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Archive for the ‘Rememberance’ Category

One of the great surprises of the Broadway theater is the musical, “Rent.”  The play started on a dirty side street in New York City.  They call it Off-Off Broadway, which means the musical had little chance of making it to the big time.  But then something happened that nobody predicted.  The musical just exploded.  People started packing the house every night.  When the awards were given, “Rent” came away a winner.  Even after thirteen years it is still hard to get a ticket to this play.

Something about “Rent” touched a nerve and spoke to the heart.  It could be that the intensity of the young author spilled over into his work.  He was very sick as he wrote the play and died just before opening night.  The centerpiece of the musical is a song that comes in the second act called “Season of Love.”  Critics say this song may be one of the reasons that “Rent” continues to fill the theater night after night.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
How do we measure a year?

In daylights—in sunsets,
In midnights—in cups of coffee,
In inches—in miles,
In laughter—in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure
A year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.

Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes.
How do we measure the life
Of a Woman or a Man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried,
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now—to sing out
Tho’ the story never ends.
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends.

Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Remember the love.
Measure the love.

Measure, measure your life in love.
Seasons of love.
Seasons of love.

Paul understood these feelings when he wrote to the church at Ephesus.  From a jail cell, anticipating his own death, he too wrote with a great intensity.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father ~Ephesians 5:15-20

His audience met in a little house church surrounded by a pagan culture.  And Paul’s impassioned yearning for his friends speaks to a universal question.  Is it possible to live a meaningful life in a world like this?  He knew that many things chipped away at their souls and assaulted their values day after day.  His response was to say that they could take the minutes of their lives and make them count.

If we turn from the Bible to today’s newspaper it is amazing how current Paul’s concerns still are.  Like Ephesus long ago we are part of a culture that incessantly assaults our values.  The old seven deadly sins of the Middle Ages still rear their ugly heads.  After all these years we still do battle with pride, envy, anger, lust, gluttony, greed, and sloth.  Stephen Carter, Professor of Law at Yale University, calls one of our basic problems a lack of integrity.  He says we live in an age where winning is more important than playing by the rules of the game.  He footnotes his case with a multitude of stories.  A beauty queen is stripped of her title when it is learned that the educational credentials on her resume were fabricated.  A respected national TV network is forced to apologize for doctoring a TV clip to make a truck seem less safe than it is.  Respectable authors of a book on management are accused of bulk purchases at key bookstores to get their book on the Best Seller list.  He talks about Republican and Democrat politicians who are guilty of taking under-the-table money for elections.  Mr. Carter wonders what has happened to integrity in our time. (Stephen L. Carter, Integrity [New York:  Basic Books, 1996] p. 4.)

Paul also struggled with the integrity issue.  His advice on how to live honestly in a difficult time is found at the end of his letter to the Ephesians.  How can we use the minutes and hours that stretch out before us?  How can we walk without stumbling?  The Apostle gives his friends, and us, five solid words of advice.

Paul begins with wisdom.  He reached back into his Jewish heritage and reclaimed an old word.  He told his friends to live not as unwise persons but as wise.  The Ephesians knew a lot about wisdom.  Athens and Alexandria were the centers of wisdom in their time.  They knew that wisdom meant knowledge and facts and intelligence.  But not all the things that march under the banner of wisdom deserve to be there.

If he were writing to us I think he would say that wisdom is not scanning the Internet.  He could not have had in mind the multitude of how-to books that we keep buying.  He certainly did not mean that wisdom is synonymous with yet another diploma or degree.

Paul’s understanding of wisdom was not intellectual achievement.  He was talking about one’s attitude toward life.  How one looked at the world.  Real wisdom is looking through the lenses as a child of God and seeing our brothers and sisters everywhere and knowing that we are here to make a contribution and give something back.  Real wisdom is standing firm and not letting the world shape our values.  Maybe this is one of the reasons that the play, “Rent,” touched a nerve in our time.  Maybe the dying young author had come to understand the meaning of real wisdom.  It is making sense of our lives and the times in which we live.

Paul follows his words about wisdom with a second world about time.  He talks about using well whatever minutes we have.  The King James Version cautions us to redeem the time, which means to use carefully the time we have been given.  Our lives are everlastingly besieged by a vast array of choices.  The great test for all of us is that we pick and choose among all the options, taking take with us things that matter and not things shabby and inconsequential.

