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Saturday, June 7, 2014

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (Jn. 15:13)

      
We've been blessed by God to observe another Memorial Day this year of our Lord, 2014.  A day in which we pay honor to our military veterans, especially those who paid the ultimate price, who gave their "last full measure of devotion" to keeping alive those freedoms that we so much enjoy.
 
Before getting into the body of our lesson today, I'd like to address a circumstance that's more and more prevalently seen leading up to holidays.  A circumstance for which I personally have a particular loathing.   I'm speaking of the commercialism of our holidays. We've come to expect to see TV ads, newspaper ads and mailers from vendors trying to sell us a product somehow related to the coming holiday.
 
I am opposed to the commercialism of all of them, but especially that of Memorial Day.  That's a day set aside to pay honor to our military and as far as I'm (and others) are concerned, it's a dishonor to intrude on that day of remembrance by those using it for commerce.  I mentioned that "others" also feel this way and I'll cite to you something one man did in addressing this intrusion.
 
When he receives an ad from a vendor about a product for Memorial Day he sends them back a note telling them that it is "inappropriate" to promote Memorial Day for marketing purposes.  He concludes this note with this statement: "Memorial Day is NOT on sale — millions of patriots have already paid the full price."  I add - AMEN!
 
In March of this year our country honored 24 veterans, whose service spanned from WW2 to Korea and Vietnam, with the Medal Of Honor.  The highest award for bravery that can be bestowed.  I wasn't opposed to their receiving that award, it's just that it would have been nice if most of them could have been alive to receive it.
 
A pet peeve of mine (I have many) is to hear someone refer to them as having "won" the Medal Of Honor.  You don't "win" this medal, it's not a contest.  They are "awarded" it, thus they are "recipients" - not "winners!"  I'd like to cite to you one of those "recipients" as the inspiration for our lesson and I have to condense my citation due to space necessity.
 
Back in the 1970's a class of cadets were working their way through the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co.  There was a older man named Bill Crawford there who was employed as the janitor in their dormitory.  Sort of as the general nature of things, since he was quite a bit older than the cadets, they didn't pay very much attention to him. 
 
However, they did notice that he was quiet and very conscientious about his job.  He kept the area spotlessly clean and the bathrooms gleaming.  But, they just thought, "Well, that's his job to clean the floors and toilets."  They did notice that he didn't move very fast and that sometimes he shuffled when he walked.  Perhaps caused by a previous injury.  Basically, he was just part of the fixtures.  He just blended in with the woodwork, so to speak.
 
One day one of the cadets happened to be reading a book about WW2 and came across the story of a major battle in Italy.  It talked about a soldier in that battle, a Private William Crawford from Colorado, who had been awarded the Medal Of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty."
 
Thinking that old Bill, the janitor, might be the William Crawford of the battle, they confronted him at the dorm and showed him the page in the book.  When they asked if that was him, he very quietly replied, "Yep, that's me."  When they asked him why he hadn't ever spoken to them about it he replied with some words I deem as very pertinent in thought to our lesson.  He simply replied, "That was one day in my life and it happened a long time ago."
 
Bill continued on with his job as a janitor for the academy until he was able to retire.  His quiet and humble attitude, coupled with the way in which he approached his job, had a great and positive influence on the cadets who knew him.  One of them writing that he had learned many valuable and unforgettable lessons from his association with Bill.  He died in 2000 at the age of 81 years and is the only enlisted man buried at the Air Force Academy.
 
Well, how do we apply this?  I see several ways and I'll give you as much as space allows.  First, Bill's humble character reminds me of several admonitions we find in the Scriptures regarding a Christian's attitude.  One of the basic characteristics of a Christian is "humbleness" (Col. 3:12) I think we can also look at some words Peter wrote about this in 1Pet. 5:5-6. "...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He many exalt you."
 
Next, I noted his attitude towards doing his job to the best of his ability, even though he would have had what many would consider, a valid excuse for slaking off.  (He was wounded so badly he had been listed as killed in action.)   But, he did not let any infirmity keep him from doing his job.  To the degree that those around him were impressed by his work ethics.  In the same way that a Christian's work ethics should be noticeable.
 
A Christian is required by God's instruction to have that same type of attitude to their temporal life's work.  And, especially, towards their spiritual life's work.  God's Wisdom tells us how our attitude should be in regards to our jobs.  Please read that wisdom in Proverbs 22:29 and in Romans 12:11.  But read with me here the words of 1Thess. 4:11-12.  "....Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may live properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
 
Now, let me refer back to Bill's statement about the "one day" in his life.  I see this as an example of a Christian not "resting on his laurels."  You see, our spiritual life's work doesn't consist of just one day - one event.  Rather, it is all day, every day for the entirety of our earthly lives.
 
Like most of us also do, Bill got to retire from his job, but Christians do not retire from Christ's service.  Our duties may change as our abilities change, but our "severance package" doesn't "kick in" until we pass from the earth.  While here we may experience many of life's tribulations.  We may have sickness and pain.  We will certainly be tempted by the devil but, "be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."  (Rev. 2:10)
 
Paul, in Rom. 12:11 says that we are to give "honor to whom honor is due."  I know of no one of this earth more "due" of honor than those who have "laid down their life for their friends."  But, as honorable as that is, above and beyond that is:
 
    "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.      (1Tim. 1:17)
 
 
Ron Covey

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