Mark 10:45 "For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
As children growing up in the 60's, we were either playing cowboys and Indians or Army. The television show Combat was very popular with us young boys. The drama depicted an Army platoon fighting its way across Europe during World War II. Actor Vic Morrow played the part of Sergeant Chip Saunders, a seasoned veteran of many conflicts.
The ultimate prize before we began battle was to "call" who was playing the part of Sgt. Saunders. This meant you were in charge, yelling orders, and coordinating the attack on an unnamed battleground in a field in southwest Georgia. I remember sitting around one day after successfully taking our simulated objective. We talked and bragging about our fathers and their heroism during WWII. My good friend Grant stated that his father "received a medal from flying in planes over Germany". Not to be outdone and having a Marine father that served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, I simply stated that my Daddy "won the war". There were a few moments of silence and then we boys went on with playing.
Although our calendars are littered with special times - birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and many more, on November 11th, we celebrated Veterans Day. It was originally known as Armistice Day. It is distinct from Memorial Day which honors those who died in military service. Veteran's Day honors all military veterans. This includes persons who served in the United States Armed Forces, to include the Coast Guard, and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
One of the many reasons we celebrate this day is raise awareness and pay respect to our brothers and sisters who have served the United States as members of our United States Navy, Air Force, Army, Marines and Coast Guard. These patriots are forever regarded as veterans of this great nation. Veteran invokes honor for their service because they all sacrificed more than you can imagine. Never expecting a thank you, they served and sacrificed and are proud to have been a part of something bigger than themselves. Quite often they could never imagine the importance and good that they were and are a part of.
Many of our veterans have passed due to injuries or illnesses incurred during service to this nation. Many still bear the scars of war including those that can never be bandaged. Yet, they all served without hesitation and simply went on with their lives after serving our Nation. Many continue to serve, protecting and defending our country, the greatest Nation on earth.
Our Veterans, all good men and women, accepted their responsibilities and created new legacies to take our next generation to a level we could only imagine. Just as we receive Grace because of the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, our veterans, who unselfishly served, have ensured our freedom and liberty. So, I ask you to take a moment and extend a prayer for all our veterans. Look them in the eye and thank them for their service.
God Bless our veterans, heroes all.
This past Sunday kicked off our annual Stewardship campaign. For many, the stewardship campaign is their least favorite time of year. Mainly because a stewardship campaign asks us to look at our lives and examine how we are responding to God's grace with our time, talent, and resources. Some come away from it with a sense of guilt. And yet, stewardship is an opportunity to reflect first on the grace and mercy of God operative in our lives. Each year, for me, it gives me a chance to look over the last year and consider what God has been doing in my life and name the ways Jesus has been at work in me and through me. Such always inspires me. To know God takes interest in me, even me, and loves me is astounding. I couldn't imagine not saying thank you to God. The generosity of our time, talent, and money is predicated upon God's generosity toward us. To bless God in return is an act of worship.
In their book, Practicing the King's Economy, Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt remind us that practicing this type of giving shapes our hearts to reflect our King. We each have been created in God's image as we hear in the book of Genesis. In other words, we are made to be a reflection of God's person. We can never be a full representative of God. Only Jesus can be this. However, our character and actions are a testimony to our God. We see and experience in God an unfathomable generosity. God continues to bless us and the rest of creation. As agents of God, those created to mirror such generosity, when we practice being generous with our entire selves, (physical, spiritual, financial, and more); we not only honor God, but reflect God's character in the world.
I find it both unnerving as well as an honor to be given the job of reflecting God's character in the world. Obviously I feel deficient in this job. And yet, what an honor God would say I am worthy to reflect God's generosity. Consider this week the honor it is to reflect God's character, particularly God's generosity. Moreover, how is your heart being shaped by your generosity? Lastly, know in the endeavor to reflect God's generosity, God will give you what you need, including God's Spirit, to fulfill this calling!
All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows' Day, is a day Christians honor all the saints from our history. This festival comes from a conviction that there is a spiritual connection between those who have gone before us in Heaven and those of us on Earth. All Saints Day is a national holiday relating to giving God earnest gratitude for the lives and deaths of His saints and remembering those who were well-known and those who were not. Those individuals throughout Christian history are celebrated on All Saints Day, such as Peter the Apostle and Charles Wesley. Those individuals who have personally guided Christians to their faith in Jesus, such as a relative or a friend are also celebrated.
Would it surprise you to know that Halloween started as a Christian celebration? Hallow, in Old English, means "holy" or "sacred." So, Halloween simply means the evening of holy persons. It refers to the night before All Saints Day. This would be a night families would prepare to celebrate and honor those who had died.
All Saints Day started when the Roman Empire persecuted Christians. So many martyrs died for their faith that the Church set aside special days to honor them. The pope removed statues of Jupiter and the pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to "all saints" who had died from Roman persecution in the first 300 years after Christ. There were too many martyrs for each to be given their own day so they were lumped together into one day. All Saints Day was changed by Pope Gregory III to November 1st.
In the 10th century, Abbot Odela of the Cluny monastery added November 2nd as All Souls Day not only to honor the martyrs but all Christians who had died. Who are your favorite heroes in Christian history? Can you think of any whose example has inspired you? Why not use All Saints Day to think of and give thanks for as many Christians from the past as you can remember, whether they are famous or not, especially if their lives and teaching contributed something to yours.
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says that All Saints Day stands for "the unity of Christians of all ages, countries, and races in Christ, and the perfection of that unity in heaven." The Bible doesn't tell us to pray to the saints or through the saints, instead, we think of our connectedness to past saints and find inspiration in their stories of God's faithfulness. Hebrews 11 gives examples of the great cloud of witnesses whose lives tell of God's unfailing love and grace. These saints speak from the past and are whispering at this moment, "God is faithful."
The hymn, "For All the Saints" encourages us to look back through the years of Christian history and think of the millions now enjoying rest and salvation in the presence of God. It's also meant to provide encouragement to believers here and now to press on, looking forward to the glorious day.
Join us this Sunday as we celebrate "our saints" who have gone on before us.
Christian Education Coordinator