Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sermon: Easter 7 (Memorial Day)

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

With the Ascension of Jesus, Jesus ascends to heaven, he no longer is with the disciples on earth. No longer with them to instruct and guide them, his ministry (his Good News!) has become their ministry, their news to tell, for the Spirit of God rested upon the Disciples to help them for they are now called to be God’s little helpers in creation, to do what God has called them to do.

The late Fred Rogers - Mister Rogers to five generations of young TV viewers - told this story of his own childhood in his 2002 book The Mister Rogers Parenting Book:

'When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, and my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's comforting words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world."

Bless Mrs. Rogers for such inspired advice! Sure enough, in any bad news, little Fred was always able to find someone - a firefighter, an ambulance driver, a doctor or nurse, someone just passing by - trying to help. In the many tragedies of our own day - humankind has stood in awe of the extraordinary bravery and the inspiring generosity of men and women who put their own lives on the line to bring healing and to begin the long process of rebuilding lives devastated by war, famine and disaster. They are full of the Spirit, the Advocate in our midst; their work is the work God entrusted to his Son and that his Son now entrusts to us.

Who are the helpers on this Memorial Day weekend, those who proudly served, I think of…

Private First Class Desmond T. Doss (wife Dorothy) - sources: wikipedia,

· awarded the Medal of Honor – Oct 12, 1945 (President Truman)
· only conscientious objector to receive the award in WW II
· raised in Lynchburg, Virginia & his mother raised him in the Seventh-day Adventist Church – his faith elements: Sabbath-keeping, nonviolence, and vegetarian.
· After Pearl Harbor, enlisted, but refused to carry a weapon, wanted to help in other ways
· Suffered much for his conscientious objection (physical/psychological abuse, threats)
· Assigned as a medic to 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division
· At the Battle of Okinawa (his 3rd major battle) – saved at least 75 soldiers at the Maeda Escapement (Hacksaw Ridge)
· Facing heavy machine gun and artillery fire, Doss repeatedly ran alone into the kill zone, carrying wounded soldiers to the edge of the cliff and singlehandedly lowering them down to safety below. Each time he saved a man’s life, Doss prayed out loud, “Lord, please help me get one more.”
· Doss was wounded himself 4 times in Okinawa before finally being evacuated. His wounds prevented him from being a carpenter stateside, as he had hoped.
· He died in 2006. He has one son - Desmond Jr. says he does recall asking his father a personal question about that night. “What on Earth were you thinking?” he says with a laugh. “And I never really got the answer I was looking for.” Desmond Jr remembers wanting to ask, “Did he not understand that it’s not right to stand up in the middle of a hail fire of bullets?”
· From the medal of honor citation “Through his outstanding bravery and unflinching determination in the face of desperately dangerous conditions, Pfc. Doss saved the lives of many soldiers. His name became a symbol throughout the 77th Infantry Division for outstanding gallantry far above and beyond the call of duty.”
· He lived his faith – he was God’s helper on Okinawa – saving one soldier’s life at a time.

Lady of the Lamp – Nurse Florence Nightingale sources: -,

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, in 1820 to a wealthy British family. Despite this background, Nightingale heard a call from God in 1837 to serve and care for others. She was expected to marry well, have children, and carry on the family legacy. Instead, she answered the call she heard from God and would became the founder of modern nursing practice.

In 1855, she organized and trained a group of nurses to help the soldiers injured during the Crimean War. Appalled by the primitive hospital facilities, the lack of beds, bandages, and bathing facilities, all wrapped into a decidedly filthy, vermin-ridden environment, Nightingale wrote, “the British high command had succeeded in creating the nearest thing to hell on earth.” Initially, her nurses were not allowed to see the suffering soldiers and, instead, ordered to clean the hospital floors. As the casualties mounted and the physicians became overwhelmed, Nightingale’s nurses were finally enlisted to help. (link)

Nightingale is said to have reduced the mortality rate during the war from 42 percent to 2 percent by addressing hand washing, water contamination, and sterilization of surgical materials by using the newly developed mathematical methods of statistics to prove that such interventions made a difference. She used data to back up her methods!

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” – She once said. And her life is that of one who would not live under such fear. Her love and care for others is what mattered.

She became known as the Lady of the Lamp (poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) because of her late evening rounds visiting the wounded soldiers. When the war ended and she returned home to London, she was lauded as a national hero and showered with awards and medals including a jewel from Queen Victoria. (link)

May the Spirit of God inspire us and animate us to take on the humble, compassionate role of God’s helpers in our world, like PFC Doss & Nurse Nightingale, to those whose lives have been torn and broken and without hope, that the love of God might shine down on all through what we say and do, that in the words of Mr Rogers – people may be “comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

May we be counted among God’s helpers. Amen.

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