Frederick Beuchner has said that every day we live is like a birthday present waiting to be opened.  We are to use wisely what we have been given.  Open the package ever so slowly.  Take from the box each brand new day with its challenges and opportunities.  This present of a day will never come again.  No wonder the Apostle writes to his friends, be careful how you use your time.

Paul then uses the word understanding. He encourages us to understand the will of God.  He pleads for discernment.  This age of ours knows little of discernment.  We are much like the window-shopper who stares incredulously into the shop window where, on the other side of the glass, someone has mislabeled all the valuable items in the window cheaply and placed ridiculously high price tags on cheap baubles.  It is not always easy to distinguish between what matters and what is inconsequential.  Yet Paul says we can go beyond the confusion of our time.  We can know the will of God.

Patrick Overton speaks to this in his poem from The Learning Tree:

When we walk to the edge of all
the light we have
And take that step into the darkness
Of the unknown,
We believe that one of two things will happen—
There will be something solid for us
To stand on
Or, we will be taught how to fly.

This is discernment.  We all stand on the edge of a precipice from time to time.  There is great confusion about what we are to do next.  But, like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, if we keep our eyes on the light that shines in the distance and follow it all the way, we shall find the path.  We call this discovery the Will of God.

Paul’s next word is a verb, fill. He warns his friends not to be drunk with wine but rather to be filled with the Spirit.  The cult of Dionysius held that wine-induced frenzies led to religious insight.  Remnants of that cult are still with us.  Many still believe that whatever gets us through the hard times is all right.  But Paul reminds us that there are no substitutes for the Spirit of God who fills and enlightens believers.

Our age knows all too well that addiction goes far beyond drugs and alcohol.  We can be hooked on material goods, on money, on status, on success and work and sex and exercise and just about everything.  Paul says we are to be filled with the Spirit of God.  In that Spirit we find energy, breath, and life itself.  We are to accept no substitute for this filling, which God brings.

Has Paul saved the best word for last?  He gives us the word thanks. One man found this to be a saving word during a sudden, scary stay in the hospital.  Lying there, waiting for the test results he was afraid might reveal a malignancy, he began to sort out the things that mattered.  His hospital room was flooded by the memories of a lifetime.  He remembered the pleasure of listening to the Saint Louis Cardinals on the radio when he was a boy.  He recalled watching a son grow from boy to man.  He thought of the sheer delight on his daughter’s face as she watered skied for the first time.  The wonder of his minutes and hours and days just poured in upon him.  He remembered pumpkins…a 1969 Chevy…bicycle rides…holding hands with his beloved…early morning fog…blue jays, and raisin-bread Dalmatians.  Once he began thinking, he couldn’t stop.  He thought of old folk songs and hot dogs and tomatoes from his garden and stained glass windows and News from Lake Woebegon.  He remembered dahlias and daisies and dandelions and Doonesbury and Snoopy and Oscar Peterson at the keyboard and somebody singing “Porgy and Bess.”  But he said the best remembering was when the doctor came into his hospital room and used the marvelous word:  “Benign.”  In that remembering his life was changed forever. (Gordon Greer, “Editor at Large,” Better Homes and Gardens, November 1982, p. 4.)

How do we use our 525,600 minutes?  Living a meaningful life has never been simple.  But even though our roads are plagued with potholes and barricades, with barriers and detours, we can discover some wisdom along the way.  We do not have to fritter away our time.  We can make the most of what we have been given.  We can come to some understanding of this wonderful will of God.  We can find our help in spiritual realities and not in the addictions of our time.  Most of all we can learn to say thanks not only for the ups but also for the downs of our lives.  525,600 minutes.  We can learn to treasure the things we have been given.  And when our time comes, as it did to the old preacher who penned the letter and to the young man that wrote the play, we too can say:  We remember the love.  We really do remember the love.

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As we prepare for the coming holiday season, the pageantry, the anticipation, the exchanging of gifts, the subjective increase in good will between people, the lights, the trees, the decorations, family, friends, neighbors, and the breaks from school and work one begins to think about the meaning of this time of year.  People get into all sorts of debates, everything from “commercialism v. religious observance”, to “’holiday’ v. ‘Christmas’”.

