Notice on your bulletin and on the top of this sermon manuscript when you receive it that today is recognized with two different labels. I got these two labels from the Abingdon Press Lectionary Calendar. Today is ‘Second Sunday after Pentecost’ and also ‘Memorial Sunday.’ One a Church designation and the other a cultural designation. Blended. One of His Kingdom and one of our world.
In the little village of Messerich, Germany there sits a church building that is over 1,000 years old. Messerich is about 50 miles from Luxemburg; the little country that hosts one of the historic American cemeteries with thousands of U.S. soldiers buried there, all casualties of World War II. General Patton is buried there. It was his wish that if he ever died over there that he wanted to be buried with his soldiers. So his body lies in rest thousands of miles from home. He is with his soldiers.
In Messerich, the stained glass windows are beautiful and most interesting to the American eye. The purpose of the stained glass is to tell the Story of the Gospels through art. The people could not read centuries ago, so pictures were created through art in order to tell the Good News about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
When you “read” these beautiful centuries-old pieces of art, you discover that the Storytellers (the artists and creators) wove and blended together the Gospel Story with the stories of the local people. The saints of the Church are in the same stained glass with the local farmers. Saint Peter will be in the farm wagon, helping to drive the animals and pull the people. Jesus is on the dirt road with the farmers.
The World of God and the world of the people become One within the Church Story. The Disciples live in Messerich. Jesus walks with the farmers. And the soldiers.
Last week I read nine lists submitted by nine of you entitled “The 10 Things CTRC Does Right.” It was a fun reading. Cheryl wrote “Gary is cool. Pam is the bomb.”
A Dutch teacher who now teaches in Dubai, UAE wrote me and asked, “What does it mean that ‘Pam is the bomb?’ Is that in reference to your military days?” Pam’s eyebrows went up when I read that last Sunday. Cheryl, who teaches at San Marcos High as a second career pre-calculus teacher who spent her first career in the Air Force, clarified that the term “Pam is the Bomb” is high school talk for “Pam is the most amazingest woman”. It is a complimentary description.
I grew up in farm country. After we got married, I wanted to give Pam the ultimate compliment one day and I told her, “You are as solid as a brick outhouse.”
That is the ultimate compliment from a farm boy to a girl whom he likes. Nothing better on the farm than a brick outhouse. Only the rich had such a thing. Pam still raises her eyebrows when I tell her she is as solid as a brick outhouse.
The term means that no wind can blow over that outhouse. No teenager prankster can push it over. It is not the type of house that the big bad wolf can blow down…it is immovable. Strong. Secure. Solid. It is a complimentary term. No colleague can discourage it. Life can not blow it over. Only the rich can afford to build a brick outhouse.
Ralph Waldo wrote “Our strength grows out of our weakness. Not until we are pricked and stung and sorely shot at, awakens the indignation which arms itself with secret forces.”
It was not until Jesus was crucified that the Disciples found within themselves the secret strength to arm themselves with resolve to go tell the World around them the Good News of His resurrection.
Soldiers fired upon find the secret force within to serve valiantly and bravely.
On Memorial Day we somberly remember the ultimate price that thousands have paid as they served our country in the struggles over the two centuries as a dream of freedom, equality, and opportunity was pursued. Some of the people I know in my life who pray for Peace the most are soldiers – generals, enlisted, middle rank soldiers. Few want peace more in life than a soldier. Thousands of soldiers have died on the battlefields on our land and overseas while dreaming of being home and living a peaceful life.
Once I was in a conversation with a family who had just lost a job unexpectedly. As we talked about losing jobs, we talked about sudden losses that others have. A wife who thought she was happily married suddenly finds out that her spouse has filed for divorce with no warning.
The family commented to me, “Life is a war.”
Life is so many times a war. But as the song spoke of this morning, we try to stay on the sunny side of the Journey. The Son side of the Journey. We pray for peace and pray for the strength to serve our Lord with dignity, Hope, and resolve. I loved what Fresh Steve Jones told his friend Coach Clayton a few weeks ago. “With the difficult challenges you face daily as a teacher and as a coach, you need my church in your life.”
Coach Clayton came to church for the first time on Mother’s Day. His friend told him he needed this church and The Church in his life. Clayton came. On Mother’s Day. And did the Mother’s Day sermon. First time in Church. He asked me if he could do the Children’s Sermon. With his mother here, having driven from 5 hours away just to be here.
Fresh Steve Jones got his church homework assignment in late. I automatically dropped his grade to a “B” because it was late. But it was excellent. Here is his list, turned in late by a new member of Christ the Redeemer Church, of “10 Things CTRC Does Right.”
Fresh Steve ended up getting an “A” for this one, even though it was late. “Dirt Road Church” and “solid as a brick outhouse” go together, don’t they? Amen.
By GARY L. SMITH
Reverend – Christ the Redeemer Church