Summary: Message for the funeral of Carroll A. Reed, Major, U. S. Army, Ret.; combat veteran of WW II, Korea, and Vietnam; deacon
This past summer I did a series of sermons based on Romans, chapter 12, and Paul’s admonition that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. I built the sermons around various parts of the body, and suggested how we might present our eyes, our ears, our hands, our mouths, and our arms to God for His use. I scheduled the message on presenting our arms to God for the Sunday of the Independence Day weekend, so that it felt quite natural to include a little dramatic feature in the way the message began. In what was probably his last public act in this church, Carroll Reed, Major, United States Army, Retired, strode partway down this aisle, and, on cue, shouted the command, “Present …. [H] Arms”.
There was really no other choice for that role. With no disrespect for those who may outrank Major Reed, his was a true command voice. When he called for us to “Present Arms”, I saw backs straighten in the pews and eyes look forward to the pulpit. He got your attention. Major Reed knew what it is to command.
And yet the beauty of his life is that he also knew what it is to follow. For, you see, there are no leaders without followers; and there are no followers without leaders. If you try to lead, but you have not earned the respect of those who follow you, they will lag behind or even sabotage what you are trying to do. Conversely, if you try to follow, but your leader does not care about you, you will lose your motivation and you will do your job grudgingly, but without any sense of fulfillment. There are no leaders without followers, and there are no followers without leaders.
But if you are a leader who cares about those who are to follow you; if you are a follower who can feel the care of those above you; then your work will be fulfilling. There are no leaders without followers, and there are no followers without leaders.
Carroll Reed was in command. He was a leader. I remember the first time I saw that. I had not been at this church very long, and knew only that he was a retired army officer. I did not know that he had a post-retirement job selling cars. But one day I was out looking for a used car. I went to various dealerships and poked around their lots, hoping to avoid salesmen. Nobody really loves used car salesmen. But of course, they are always alert, and normally within thirty seconds after you set foot on the lot, someone is at your elbow asking, “What can I do to get you in this car today?” You know the routine.
I stopped by Dick Stevens Chevrolet, and that very thing happened. Some young man glued himself to me and began to pitch his wares. But this time there was a difference. This time, running at us from the flanks, was Carroll Reed, shouting at the young man, “Opp, opp, opp … I’ll take care of this one. This is my pastor. I’ll take care of him. Go on about your business.” One young salesman melted away into the night; Major Reed was in command. That was clear from the beginning.
So now you know why I thought of this Scripture for today, about the Roman centurion who said to Jesus,
“For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ’Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ’Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ’Do this,’ and the slave does it."
Carroll Reed knew how to command and get us to do what he expected us to do. When I would visit him in the hospital, after a few minutes, Carroll would have had enough, and he would put out his hand and say, “I know you’re going to give me a little prayer before you leave.” That’s so much nicer than “Dismissed”! But it meant the same thing. Major Reed was in command.
But remember, there are no leaders without followers; and there are no followers without leaders. But if you are a leader who cares about those who are to follow you; if you are a follower who can feel the care of those above you; then your work will be fulfilling.
The Roman officer who came to Jesus to ask for healing for his servant came as one who cared, as one who cared for God’s people and for God’s church. The people encouraged Jesus to help the centurion because, they said,
"He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us."