While preparing for Thanksgiving last month, some of my students heard the reason why a celebration for giving thanks to God was such a huge deal. The Puritans didn’t believe in celebrating what we consider “traditional holidays”. They believed it violated the regulative practice of worship. Imagine my surprise when I learned that there are some today that continue this concept of 400 years ago.

There are many devout Christians that do not celebrate Christmas or Easter. Part of the objection of these modern day Puritans to celebrating Christmas is the legend of Santa Claus, a wholly understandable objection. It is argued that the making of Christmas wish lists, writing to Santa, and hoping for gifts requested is covetous and therefore sinful. It feeds into the sin of greed, and this leads to the increasing commercialism of the season. These are traits that certainly take away from what is often referred to as “the reason for the season”.

Another argument is that the against the celebration of a “made up holiday”, is that it was placed on the calendar in order to coincide with the pagan observance of Saturnalia. My question to those today that do not celebrate Christmas, yet call themselves Christian is this: “When is it ever a bad time to commemorate the Grace of God in His sending of His only begotten Son to us as a human, to live among us, to prepare for the day He was to take on the sins of the world, past, present, and future, sacrificing Himself for our salvation.? To me this is a worthy cause of celebration.”

If you say December 25th is a bad time, given the history of that period of the year and previous pagan celebrations, when would be a good time? Then I challenge you to explain why one time is inherently “better” than another when discussing the eternal gift of salvation. Discussion of this point, of course, logically leads to the celebration of Easter. When is it a bad time to commemorate the life of the Savior of the Universe?

While one can make the make the argument that Christ’s birth is not clearly documented to determine with any degree of accuracy to a time period certain, the same cannot be said of Jesus’ death and resurrection. These events are specific to the Jewish calendar. These events occurred during Passover, a religious observance that had been celebrated for more than 2000 years before Christ walked among us.

This is a holiday in which even the name “Easter” is derived from the pagan Celtic goddess “Eostre”. If you celebrate Easter, but not Christmas I would love to have you explain your logic behind that one. If you celebrate neither, how can you call yourself a follower of Christ when you refuse to acknowledge the very culmination of His purpose for His life on Earth?

Was it not Him that directed us: “Take and eat, this is my body given for you. Take and drink, this is my blood, shed for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

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JohnUeltzhoeffer

I was in a great mood until about 10 minutes ago… now I am filled with sorrow, and anger. I am filled with empathy and compassion, and with a burning desire for vengeance…

I am part of an international blog movement to remember each and every innocent life lost during the attack on September 11, 2001. Each of us volunteered to be paired with one of the names of the victims and write a tribute for them. The intent of this tribute is so that their name will live on – not only in the memories and scrapbooks of their family members, but also in the minds, and hearts of those of us that choose to Never Forget.

The individual that I was given to research was John G. Ueltzhoeffer. One of his colleagues and friends wrote this last year as he remembered John:

It has been seven years since I last saw John on September 10, 2001 at the Marsh office at WTC1 95th floor. Myself and John were hired by Craig Hayashi in June 1998 and we were part of an unique team called the Enterprise Architecture Group.

Our job was to be thought leaders in our respective technology domain of expertise and to help Marsh’s (and MMC companies) senior level executives, business leaders and technology group understand how new technology solutions could be leveraged to support the business tactical and strategy goals.

As a software architect, John led the team’s initiative to exploit JAVA and was instrumental in establishing J2EE as the software architecure framework standard at Marsh.

I can remember when John worked on the initiative to select an application server standard for Marsh. He was proactive in his efforts and had recommended the IONA application server (www.iona.com). Although his recommendation was turn down by senior management due to IBM’s Websphere application server having greater marketshare, John led the efforts to establishing development standards leverage IBM’s Websphere at Marsh.

John had a strong commitment to his religion faith and family – his office was full of family photos and artwork drawn by his kids. In terms a colleague, John was always supportive of my initatives as Marsh’s Data Warehouse Architect.

John’s family and friends should be proud to know that he made an impact on his colleagues at Marsh and always had a positive attitude and humble demeanor.

John is always in my thoughts and he his missed.

Regards,

James L. Smith

Another aspect that I learned about John is that his little sister, Helen, thought the world of him. She still misses him and often expresses the depth of this void in comments to other tribute entries that mention her brother. He was also a devoted member of the Christian group called Promise Keepers. The mission of a Promise Keeper is to ignite and unite men to become warriors who will change their world through living out the Seven Promises.  Promise Keepers’ vision is simply put in three words: “Men Transformed Worldwide.”

