Isaiah 6:1-8 and John 3:1-17
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
Private Desmond Doss, unarmed and under constant fire, single-handedly rescued 75 wounded soldiers, lowering each one 400ft to safety on a makeshift rope sling he devised, in the Pacific theatre’s bloodiest battle of the Second World War.
The battle took place on a boulder-strewn clifftop named Hacksaw Ridge on the Japanese island of Okinawa in late April 1945. Desmond Doss was the first conscientious objector to win America’s highest military award-the Medal of Honor. Private Doss did it without ever firing a shot.
Have you seen the movie Hacksaw Ridge? The movie is extremely violent and bloody, yet unless you’ve been in battle you really do not understand what our soldiers are dealing with. I saw it, and I’m glad I did. The movie gives meaning to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
After US troops, facing a deadly network of machine gun nests and booby traps, retreated in the face of a merciless onslaught, Doss remained atop the escarpment.
“Dear God,” he prayed, as he perilously made his way to each wounded man, “let me get just one more.”
Gunfire and bombs exploded around him as he hunted survivors. Doss said: “I just caught them by the collar and dragged them. You made yourself as small a target as you could and just hoped and prayed they didn’t hit you.”
He was scared but relentless. “What I did was a service of love,” he explained. “I should have been killed. I didn’t get wounded. The Blessed Lord was with me to where I was able to take care of one more until I finally got my last man off.”
The US Army calculated that he rescued 100 wounded soldiers from certain death atop Hacksaw Ridge. Ever modest Doss believed he saved closer to 50. They split the difference and settled on 75.
Doss dismissed acclaim of his heroism, placing credit elsewhere instead. “All the glory should go to God,” he said. “No telling how many times the Lord has spared my life.”
Raised as a Seventh-day Adventist he swore off firearms for life after witnessing a fight between his father and uncle over a gun.
The son of an alcoholic carpenter, Doss grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, in a home dominated by a framed poster of the 10 Commandments, atop an image of Cain killing Abel.
“When I looked at that picture I came to the sixth commandment, thou shalt not kill.” I wondered, how in the world could a brother do such a thing? It put a horror in my heart of just killing and as a result I took it personally. God said to me, ‘Desmond, if you love me, you won’t kill’
Desmond did not come out of war unscathed. He spent five years in the hospital recovering from his injuries and ultimately lost a lung and five ribs to tuberculosis contracted while on duty in the Pacific.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day, when we honor the American men and women who have died for someone else’s freedom. WWII deaths 291,557. On our own American soil during the Civil War, when brother fought against brother, the casualties were 214,938.
When I watch the Memorial Day parades, honoring those who gave their lives for our freedom, I can’t help asking, why? Why can’t we find a solution for war? The only answer I come up with is that we are sinful human beings, in need of a Savior.
Poppy seeds lie dormant until the soil is disturbed. Throughout Western Europe fields disturbed by the battles of war turn bare land into fields of blood red poppies.
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
What those who serve in our military have given, I consider, a Loving Sacrifice.
There are Memorial Day Services in our community, please attend those services and honor the Loving Sacrifice our military men and women have made for you.
While I was pondering what a Loving Sacrifice looks like in my own life; parenting came to mind. When I became a parent, I began to appreciate what Loving Sacrifices my parents made for my three brothers and me.
As I began to sacrifice my time, most of it spent caring for my children; my emotions, having a child means laughter, tears, a heart broken by what the world does to my child and what the child may do to me; money, we spend most of our money providing shelter, food and care for our children; relationships, when baby comes often the relationship between husband and wife is affected in detrimental ways; and freedom, when the children come along the parents basically lose the freedom they had before they became parents.
As I began to make loving sacrifices for my children, I began to recognize the loving sacrifices my parents made for me. I’m blessed to be able to care for my mother when she is not longer able to live on her own, to show her how much I appreciate what she sacrificed for me.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate what our spouses do for us, because we may not know all the do. One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house. His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.
The door of his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing. In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door.
He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had happened.
He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel. She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.
He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?” She again smiled and answered; “You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world did I do today?” “YES” was his incredulous reply. She said, “Well, today I didn’t do it.”
It may be a good idea to appreciate what other people do for us, especially our spouses!
Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We prayed the Apostle’s Creed for our unison prayer. We declared that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I’d like to take a moment to explore the Loving Sacrifice of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s begin with the ancient prophet Isaiah. We read in the 8th verse of Isaiah 6, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And I said, “Here am I. Send Me!”
Isaiah is considered the greatest prophet, and when he said, “Here am I. Send me!” he began a ministry that would last for 60 years, and it was a ministry of misery. He prophesied Judah’s doom, if they didn’t turn from their sinful ways and turn back to God. As a result, he was despised and executed during King Manasseh’s reign.
As was the case of Desmond Doss, when Isaiah decided to put love of God above the will of man, he made a Loving Sacrifice to God and to his fellow human beings.
The last Loving Sacrifice I want to address today happens in verses 16-17 of the 3rd chapter of the gospel of John. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
What do you think God went through when he came to the world through his Son Jesus to die on the cross?
Think of the parents who have lost children to war. Imagine them dreading the phone call or the visit from the military telling them their son or daughter had been killed in battle. Imagine their heart being torn apart by the news of the death of their child.
Imagine God as He knew His Son would suffer and die an excruciating death on a Roman cross. Think of how God’s heart was torn apart when He watched His Son die. God had tried over and over again to show us how much he loves us, and now he makes the ultimate Loving Sacrifice. He sends His Son to die for us.
Imagine Jesus, who knew the death he would face. We read Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22:42-44, ‘“Father, if you are willing take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”’
Now imagine the Holy Spirit of God, as he prompts us again and again to make the right choices, to love God above all and our neighbors as our self. Yet we fail again and again.
The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:30-32, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
If only we humans could get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and every form of malic; and be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other as Christ forgives us: There would be no more war in which hundreds of thousands of men and women die.
Yet, we cannot, can we? What Jesus told Nicodemus in the 3rd chapter of the gospel of John, is the only way to end the onslaught of war. We must come to Jesus, confess our sins, receive the forgiveness that is readily available through the grace of God, and be born again though the Holy Spirit’s presence in our heart. This is the only hope for the end of war.
I’ll leave you with an illustration of how Jesus is the only hope for the world we live in.
One rainy Sunday afternoon, a little boy was bored and his father was sleepy. The father decided to create an activity to keep the kid busy. He found a large map of the world in the morning newspaper. He took scissors and cut it into a good many irregular shapes like a jigsaw puzzle. Then he said to his son, “See if you can put this puzzle together. And don’t disturb me until you’re finished.”
He turned over on the couch, thinking this would occupy the boy for at least an hour. To his amazement, the boy was tapping his shoulder ten minutes later telling him that the job was done. The father saw that every piece of the map had been fitted together perfectly. “How did you do that?” he asked. “It was easy, Dad. There was a picture of a man on the other side. When I got him together right, the world was right.” The picture on the other side of the world map was Jesus!
A person’s world can never be right until the person is right, and that requires the miracle of new birth. Don’t stop asking God for the experience of new birth until you can shout from the housetops, “Through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has changed my life!”
May God bless you today, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut