Luke 11:9-13, 34-36; 12:27-34: “Light, Love, & Life”
Sunday morning worship, November 11, 2018 Veterans Day
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 an armistice between Germany and the Allied nations came into effect. On November 11, 1919, Armistice Day was commemorated for the first time. As we begin this message it’s the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 2018 or 100 years from the end of World War I. Our individual family was directly impacted by the events of World War I. The Meuse-Argonne Offensive was fought from September 26, 1918 until the Armistice of that 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
It was in the Argonne forest that my Dad’s dad, my grandpa, had his nervous system affected in a way that would leave him disabled though the disability did not surface until after he returned home. After the war, Grandpa started law school, but was never able to finish when that disability claimed his future. His law books filled the bookshelves of his home on Faye Road with reminders of what might have been beyond my birth and his death. When grandpa couldn’t, my grandma fought to care for the family and serve the Lord at the same time by opening a beauty shop in her home. This allowed her and my Dad’s sister, Francine, to care for grandpa and still earn the money they needed to live. After some dark days, the government finally acknowledged that what had happened to grandpa originated in that battle and granted him a military disability income. That steady government check, though not a tremendous amount, now coupled with the income grandma and Francine earned from the beauty shop carried our family through the Great Depression with an amount of security many did not have. Never bitter, my grandpa, loved our country with a degree of Patriotism few of us can understand. When World War II touched our shores, grandpa followed the war from his chair while many from our church went overseas. In my time as pastor I’ve heard many of their stories.
Joe Long sat in a death bubble as a ball turret gunner on bombers. A tail gunner had a life expectancy of four missions or two weeks. A ball gunner also faced death if the landing gear had problems as the full weight of the plane would crush that turret. Bud Emerson was an engineer. That sounds like a better job, but what Bud told me didn’t sound like an engineer to me. He walked in front of tanks looking for mines that might destroy the tank. He was on the first wave to hit Normandy’s beach that famous day, clearing the beach of landmines so the rest of the soldiers had a better chance to live. Hoppie Cowie once sat in my office looking through some of Grandpa Carr’s books showing me where he spent his time in the Pacific and sharing a few stories. I’ve heard other stories, some funny, some very sad, some happy and exciting, some mundane, but each story still had the power to impact each veteran’s life many years after they experienced those events.
But truth be told, every war is not the same nor does it have the same outcome. Every war has not touched our country in the same way. And, the truth also be told, each of us, whether we’ve served in the military or not, have a collection of stories from our past that still have the power to touch us today. Each of us has been impacted by others in funny, sad, happy, exciting, and even mundane ways. There are even the important stories that we may never really know or hear that have shaped us in ways beyond our ability to comprehend.
So the question I ask this morning must have an individual answer. There is no one-size-fits-all answer that can possibly be given. All of us must answer it for ourselves from our own set of stories and all of us must share what we choose to share as our contribution to the greater story that began in a garden in Mesopotamia and will not be fully written until that garden fills the new heaven and the new earth. That question is this: What outcome is truly worth our lives?
In Luke’s 11th and 12th chapters I believe Jesus offers us three paths we can travel to try to answer this question for ourselves. These three may be three separate paths that only allow us to choose one of them. These three paths might just as well be the same path for others of us. But whatever answer we give to this question, even if it’s not one of these three, should keep us moving forward somehow. Our individual answers should also give meaning to and help direct our daily choices.
In Luke 11:11-13, Jesus asks and then states, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” At first glance it appears Jesus is answering the question, “What outcome is truly worth our lives?” by saying the love of a parent for a child. Fathers and mothers know how to give sacrificially to their children. While we might challenge Jesus’ words with some specific examples, the fact that we can recognize exceptions to this statement means we recognize the sacrificial love needed to raise a healthy child. But I think Jesus is taking us deeper.
I’ve said to several people that I never knew what 7 days a week, 24 hours a day meant until Joshua was born. Every decision Beth and I made had to factor Josh into our choices. I think it is the constancy of love, of our loving presence that Jesus is speaking about. Jesus is telling us the “how much more” of His love is being there for us in the funny, sad, happy, exciting, and even mundane moments of our lives. That is His greatest gift and the reason He gave His life for us. In and through the Holy Spirit Jesus can not only be there for us, He can give us whatever we need in that moment. When we are celebrating, He will celebrate with us. When we are challenged, He will give us the strength we need. When we fall, He will be there with a hand to pick us up if we will take it. If we “Ask…it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (11:9-10). Maybe just being there when we are needed for those we love and for those who ask is our answer to the question, “What outcome is truly worth our lives?”
A few verses later in the same chapter, Jesus offers another answer: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you” (34-36).
A search for truth and letting that light shine from the way we live might be another possibility for some of us. Pilate lost in the greatest moment of his life because he failed to open his eyes to the truth that stood before him. Pilate recognized Jesus’ uniqueness and could find no fault in him. That’s quite a testimony from someone who had no interest in what Jesus had to say or offer. Attempting to help people see, understand, and live by the truth can be a frustrating life. Diogenes was a contemporary of Socrates and Plato. Those of you who love sarcasm and tend toward the cynical would love him. Look him up online. Diogenes is famous for carrying around a lamp in the daytime and looking for an honest man. Being that honest man who knows the truth and lives that truth might be someone’s answer to the question of the morning.
In chapter 12 Jesus offers another answer: “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it…seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell… give… provide..for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (29-34). Here I believe Jesus is offering us the chance for a life with a pure heart. Life isn’t about what we possess, according to Jesus. We’re eventually going to get everything in God’s Kingdom. Everything will be ours. That’s His promise.
Every time I leave Katie Appleby she tells me Jesus must not be finished building her mansion yet. That’s her reasoning why she’s still alive. I tell her what she does here with the days she has left might add a few more rooms to that mansion. She looks at me with that look of hers that she’s always given me. Maybe it’s okay to live with a heavenly perspective, but from that perspective we must still stay active in the game of life we are now living. We can still seek. We can still learn to overcome our fears. We can still sell and give and provide. We can still purify, yet not deny, our desires. There’s still more cleaning of the inside of the cup and dish to do (Matthew 23:26).
So on this day in which we honor the sacrifices of our veterans, we must all still answer the question, “What outcome is truly worth our lives?” I don’t mean what outcome is worth dying for. I mean, “What outcome is worth living for?”
We honor our fallen veterans on Memorial Day. Soldiers don’t want to die. They fight to live. When they know and agree with the outcome for which they are fighting, they are empowered. When they face death and don’t accept the outcome for which they are fighting, life is incredibly difficult. I believe the same is true for us. Being there for those we love and those who need us might be one answer that gives meaning to each day. Being that honest person who knows the truth and lives that truth as a light for others might give another meaning.
Seeking our place in God’s eternal kingdom while we learn to face and overcome our fears might be yet another worthy answer. Your answer might be something beyond anything I’ve ever considered, but it is your answer. Maybe one day offers one answer and at another stage of life another answer might provide the impetus needed to continue to live well. The book of Ecclesiastes, the book of one man’s search to answer this question, ends with these words, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (12:13). Jesus concluded His life with these words, “‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30). For my Grandpa Carr it was God, country, and family. What matters is that we all find our answers in our relationship to our creator and those whom our creator brings into our lives. Thank you for letting me say thank you to my grandpa this morning. Maybe today is a day we should all thank someone special.