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Sermon Central Staff
HANNAH AND MICHAEL: FINDING WHAT WAS LOST
Let me tell you what happened to Ted Forbes back in 1984.
While walking down a street in Chicago...Ted found a wallet. Being an honest Christian man he wanted to return it to its owner. So he opened it to look for identification. The wallet contained just $3.00. No driver’s license...no Social Security card...no pictures...nothing to indicate who owned the billfold.
Looking through the wallet a little more, Ted found and an old envelope. It was wrinkled and looked as if it had been carried there for years. The only part of the writing on the envelope that could be read was the return address.
To find more information, Ted opened the envelope, and to his surprise, the letter was dated June 6, 1924. The letter had been written nearly 60 years before. It was a "Dear John" letter. It was written to a man named Michael, and it was from a woman named Hannah.
She explained that though she loved him, and she would always love him, her parents had forbidden her to see him any more.
Ted Forbes wanted to locate the owner of the lost wallet. He drove to the location listed on the return address. He parked the car and walked up to the door.
A woman answered the door. Ted asked the lady if she knew a Michael or a Hannah. He was told that 30 years ago she had purchased the house from a family whose daughter was named Hannah. She said that Hannah had placed her mother in a nursing home just a few blocks down the street.
Ted drove down to the nursing home. He explained the story to the Nursing Supervisor. She told Ted that the lady he was trying to find had died. However, she gave him a telephone number where he might locate Hannah.
Calling that number he learned that Hannah was not living there anymore. The person answering the phone said Hannah was now in an apartment house for the elderly.
Ted began to wonder why he was making such a big deal out of an old, lost wallet which contained only $3.00 and a crumpled up old letter. But he decided to keep looking until he ran into a dead end.
He finally tracked down Hannah and went to visit her at the elderly apartment house. She had an apartment on the 3rd Floor. Ted knocked on the door. A gray-haired, alert, bright eyed lady with a warm smile on her face answered the door. Yes, it was Hannah Marshall.
Ted told her about finding the wallet and, showing her the letter, asked if she knew someone named Michael.
Hannah took the letter. Tears filled her eyes. She told Ted that the letter was the last contact she had with Michael. She said that she had never married because she never met anyone she loved as much as Michael. Then she asked Ted if, when he found Michael, he would tell him she still loved him and that she thought about him every day.
Ted thanked her and left. As he was walking down the apartment house hallway, he was carrying the wallet in his hand. The janitor saw the wallet and stopped Ted in the hallway. "Let me see that wallet."
Ted handed it to him. "Why, that’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere. He’s always losing it." Ted asked where he could find Mr. Goldstein. The janitor said he lived in Apartment 6 on the 8th Floor.
So, Ted quickly made his way to the eighth floor. He found Apartment #6 and knocked on the door. Sure enough, an old man named Michael answered the door. Ted showed the wallet to the old man. He asked if it was his. Yes, it was. Ted admitted reading the letter to seek identification of the owner.
Mr. Goldstein asked, "You read it?" Then he told Ted that his life nearly ended many years ago when he lost Hannah. He had never married and had never stopped loving her.
Then Ted said, "Mr. Goldstein, I think I know where Hannah is."
The old man became very excited. Ted simply took him by the hand, led him to the elevator and down to the third floor to Hannah Marshall’s apartment door.
When she opened the door, they looked at one another in disbelief. Michael Goldstein walked slowly to Hannah. He took her in his arms. And the 60-year separation evaporated in the warmth of their love.
About three weeks after Michael and Hannah were reunited, Ted got a call asking him to be their best man. They were to be married after years of separation.
It must have been some sight: a 79-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman acting like teenagers. A perfect ending to a tragic separation. They had every reason to celebrate.
(From a sermon by David Rigg, When a Lost Person Is Saved, 3/30/2011)
Justice Scalia, in a Supreme Court decision involving the so-called “separation of church and state” wrote: “Church and state would not be such a difficult subject if religion were, as the Court apparently thinks it to be, some purely personal avocation that can be indulged entirely in secret, like pornography, in the privacy of one’s room.
For most believers it is not that, and has never been. Religious men and women of almost all denominations have felt it necessary to acknowledge and beseech the blessing of God as a people, and not just as individuals, because they believe in the "protection of divine Providence," as the Declaration of Independence put it, not just for individuals but for societies.”
Remarks by President Bush
At Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Day Commemoration
Arlington National Cemetery
May 31, 2004
This morning I had the honor of placing a wreath before the Tomb of the Unknowns. This custom is observed every Memorial Day on behalf of the American people as a mark of gratitude and respect.
And when this ceremony is concluded, and all of us have gone on our way, the Honor Guard will keep watch over the Tomb. Every hour of every day, on the coldest nights, in the hardest rain, there is a sentinel of the 3rd U.S. Infantry standing guard. The soldiers entrusted with that duty count it a privilege. And, today, as we reflect on the men and women who have died in the defense of America, all of us count it a privilege to be citizens of the country they served.