When people met and got to know John, I learned from my research, three important aspects to his life quickly came across – the pride he took in doing his job, his deep religious convictions, and his love for his family. John was a technical architect in the Marsh technology department so therefore had to have in-depth knowledge about the latest computer technologies. John was very knowledgeable in this subject area so quickly built up a high level of respect with his peers. During meetings and discussions with John on various technology issues he was often described as always speaking with such enthusiasm and be so up to date with the latest technology developments that it made others make sure they were up to date with their readings just so they could keep up.

Another aspect of John’s life was his strong religious beliefs. It did not take long in talking with him for his faith in God to come across. Whenever he went out to lunch together with friends, he would always take time to say a prayer before having lunch. In the time following John’s passing, it has become more evident about this side of him and how involved he was with his church group and friends. This has gone further to impress friends that knew John in that he lived his life which such conviction.

Most importantly, was John’s love for his family. Two instances that typify this in John. The first was when he was on a business trip overseas in Europe. He had been gone for about a week and a friend remembers him talking on the Friday when he was set to come home. He mentioned how he had switched his flight to an earlier flight so he could get home earlier. He then said something to the effect of how hard it was for him to be away from his family. It was not the words that he said that his friend remembers, but the way he said it just underlined how much he missed them. The second was when a few of them were at lunch. Somehow the conversation turned to their families and John took a picture out of his wallet of him and his wife on their wedding day. One of the guys at lunch remarked how beautiful his wife was and how he thought she looked like a movie star. Upon hearing this John’s face just lit up and you could see the happiness and love he felt. This is the way that friend remembers John G. Ueltzhoeffer – and I think the way that we all should as well. A devoted Christian, father, brother, husband, and son…

A few paragraphs of words obviously cannot do justice to capture all that John meant to his family and friends. In my own memories I’ll remember John for the unassuming way in which he lived his life and how much of an impact he had on people around him. Even though I never met John in person, I feel like I know him and know that this world is less without him in it…

Tears are flowing easily now, and I’m remembering re-experiencing the rage and indignation that I felt “That Day”. I would imagine that That Day will remain with me all the days of my life – seared into my memory, much like scarification sears a design into skin.

John, to you – and to all the victims of That Day:

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orchard

The Garden of Gethsemane is not really a garden but an orchard. Olive trees still grow there today. During Jesus’ day it was a place of business, an olive press producing the local areas supply of oil. This is where the word Gethsemane comes in. A gat (Hebrew) is a press, a large five-foot high square stone pillar, and a semane, or seman, is oil. So on the evening before his crucifixion he went to the orchard of the Olive Press with Peter, James, and John, to pray.

If you lived in the first century and worked with a gethsemane your day would be spent gathering olives, placing them in a woven fishnet like bag, and putting them on top of a stone table. This specially designed table is round with beveled edges that curve down to a trough. The trough is angled and funnels into a pot which holds the oil. The top is designed to receive the gethsemane. The tall square stone is lifted up and set on top of the basket and for several hours its tremendous weight is left there to crush the liquid from the olive.

olivepress

It is no mistake that Jesus spent his last evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. From there he would leave to go to the cross and receive the weight of the world, the gethsemane of our sins, blood crushed from his body running down the cross to the world below. Luke describes the pressure Jesus suffered that evening: “Being in anguish his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” It is an image of the gathsemane crushing the oil from the olive fruit.

olive press ooze
Gethsemane ever since has come to symbolize suffering. And my friends the world is crowded with gethsemanes, Herods slaughtering the innocent. Look around the United States: Oklahoma City, Heath High School, Columbine, New York City. And around the world: Dunblane in Scotland, Halabja in Iraq (i.e., the gassing of the Kurds), Srebrenica in Bosnia, and the town of Beslan, Russia.  The world is full of gethsemanes, times when and towns where the innocent have suffered.

In the face of such unspeakable horror we ask ourselves these questions:

I

First who do we turn to? It is safe to say that all of us here mourned with those mothers and fathers in Russia who lost over 300 of their children, just as the world suffered with us on September 11, 2001. In a small town the loss of 300 children turned that village into a mausoleum. A thousand years from now people will say, “Beslan, the place where all those children died.” So who do we turn too? Can anybody help in the face of such a dreadful thing? It doesn’t seem like it does it? The sorrow is so deep God seems absent.

