwin speaking even right now. I believe I can hear Derwin saying, “I have been to the mountain top. I have seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, at the same time. But we, as a family, we as children of God, we shall get there. We shall get to the promised land.
We shall get to the land, to that place where disappointments are no more. We are all going to get there someday, to that place where there will be no more good-byes, no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more hurting. We may not get there together, but I’ve seen it. I have arrived and I’m waiting for you.
But, know ye this. God is with you. In your darkest hour, in your sorrow, God is with you. In your tears, God is with you, in your fears and your anger and in your doubts and in your midnight of the soul, God is with you.
God is with you and he will, in due time, he will turn your pain into peace. He will in due time, turn your sorrow into singing. He will, in due time, allow you to see and to know that death has died and I am now more alive than I have ever been before.
But, until that day, remember death can never kill our memories. Death can never destroy our love. No grave can eliminate the joy that we have found with one another.
So then, all we who have gathered around in this holy place, as we move on from this farewell moment, just as Moses had to go on from here to eternity, so has Derwin. Derwin has gone to be with the Lord; and the Lord has come to be with you in your journey to Canaan’s edge.
And, one day, we know not the day nor the hour, but one day, we too will climb up Mount Pisgah and bid this old world a fond farewell and we shall go home to be with the Lord, we shall go home to see Derwin, we shall go home where promise will be fulfilled and life shall have no end.
And, what a day, what a time, what day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, when we all see Derwin, when we see Momma and Daddy and all who have already gone on to glory, when we see Jesus, we’ll sing and we’ll shout the victory. Oh, what a day of rejoicing that will be, when we all get to heaven.
Rev. Clarence W. Davis is pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A frequent contributor to BlackandChristian.com, Davis earned a Master of Divinity and a Master of Theology degree from Harvard Divinity School.
© Clarence W. Davis, 2002. All Rights Reserved.