In the military tradition, no one is left behind on the field of battle. And our nation is determined to account for all of the missing. The same spirit can be seen in the respect we show to each life laid down for this nation. We receive them in sorrow, and we take them to an honored place to rest. At this and other cemeteries across our country, and in cemeteries abroad where heroes fell, America acknowledges a debt that is beyond our power to repay.
This weekend, we dedicated the World War II Memorial, which will stand forever as a tribute to the generation that fought that war and the more than 400,000 Americans who fell. Some here today can turn their minds back across 60 years and see the face of a buddy who never made it home. You are veterans who have not forgotten your comrades. And America will always honor the achievements and the character of your brave generation.
Through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly, because we have known the costs of war. And the war on terror we’re fighting today has brought great costs of its own. Since the hour this nation was attacked, we have seen the character of the men and women who wear our country’s uniform. In places like Kabul and Kandahar, in Mosul and Baghdad, we have seen their decency and their brave spirit. Because of their fierce courage, America is safer, two terror regimes are gone forever, and more than 50 million souls now live in freedom.
Those who have fought these battles and served this cause can be proud of all they have achieved. And these veterans of battle will carry with them for all their days the memory of the ones who did not live to be called veterans. They will remember young soldiers like Captain Joshua Byers, a West Point man born in South Carolina who died in Iraq. When this son of missionaries was given command of a 120-man combat unit, he wrote this to his parents: "I will give the men everything I have to give. I love them already, just because they’re mine. I
pray, with all my heart, that I will be able to take every single one of them home safe when we finish our mission here."
Sergeant Major Michael Stack, who was laid to rest at Arlington, wore the uniform for 28 years and is remembered as a soldier’s soldier. The sergeant major must have been quite a guy. When he was a young platoon sergeant, the recruits gave him a nickname: No Slack Billy Jack Stack. By all accounts, he was the kind of man you want in charge of a tough situation. And by the account of his mother, he finished his goodbyes with these words:
"Mom, I’m going because I believe in what I am doing. And if I don’t come back, we will meet in a better place."
Those who risked their lives on our behalf are often very clear about what matters most in their own lives, and they tell it to those they love. Master Sergeant Kelly Hornbeck, of the Special Forces, was killed in action last January, south of Samarra. To his parents back in Fort Worth, Texas, he wrote this: "I am not afraid, and neither should either of you be -- For I trust in my God and my training, two powerful forces that cannot be fully measured."
After Private First Class Jesse Givens, of Springfield, Missouri was lost last May, his family received a letter he had written to them in the event of his death. He wrote this to his son, Dakota: "You’ve taught me that life isn’t so serious, and sometimes you just have to play. You have a big, beautiful heart. Through your life, you need to keep it open and follow it. I will always be there in our park when you dream, so we can play." To his wife, Melissa, Private Givens wrote, "Do me a favor after you tuck the children in -- give them hugs and kisses from me. Go outside and look at the stars and count them. Don’t forget to smile." This is the quality of the people in our uniform.
And this is the loss to our nation. Markers on these hills record the names of more than 280,000 men and women. Each was once or still is the most important person in someone’s life. With each loss in war, the world changed forever for the family and friends left behind. Each loss left others to go on, counting the years of separation, and living in the hope of reunion.
Although the burden of grief can become easier to bear, always there is the memory of another time, and the feeling of sadness over an unfinished life. Yet, the completeness of a life is not measured in length only. It is measured in the deeds and commitments that give a life its purpose. And the commitment of these lives was clear to all: They defended our nation, they liberated the oppressed, they served the cause of peace. And all Americans who have known the loss and sadness of war, whether recently or long ago, can know this: The person they love and missed is honored and remembered by the United States of America.
May God bless our country.
PEACE CORP VOLUNTEER STUDIES
Some years ago a study was conducted among Peace Corps volunteers. Researchers took a random sample of volunteers and split them into two roughly equal groups: those who completed their tour commitments and those who returned home early because of "problems of adjustment and conduct (including psychiatric terminations)."
Unlike many studies, this one was nearly unaffected by the volunteers’ race or socioeconomic background. Almost all of them were college graduates from white, middle-class families. The study did not differentiate between reasons for father absence, "psycological" instead of physical absence, age at separation, or other father figures who may have stepped in. So an "absent" father was said to be one who was away from the child’s residence, for whatever reason, during at least the child’s tenth through fifteenth years.
The results were startling. Of the people who completed their duties, 9 percent came from absent-father backgrounds; but among those who came home early, 44 percent had absent fathers. The study was repeated, and again there was a wide gap of difference: 14 percent and 44 percent.
We’re finding similar results in study...
THE CHOICE OF SHEEP AND GOATS
I tried and tried to think of a common example that could be used to illustrate this separation of the sheep from the goats but was unable to do so because this situation is so unique and the reason it is so unique is because the sheep and the goats have chosen their species.
Imagine a world where a goat, when presented with the opportunity to be transformed miraculously into a sheep, could do so just by embracing the offer extended by the one making the offer. Supernaturally the goat would be instantaneously into a baby sheep and cared for by the Great Transformer, Christ the Savior and King!
Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about grace? Grace was shown to be prevenient grace which draws each person to Christ. Then there is saving grace, which, when embraced brings that person to Christ, and finally, sustaining grace which enables we humans who are spiritually weak and pitiful to remain faithful to Christ the King.
All of us are born as goats and, as we will see later in this Scripture, the Lord, the Judge, Christ the King will allow each of us to enjoy or endure the path we have freely chosen.
That is why it is so difficult to come up with an illustration. For instance, if a jeweler had a bag of jewels containing both diamonds and cubic zirconia and was separating them into two groups, one for use in jewelry and the other for disposal, it would be a poor illustration as the contents of the bag would have no choice in the matter. In this Scripture, however, the sheep were once goats who have been transformed into sheep by their individual response to the calling grace of God.
When the first Memorial Day was celebrated, a group of women from Washington D.C. asked the War Department for permission to put flowers on the soldiers graves at Arlington Cemetery. After a lot of haggling, permission was finally granted to do so. But a stern order was attached to the permission. No flowers were to be placed on the graves of the Confederate soldiers who were buried in a segregated section of the cemetery. The ladies carried out their task, careful to follow these instructions. Then General James Garfield made a speech. When the crowds left, a strong wind arose. The wind blew almost all the flowers into the Confederate section. After that the separation was never repeated. Many believed that all this was due to divine intervention.
Dr. Paul W. Brand, the noted leprosy expert who was chief of the rehabilitation branch of the Leprosarium in Carville, Lousiana, had a frightening experience one night when he thought he had contracted leprosy. Dr. Brand arrived in London one night after an exhausting transatlantic ocean trip and long train ride from the English coast. He was getting ready for bed, had taken off his shoes, and as he pulled off a sock, discovered there was no feeling in his heel. To most anyone else this discovery would have meant very little, a momentary numbness. But Dr. Brand was world famous for his restorative surgery on lepers in India. He had convinced himself and his staff at the leprosarium that there was no danger of infection from leprosy after it reached a certain stage. The numbness in his heel terrified him.
In her biography of Dr. Brand, Ten Fingers for God, Dorothy Clarke Wilson says, "He rose mechanically, found a pin, sat down again, and pricked the small area below his ankle. He felt no pain. He thrust the pin deeper, until a speck of blood showed. Still he felt nothing...He supposed, like other workers with leprosy, he had always half expected it...In the beginning probably not a day had gone by without the automatic searching of his body for the telltale patch, the numbed area of skin." All that night the great orthopedic surgeon tried to imagine his new life as a leper, an outcast, his medical staff’s confidence in their immunity shattered by his disaster. And the forced separation from his family. As night receded, he yielded to hope and in the morning, with clinical objectivity, "with steady fingers he bared the skin below his ankle, jabbed in the point--and yelled."
Blessed was the sensation of pain! He realized that during the long train ride, sitting immobile, he had numbed a nerve. From then on, whenever Dr. Brand cut his finger, turned an ankle, even when he suffered from "agonizing nausea as his whole body reacted in violent self-protection from mushroom poisoning, he was to respond with fervent gratitude, ’Thank God for pain!’"
Dorothy Clarke Wilson, Ten Fingers for God, pp. 142-145.
God’s love is like a bridge that makes reconciliation possible. If you take away the bridge, the separation remains. George Herbert said, “He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass.” (T. T. Crabtree. Ed. The Zondervan 2001 Pastor’s Annual. Howard S. Kalb. “Forgiveness.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing ...
R. Darrel Davis
I was not one of his fans personally, but for many NASCAR fans, the death of racing legend Dale Earhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500 is still fresh in their minds. On the final lap of the race, he crashed into the wall at a speed of around 180 miles per hour after being tapped from behind. I remember seeing the accident on TV and it did not seem to be too bad at first.
The autopsy report stated that he died of blunt force trauma to the head. It has been suggested that he may have survived the crash if he had been wearing a special safety device called a HANS or Head and Neck Safety Device. At the time however, he had decided against using the device complaining that it restricted his movements too much. His neglect probably cost him his life.
The Bible reveals that each individual is on a collision course with God’s judgment. He has provided a safety device – the cross of Jesus Christ – that will keep us from suffering eternal death and separation from God. But like Dale Earnhardt, we each must chose to accept and not neglect what God has offered. (Adapted from Michael Owenby, Carrollton GA.)
FIXING THE FENCE AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Three contractors were on a tour of the White House. One is from Minnesota, another is from Tennessee, and the third is from Chicago. As they are walking through they notice a broken fence and ask if it would be possible to submit a bid to fix it. They are told of course.
All three go with a White House official to examine the fence. The Minnesota contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me."
The Tennessee contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me."
The Chicago contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700."
The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?"
The Chicago contractor whispers back, "$1,000 for me, $1,000 for you, and we hire the guy from Tennessee to fix the fence."
"Done!" replies the government official.