Psalm 77, written in the Iron Age more than 2,500 years ago, stares straight in the face of some unspeakable horror that occurred to Israel. “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” the Psalmist asks. “And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

Who do we turn to when things are unexplainably painful? God? How can we when even he seems to be absent? My friends. I am not asking this question the Bible is. The Psalmist in essence is saying that there is no consolation, not even in God, when your soul has been torn from you. But even in great despair something faithful is happening. Even when we cry out “God is not there” we reveal our deep desire for God.

John Donne experienced his own Gethsemane. Donne was a 17th century poet, who experienced great pain. Because he married the daughter of a disapproving lord, he was fired from his job as assistant to the Lord Chancellor, yanked from his wife, and locked in a dungeon. (This is when he wrote that succinct line of despair, “John Donne/ Anne Donne/ Undone.”) Later, he endured a long illness, which sapped his strength almost to the point of death. In the midst of this illness, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignant meditations on the subject. In one of these, he considers a parallel: The sickness, which keeps him in bed, forces him to think about his spiritual condition. Suffering gets our attention; it forces us to look to God, when otherwise we would just as well ignore Him.

That’s it. Suffering gets our attention. Suffering forces us to look toward one another; forces us to ask the deeper questions about life; forces us to turn toward God. Even if it is to express our displeasure and despair, we turn to Him and in those pleas we display our faith in Him.

II

The first question is: Who do we turn to? The second is: What are we to do? The answer here is obvious. We are to pray. When Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane he went there for one reason, to pray. Why are you sleeping, Jesus asked his disciples. Get up and pray! Prayer prepares the soul for suffering. Jesus understood what lie ahead and he knew that prayer was the only way to prepare them.

Prayer does two things for us. It helps us cope with hardship. There is a story about a missionary family in Pakistan who lost their 6-month-old baby. A wise man in the area heard of their grief and came to comfort them. He said, “A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water. If you are an egg, your affliction will make you hard-boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.” It may sound funny to God, but there have been times when I have prayed, “O Lord, let me be a potato.”

Prayer helps us cope with hardship and then, here’s the second thing, it guides away from temptation. Notice that Jesus told his disciples to pray so “you will not fall into temptation.” Now that’s odd. You would expect Jesus to say, pray that you are able to endure the hardship to come. But hardship brings temptation: Temptation to compromise our principles, temptation to pursue pleasure over adversity, temptation to renounce our faith in God. Peter, James and John quickly learned this lesson as they denied that they knew Jesus. They left the scene of his betrayal afraid for their own lives. They did not pray so they did not stay.

Prayer helps us cope with life’s hardships and it keeps us from temptation. But here is one more thing you can do. Pray for the families of all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorist these past few years. Today, September 11, 2009, we remember the horrible events of 911. We shall never forget that day. And, I don’t think there is a parent today who doesn’t grieve for those Russian parents either. Both tragedies are horribly linked in our psyche. Terrorism continues to tear at our world. I would like to see the church in every country rise up an army of prayer soldiers to pray for the defeat of this evil. Those who suffer need our prayer but Christians must also go on the offensive and pray God’s kingdom come His will be done. The world is dealing with a cult of death the church must offer a culture of life.

III

First question: Who do we turn to? Answer: God, even in our despair. Second question: What do we do? Answer: Pray to cope. Pray against temptation. Pray for one another. And pray for the Kingdom to come. Third question: Where do we go from here? Answer? Well this one is a little more complicated. The answer isn’t easy because life isn’t. When Jesus left Gethsemane he went to Golgotha. At times we all seem to be running from the garden of despair to the hill of suffering.

Look at the stories of the bible. At some time or another there has been a Gethsemane for all God’s people. For Abraham it was when he was asked to sacrifice his only son. For Joseph it was those unjust years in jail. Paul had any number of Gethsemanes in his experience; he once listed the number of times he had been stoned, whipped, robbed and shipwrecked. The following is from the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, entitled “Gethsemane”:

Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams
Bridged over by our broken dreams;
Behind the misty caps of years,
Beyond the great salt fount of tears,
The garden lies. Strive as you may,
You cannot miss it in your way.
All paths that have been, or shall be,
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.
All those who journey, soon or late,
Must pass within the garden’s gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there,
And battle with some fierce despair.
God pity those who cannot say,
‘Not mine but thine,’ who only pray,
‘Let this cup pass,’ and cannot see
The purpose in Gethsemane.

