Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: God's hearts desire is that you and I would come to experience the depth, breadth, and wide open spaces of His love for us.

His Love Sets Us Free

1 John 4:13-5:2

It was Tuesday, June 6th, 1944: What is known as "D-day" when the initial assault wave hit the shore at Omaha Beach. The men stormed the beach at 6:30 am and immediately lives began to be lost for the sake of their country. It was a bloody battle and the Americans hit the beach like ducks sitting on a pond as the bullets flew in all directions. In the movie, Saving Private Ryan, Captain John Miller survived the initial, brutal conflict at Omaha Beach. He set out to accomplish the mission given to him by his country, but as he marched forward the mission changed.

Captain Ryan was given the mission of saving the life of one Private, a young man named James Ryan who had gone into the service of his country with three of his brothers. By the time that Captain Miller heard Private Ryan's name for the first time the Ryan family had suffered tragic loss. All three of James' brothers had been killed in battle and the U.S. Government did not want to have to send four folded flags home to Mrs. Ryan. To try and avoid the loss of all of Mrs. Ryan's sons, the military decided to have Captain Miller find the young man and bring him home safely to his mother.

Captain Miller took eight of the men in his unit that were left and set out to accomplish their new mission. For those of you who have not seen the movie you need to know that the men were not excited at all about having to abandon their mission in order to look for one man. The question that pounded them like the gunfire on Omaha Beach was, "Why should eight men have to risk their lives for one man -- one man who might not even be alive?"

As they made their way through treacherous situations looking for Private Ryan they encountered a sniper hidden in the ruins of a small village, they faced a standoff as they stumbled on a group of Germans, and they were faced with what to do with a German prisoner of war after they bombarded a machine gun nest. Eventually they surprisingly came across Private Ryan, who was part of a rag-tag group trying to hold one of the last remaining bridges over a particularly important river.

Now, all they had to do was to get him home. This proved to be almost as difficult as finding Private Ryan. They engaged in a gunfight that was bloody, brutal, and in which the Americans were severely outnumbered and outgunned. There were Germans everywhere the Americans looked. Gunfire was coming from every direction. There were bodies littering the landscape. Along with those problems the German tanks were trying to take the bridge that Private Ryan and his buddies were trying to hold. With the conflict so brutal, Captain Miller still had his one objective to hold onto: deliver Private Ryan home to his mother.

During the long battle Captain Miller was shot and was severely injured. He was leaning up against a motorcycle unable to move with a tank coming at him, the final tank. Captain Miller was so desperate that he took his gun and began shooting at the tank. He could have picked up rocks and thrown them at the tank and had just about the same chance for success. As the tank was bearing down on him, a plane roared overhead and blew up the tank. The fighter planes ended the battle, but they could not end Captain Miller's pain as he prepared to die leaning against the jeep.

Private Ryan came up to Captain Miller to check on him. When he told him that "tankbusters" had saved the day, Captain Miller looked at the young man and said, "Angels on our shoulders." Private Ryan, not understanding what Captain Miller had said, asked, "What?" Miller pulled him close and said, "Earn this. Earn this."

The words are startling, but I doubt that Private Ryan understood the weight of the words that had just been laid upon his shoulders, "Earn this?" How do you earn the blessing of having someone lay down his life for you? How do you earn a sacrifice offered on your behalf?

The very next scene of the movie answers the question as Private Ryan, years older and moving towards his golden years, is standing in front of the headstone of Captain Miller at a military cemetery where heroes of every war have been buried. James Ryan, the civilian, looks at the grave and begins to talk to Captain Miller's grave trying to explain to him that he has tried to live a good life. You can hear the lack of certainty in his voice. You can sense that he feels like he has let Captain Miller down. You can sense that he is so uneasy. He says, "Everyday I have thought about the words you spoke to me. I've tried to do the best I could." Suddenly, James' wife comes to his side and he turns and says, "Please tell me that I've lived a good life? Please tell me that I'm a good man?" Mrs. Ryan tries to comfort her husband by telling him that he has lived a good life, but you just get the sense from looking at him that Private Ryan still feels less than worthy even though he has tried to "earn" what Captain Miller and the other men sacrificed for him.

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