Grateful greetings from the Francis family!
One of the things we have asked you to pray about for most of the past year is the fundraising for our future, so I write this update “so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11). The gifts supporting our financial future via Mike Marathon LLC, Immanuel Presbyterian Church’s Pastoral Care Fund, or this website total a little more than $500,000 (!!!). (The donor names and gift amounts remain anonymous to the Francises.)
It is a testimony to your astonishing generosity as you show your resemblance to your Creator, the giver of all good gifts. Even though I don’t know the specifics, your gift is extraordinarily meaningful. It is nothing less than atonement, a word at the very heart of the Gospel and a word that the Bible uses to describe Jesus Christ’s saving work for us.* Indulge me, please, as I explain.
“When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions,” wrote David. Motyer’s commentary on Psalm 65 includes a note that stopped me in my tracks. The simple active mode for atone means to cover, like Noah covering the ark with pitch, inside and out (Genesis 6:14). Atonement (“to cover”) literally keeps the ark afloat! If you’ve read our updates, you have probably heard my gratitude for all the help that “keeps our little boat afloat.” In other words, the way you have covered for us—in service, gifts, and prayer—has a lovely Biblical meaning: atonement. There’s more. In the intensive active mode, it means to pay the covering price—the price that covers the debt by paying for it. Your financial gifts have done just that: covered the loss of Mike’s income and paid our family’s debts for years to come!
Any who remember Mike as a preacher at Immanuel will recall how often he would gesture toward the cross on the wall behind him and wonder at all it represented. He was forever coming up with new ways to explain how God makes things right between us at the extraordinary cost of his son, Jesus. He especially loved the challenge of using a seemingly unlikely Old Testament text from which to preach Christ and apply the truths of this sacrificial love to all of our Christian lives.** There is a sweet symmetry here to the way your gift looked like an ordinary check in a stamped envelope, when in fact it was an atoning sacrifice and a mini-sermon of the Gospel preached to us, our community, and all the heavenly witnesses. Thank you.
We’ve called this “Mike Marathon” because we have a long way to go. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ve signed up to follow the blog (or that you’ll click on the FOLLOW box on this page to do so!). God is telling a wonderful story of his faithfulness in our journey, and we marvel at the ways we see him at work. I wrote a letter to donors on the three-year anniversary of Mike’s 104th and final night in the hospital, remembering that both his homecoming and the extravagant funding of Mike Marathon LLC were thought impossible. This past weekend, we accomplished another seemingly impossible feat: sharing our story of God’s faithfulness at a three-church disability conference in New Jersey. (Update coming to the blog soon.) As the angel Gabriel told Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:37-38). We serve a mighty God!
Though these two words seem an insufficient expression of gratitude for the part you have played: thank you!
May the Lord bless you and keep you,
Maria for the family
*If this language isn’t familiar to you, it refers to the gap between God’s perfection and our hearts and behavior, and Jesus covers it by dying the death we deserve for our wrongdoings and freely giving us his clean record. Mike’s favorite verse to explain the Gospel has always been: “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
**You can hear a great example of this in the sermons “The Sluggard’s Field,” “The Three Mangers,” and “Stage by Stage” in the “Favorites” sermons tab or among the “Sermons by Mike Francis” podcasts on iTunes and Podbean.