Sunday, November 10, 2013

November 10 Sermon

“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive."

This was Jesus answer to the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, who tried to trap Jesus in a question. But Jesus was not interested in their question.

For Jesus, those who have died “are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.”

Resurrection is real. It’s not about death. It’s about life. For “life is a gift” from our God who created us, breathed his spirit upon us, who wants us to live fully!

There is a scene in Shawshank Redemption between Andy Dufrane & Red as they discuss life behind the walls of the prison and Andy’s dream of going to Mexico. It’s a pipe dream…
“It comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.” (Andy)
It is the choice we all have to make. For many who heard the call to serve this country, they made a choice and put their lives on the line for their country and their fellow soldiers…
Sixty years ago, a group of American GIs walked out of a North Korean prison camp, carrying a large wooden crucifix they had made from firewood and bits of wire. The cross was a tribute to a fellow prisoner who had touched their souls and saved their lives - Father Emil Kapaun [Ka-PAWN].

After the Communist invasion of South Korea in 1950, Chaplain Kapaun was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold. When 20,000 Chinese troops swept down on the vastly outnumbered American force at Unsan, Father Kapaun raced across no-man's land, dodging bullets and explosions to drag the wounded to safety.

Father Kapaun and a dozen other Americans were taken prisoner. As they were being led away to a prison camp at Pyoktong, the priest saw another American lying in a ditch, unable to walk, his ankle shattered in a grenade blast. A Chinese soldier was about to execute the American - but Father Kapaun pushed the Chinese soldier aside. As the stunned soldier watched, Father Kapaun picked up the wounded GI and carried him for miles. When other prisoners stumbled, he picked them up, as well. When they wanted to quit - knowing that stragglers would be shot - the priest begged them to keep walking.

During that brutally cold winter, Father Kapaun took care of the sick, gave away his own clothes to freezing prisoners, fashioned pots to boil water to battle dysentery, and prayed with the men in their huts. He was known as "the good thief" for his ability to steal food and trade anything he had for meager supplies. It was his selfless faith and unwavering hope, survivors of the ordeal remember, that saved their lives.

But the chaplain did not survive. Crippled by a blood clot in his leg and weakened by dysentery and pneumonia, Father Kapaun died on May 23, 1951. He was 35 years old. Two years later, the camp was liberated. April 11, 2013 Father Emil Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military honor. It was the members of his unit who fought for years for this recognition for their chaplain, their "shepherd in combat boots."
Father Emil Kapaun's brought life to the dying, hope to the hopeless, who understood that our God is God not of the dead, but of the living and he fought so they may live. He got busy living.

Sometimes, our veterans need help…

At first glance, Jim Wolf, a U.S. Army veteran, looked the stereotype of the homeless veteran that he was, one who struggled with poverty and alcoholism for years. While these internal struggles can take a long time to cast off and reverse, it took only a few hours in a salon chair to change Wolf’s image and begin to turn around how the Grand Rapids, MI, man even viewed himself.

A local filmmaker wanting to change the way people stereotype the homeless gave Wolf a makeover. He has since begun turning his life around after seeing his own physical potential. Rob Bliss, a 25-year-old was inspired to do good for his community, and inspired by the personal care brand Dove’s evolution video, which showed a woman transformed with hair, makeup and Photoshop into a model looking nothing like the original subject, Bliss wanted to show how a physical transformation for some people doesn’t cover up who they are, but reveals who they could be.

“The homeless are people we ignore every day,” He said. He created a time-lapse video of the physical transformation of a homeless person to show “they have that potential too.”

That’s what brought Bliss to Degage, a local Christian ministry providing services to the homeless in Grand Rapids, and to Jim Wolf, who served in the U.S. Army. A local stylist volunteered and a production team came on board.

Then for hours in September, Wolf sat in a salon chair as stylist Anna Walt, snipped, buzzed, trimmed, cleaned, dyed and blew dry. Wolf was quiet during the time in the chair. Wolf, who had not seen himself throughout the transformation, said “wow” when a full-length mirror was turned toward him and he finally saw his reflection.

“We all have an image of ourselves,” Marge Palmerlee, executive director of Degage said. “When he saw the difference, he just … felt very enlightened and uplifted. I could just tell the difference in Jim.”

Since his makeover, Wolf will soon move into his own apartment and has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. While this transformation was for one man and the video encourages people to donate to a specific, local ministry, it contains messages that reach much further.

“An outward transformation is important, but an inward one is more important,” Palmerlee said. She said she hopes it also helps change stereotypes to give people a perspective that “everyone is worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.” “We all know that war wounds are not all external,” Palmerlee said.

The videographer said, “If I can get people to look at any homeless person on the street and realize that potential, that ‘what if,’ and root for their success”(
Our God is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to God all are alive… so we better get busy living, helping the Jim Wolfs, honoring the fallen, and living this life, the gift we have been given. Amen.

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