Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Reach carries risks; but the child of God must always reach for the beautiful and the glorious.

“When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ And someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.’ And he answered them, ‘“O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.’ And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘“If you can”! All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’ And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ And he said to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.’” [1], [2]

Battles raged throughout Europe and in the Far East. During these dark days a Scottish pastor occupied a strategic pulpit in the capital of the United States. His name was Peter Marshall; his sermons have become legend. His wife, Catherine Marshall, compiled his sermons and published them that others removed in time and distance from his ministry in Washington might benefit from his preaching. Of him, it may truthfully be said that though dead, he still speaks.

One Sunday morning his sermon began in this way: “It was an afternoon in the early summer; there was a strange quiet on the battle field. In the bright sunshine, the air was balmy and had a breath of garden in it. By some grotesque miracle, a bird was singing somewhere near at hand.

“On the firing step, with his rifle lying in a groove in the parapet, stood a private soldier in field-grey, his uniform stained with mud and blood. On his face, so young yet strangely marked with the lines of war that made him look old, was a wistful faraway expression. He was enjoying the sunshine and the quiet of this strange lull in the firing. The heavy guns had been silent—there was no sound to break the eerie stillness.

“Suddenly a butterfly fluttered into view and alighted on the ground almost at the end of his rifle. It was a strange visitor to a battleground—so out of place—so out of keeping with the grim setting, rifles and bayonets, barbed wire and parapets, shell holes and twisted bodies. But there it was—a gorgeous creature, the wings like gold leaf splashed with carmine, swaying in the warm breath of spring.

“As the war-weary youngster watched the butterfly, he was no longer a private in field-grey. He was a boy once more, fresh and clean, swinging through a field in sunny Saxony, knee-deep in clover, buttercups and daisies. That strange visitor to the front-line trench recalled to him the joys of his boyhood, when he had collected butterflies. It spoke to him of days of peace. It was a symbol of the lovelier things of life. It was the emblem of the eternal, a reminder that there was still beauty and peace in the world—that somewhere there was colour and fragility and perfume and flowers and gardens.

“He forgot the enemy a few hundred yards across no man’s land. He forgot the danger and privation and suffering. He forgot everything as he watched that butterfly. With all the hunger in his heart, with the resurrection of dreams and visions that he thought were gone, he reach out his hand toward that butterfly. His fingers moved slowly, cautiously, lest he frighten away this visitor to the battlefield.

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