It would be dishonest to say that God makes everything all right in this world. The death of 3000 innocent souls who were simply going to work on September 11, eight years ago, tells me the world is crowded with Gethsemanes. The death of 4500+ soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan tells me that peace has an enormous price. The burial of 350 children in Beslan tells me that evil still wins in this world. Don’t get me wrong. I as much as any man find hope in the resurrection. I am simply cannot deny the picture painted by the Psalmist when he asks, “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

So the answer to the third question? Where do we go from here? Perhaps Wilcox’s poem has it right: All paths that have been, or shall be, pass somewhere through Gethsemane. Amen.

sunset

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American Pieta…

Fr Mychal Judge WTC

I have taken to my prayers this morning a meditation on what has become for me an icon of the horrific events of September 11, 2001. It has become known as The American Pieta.

It seems hard to believe that it was more than seven years ago that photographer Shannon Stapleton snapped one of the most famous images of the attack on the Twin Towers, of a police officer, two firefighters and an OEM responder carrying out their fallen spiritual leader, Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM.

It seems most appropriate, in these strange-salad-days of hope and anxiety, that we remember his prayer.

Lord, take me where You want me to go,
let me meet who You want me to meet,
tell me what You want me to say,
and keep me out of Your way

Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM
Chaplain, NYFD
First official recorded victim 9/11 attack

I had also recently watched a documentary on Fr. Judge.  Fr. Judge was killed by falling debris on 9/11 while after administering Last Rights to a fallen fireman (Daniel Suhr) at “Ground Zero”. The documentary is entitled Saint of 9/11 – The True Story of Father Mychal Judge. (Corrections provided by first commenter: John M. Kelley)

The documentary essentially covered his whole life, but its main focus is the battle between his calling as a priest and the hidden darkness residing deep within his spirit – and most importantly, how he overcame that dark side to become a true messenger of Christ. Fr. Judge was a untiring herald of the neglected and forgotten. He donated a large part, if not all, of his income to the poor. Every year he would take money from his own pocket and purchase coats for the homeless people he encountered during his ministry. In contrast (and opposition) to the conservative core of the Church, Fr. Judge was a champion of those shunned by the Church.

In the early years of the HIV/AIDS crisis, most people, including doctors, nurses and clergymen shunned infected people. Fr. Judge did not. He comforted them, embraced them, and brought God into their lives before they died. This was the epitome of living out the verses:

“For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 ‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’  ~ Matthew 25:35-40

What makes his story all the more fascinating is the human element that underlies it. Like all of us, Fr. Judge had his share of demons that were wrestling for control of his soul. Throughout his life, he struggled with his humanity and all the issues attendant to that state. But he did not let those demons interfere with his mission. Fr. Judge was sober for the last 23 years of his life, and he was celibate. The sexuality issue was the one thing in the documentary I found unsettling. It seemed that the producers were emphasizing that aspect as a means to tear down the image of a man doing his Christian duty without regard to his personal demons, or danger that he found himself in. That portion of the documentary was uncessessary and gratuitious to the hope and love that Fr. Judge provided by being a conduit for the Hope and Love that Jesus Christ provides all of mankind.

I was reminded of this man’s sacrifice on that infamous day because I read a passage in Joshua that instructed us to not be terrorized.

“Have I not commanded  you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terriffied; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you will go.” Joshua 1:9

Fr. Judge provided us with an example to follow – Do what is right in God’s eyes, do not be afraid, even to the point of death.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton

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Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

In 1865, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, mentioned at a social gathering that honor should be shown to the patriotic dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves.

In the Spring of 1866, he again mentioned this subject to General John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk. General Murray embraced the idea and a committee was formulated to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead.

Townspeople adopted the idea wholeheartedly. Wreaths, crosses and bouquets were made for each veteran’s grave. The village was decorated with flags at half-mast and draped with evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.

