We Honor Forever

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ecclesiasticus 44:1-15.

Earlier this year I was preparing to take my youth on the Confirmation Retreat. But there was a problem. I had a seventh grade young man that wanted to attend…and no male chaperone. My youth director and I decided to make an appeal to the congregation. We did not want Liam to miss out on this experience. And we refused to believe that a gentleman from the church family would not step up to answer this call.

Two days later I learned that a man in the congregation responded to the call. It was learning his identity that blew me away. He was a man I had offended with one of my sermons the summer previous. He stopped attending worship for a while yet remained in relationship with his small group and volunteer area with the church. Slowly he reintegrated into worship. He would stay for the music and depart before the sermon. At the time I made this appeal for Liam he had only been back in worship perhaps a few weeks. And it was him. He answered the call.

And y’all, Dan was fabulous. He was sixty years senior to the youth in Confirmation and he was the one that set the pace for the retreat. He slept on a bunk bed, ate food cooked en masse, romped around a camp, had early mornings on the coattails of late nights. He was a champ! I credit Dan for the youth showing up on time, thoughtfully engaging our shared work, and cracking the best dry humor I have heard in a long while. We even had the opportunity, in a round about way on the retreat, to touch on the subject that, for a time, drove a division between us.

The subject was gun reform and responsible gun ownership. Dan opened my eyes to a wider perspective. He spoke with intelligence, humility, honesty, and grace. He spoke as a veteran and as the father of two sons active in service to their country.

After the retreat I asked Dan why he volunteered. He said it was the right thing to do. He said he felt responsible for supporting Liam and the other students in and on their faith journey. He said God stirred his heart and it was a call that would not let him go.

I am grateful for Dan answering the call. His presence made way for Liam’s presence. I am also grateful for the privilege to learn from Dan, and more importantly, to reconcile with him. He reminded me that what I say as a fellow follower of Christ and as a pastor will not be agreeable with everyone. What I say will not “be well” with everyone’s soul. He took the space that he needed to sort out his feelings without removing himself entirely from relationship with me or the church. And when the time was right, God led him in the next level – the next avenue – of service.

Thanks be to God.

I cherished the many months of greeting times I witnessed after that retreat. The youth that attended the trip took special care to cross the sanctuary to speak to Dan, even if they had already seen him that morning. His service left an imprint on their hearts. Dan will always be a friend in faith to those young men and women.

This week I remember, celebrate, and honor Dan and all our veterans. Our veterans know well the call to serve, know well the perseverance needed in difficult circumstances, and know well that doing the right thing may draw them out of their comfort zones and into the unknown. I am in awe of their bravery. Their commitment is an example to me. To all of us.

Join us this week in worship as we honor veterans through special music, slideshow, and sermon. I look forward to this time with our church family.

Prayer: “To God be the glory, great things he hath done! So loved he the world that he gave us his Son, who yielded his life an atonement for sin, and opened the life-gate that all may go in. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the earth hear his voice! Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice! O come to the Father thru Jesus the Son, and give him the glory, great things he hath done!”* Amen.

*”To God Be the Glory,” The United Methodist Hymnal 98.

We Honor Forever

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ecclesiasticus 45:1-15

Y’all know how I feel about Little Orange Friends. Someone said to me in small group this week, “We haven’t been [together in class] in two weeks; you look a whole lot better!”

I look a whole lot less orange!

We have three pumpkins still in our house – a faithful(?) remnant, if you will. One is for Andrew and Joshua to carve…eventually. The other two are small pumpkins sitting on the table in our kitchen nook. One is for Josh. The other is for Joshua.

Each year we purchase a pumpkin for Andrew’s dear brother Josh that died of complications related to congestive heart failure several years ago. For a couple years we took Josh’s pumpkin to his interment site at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. We have not been in two years…but that does not deter us from buying Josh a pumpkin and holding his memory close.

Each night I look on that pumpkin and then see its neighbor for our Joshua. Andrew continues to tell stories about Josh – some I have heard before and others that are brand new. These stories will continue. We want Joshua to know his namesake…and I am sure as Joshua creates his own mischief, stories yet to be told will emerge.

And I will cherish every story just as I cherish our sweet son.

Ecclesiasticus – also known as Sirach or Ben Sira – meaning son of Sira – is an Apocryphal Wisdom text. And Ecclesiasticus contains the gem of a scripture passage that we will share this week in worship as we honor – forever – the Veterans in our lives and church family. Our ‘sermon’ this week will be a media presentation from Veterans in our congregation sharing (1) their name and rank in their branch of service (2) how their faith shaped their military service and (3) how their military service shaped their faith.

I am grateful for the kind and generous sharing of our Veterans’ stories; your words are truly a gift to our congregation. Your sharing with us welcomes us into your legacy of service. And the contributions of your service shape our lives – because your service gave and gives us the life we have today.

Thank you, Veterans.

I hope you will join us in worship this week. And I invite you to thank and encourage all the Veterans in your life.

Prayer: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be. With God our Creator, children all are we. Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally! Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”* Amen.

*“Let There Be Peace On Earth,” The United Methodist Hymnal 431