On May 5, 1866, civic societies joined the procession to the three existing cemeteries and were led by veterans marching to martial music. At each cemetery there were impressive and lengthy services including speeches by General Murray and a local clergyman. The ceremonies were repeated on May 5, 1867.

The first official recognition of Memorial Day as such was issued by General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was General Order No. 11 establishing “Decoration Day” as it was then known. The date of the order was May 5, 1868, exactly two years after Waterloo’s first observance. That year Waterloo joined other communities in the nation by having their ceremony on May 30.

Since May 5th, 1866, America has set aside a day of remembrance for her war dead.

There has been 651,008 Battle Deaths in all wars (excluding the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan) since the War Between the States.

But as my father stated so well last night … when we spoke on the phone … It is not merely about the dead … but those who were left behind … wives who lost husbands … sons and daughters who lost parents … It is about remembering the tremendous sacrifices paid by all!

My father is part of the generation that Tom Brokaw rightfully named: The Greatest Generation.

Ian Drake dubbed them: The Men Who Saved the Western World

It is not my intention today to slight any service member who served in any war … ALL OF YOU ARE HEROES!

But I am privileged to have my father with me today, on  September 18th he will be 71 years of age

It is estimated that of the 16.4 million Americans who served in World War II, only about five million are still alive, the youngest being in their mid-seventies.

Those remaining veterans are estimated to be dying at a rate of 1,100 to 1,700 per day.

And I want to take a moment of PERSONAL PRIVILEGE here today to honor my hero, my father, and to say to him: DAD, THANK YOU … AND YOUR GENERATION … FOR DOING WHAT YOU DID!

Now, I know that by this time many of you are wondering how in the world I am going to tie this scripture in with Memorial Day and the GREATEST GENERATION … hang on!

In the text scripture I’ve picked for today today we see where God did three things:

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

1: He formed

2: He breathed

3: He caused man to “become”

The thesis or though of the sermon is simply this: The actions of One caused another to become.

I want to pose a soul-searching question today: How many people are not “alive” (figuratively speaking) today because we have refused to form them and breathe into their nostrils the breath of life?

1: He Formed

Gen. 2:7: (a) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground

The word “formed” literally means: To mold into a form through squeezing into shape … like a potter.

§ At the dawn of time … the Creator God formed man into a shape that pleased Him.

§ The creation wasn’t yet alive … therefore he had no say in his shape

§ The actions of the One Creator God … forever shaped the man.

Sixty plus years ago, on battlefields far away my father’s generation was forming me. Because of theiractions I had the opportunity to “become” who I am today.

Note: Theydidn’t make me who I am … they merely gave me the opportunity to “become.”

The older I get the more I realize that not only do I physically carry his DNA, it is also prevalent in my mind and in my spirit.

1: He Formed

2: He Breathed

Gen. 2:7: (b) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life

The word breathed in this passage means: Puffed

The phrase Breath of Life means: Divine Inspiration

Creator God “Puffed” “Divine Inspiration” into the nostrils of a molded lump of clay called: MAN … and MAN BECAME … what he previously was not … alive!

1: He Formed

2: He Breathed

3: Man Became

Gen. 2:7 (c) and man became a living soul.

Man was filled with Divine Inspiration … not Divine Constraint or Divine LIMITATION … but DIVINE INSPIRATION!!!

Creator God placed within the man all he would ever need to become what the Creator desired him to be!

I’m glad that my earthly father placed within me the things I would need to become who God wanted me to be.

Sometimes he resorted to CONSTRAINT AND LIMITATION (WHIPPINGS) … but he got it in me!!!

*And I’m of the strong opinion that if we had a few more squalling babies today … we’d have a whole lot less squalling parents tomorrow!!!

My father placed things within me like:

§ Love (There was never a time in my life that I doubted my father’s love for me, my mother, and my siblings.)

§ Honesty

§ Trustworthiness

§ Respect

§ Manners

§ Discipline

§ Work Habits

And on and on I could go …

These things didn’t guarantee success … but they sure stacked the deck in my favor!!!

Memorial Day is a day of commemoration for those who have died in the GREAT WARS that secured America’s freedom.

However … today we are engaged in another GREAT WAR … A SPIRITUAL WAR!

This war will not only determine America’s freedom and fate … but this war will determine the freedom and fate of the world … for this and all future generations!

This war is not for land or some political ideal

It is neither a Republican War nor a Democratic War

It is not a Racial War

It is not a Social War

It is a Spiritual War … the War of the Ages

A battle or good versus evil

It is a battle for the souls of men, women, boys, and girls … who Without Jesus … will die and go to an awful place called hell!

It is a battle to:

§ Love the unlovable

§ Forgive the Unforgivable

§ To reach the unreachable

§ To teach the unteachable

§ To feed the hungry

§ To clothe the naked

§ To comfort those who mourn

§ To do good to those who despitefully use us

§ And to love our neighbor as ourselves

This is the battle in which we are engaged!

There are two questions that beg an answer:

1: Are we forming and breathing Divine Inspiration into the lives of those in our sphere of influence?

2: Years from now … will history judge us as Christianity’s Greatest Generation?

Will they refer to us as the Generation that Saved Christianity?

If we are to reach our generation for Jesus, and form the possibilities for future generations to know Him … WE MUST CONDUCT OURSELVES AS THE GREATEST GENERATION CONDUCTED THEMSELVES!

We must become Spiritual Soldiers that mimic the character of the WWII heroes:

1: We must realize that Forming the lives of others and breathing Divine Inspiration into them: IS OUR SACRED DUTY AND PRIVILEGE… NOT OUR CHOICE!

I’m positive that it wouldn’t have been my father’s generation’s choice to spend four years island hopping in the Pacific, but they felt it was their duty!

2: We must develop the attitude that we: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES!

3: We must learn to: Endure the Hardships! … DON’T QUIT!!!

4: We NEVER FORGET the Price that was paid for our freedom (Calvary)

5: We honor the Heroes of the Faith … by “Becoming” what the Creator placed within us to be!

As I begin to close this most unusual topic today, I do so by again posing the question: Are we breathing the Breath of Life into those in our sphere of influence … or are we breathing in the poison of sin?

§ One day a harlot (caught in the act) was brought to Jesus … He breathed the breath of Life into her!

§ He encountered the Woman at the Well … He breathed the breath of Life into her!

§ He brought Zaccheaus down out of his tree … And breathed the breath of Life into him!

§ He encountered a funeral possession one day … touched the bier …stopped it … and breathed the breath of Life into the young man!

§ He encountered Eric DeMar one day, after a long time knocking at the door of his heart, and  … HE BREATHED THE BREATH OF LIFE INTO ME!

§ A lifeless lump of Clay … who knew no real joy … came to life!

§ I have never been the same.

Are we breathing life or the poison of sin into others?

§ Hatred

§ Judgmentalism

§ Racism

§ Unforgiveness

§ RELIGION and not Salvation

And on & on I could go.

One day I will stand before God …

If I am to hear those words: WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT …

§ I must learn to form lives …

§ I must learn to Breath Divine Inspiration into those I can reach

§ I must learn to be patient and allow them to “become”

§ I must learn to not breath the poison of sin into their lives

A few years ago I attended the funeral service of a Giant of the Faith (to me anyways): My grandmother.

Draped across her coffin was a Christian Flag

The flag stated the message very clearly:

§ She was a solider in God’s Army

§ She was a fallen soldier on a foreign battlefield

§ But she had fought many battles

§ Endured much pain

§ Won great victories

I hope that when my time comes to meet my Maker …

I will have lived a life true enough to Christ that my family and friends will feel comfortable draping my coffin with Christian Battle Flag!

The flag will state the message very clearly that I wish to convey to this world:

§ He was a solider in God’s Army

§ He was a fell on a foreign battlefield while in service for his Lord

§ He had fought many battles

§ Endured much pain

§ But won great victories

I hope my friends will tell their children and grandchildren:

§ Eric didn’t view his Christianity as a choice … he viewed is as his solemn duty and privilege!

§ He did whatever it took to Form others and Breath Divine Inspiration into their lives!

§ He endured the hardships

§ He enjoyed the beauty

§ He never forgot the cost of his salvation

§ Honor him by “becoming” the person the Creator “formed” and “Divinely Inspired” you to be!

singlepoppy

In Flanders Fields

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. John McCrae

flanderslandscape

Are we forming, breathing, and allowing to become, a generation that we can pass the torch, from our failing hands?

Will they call us the greatest generation?

The torch has been passed to us …

WHAT WILL WE DO WITH IT?

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