" He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray but now you have returned to the shepherd and overseer of your souls" 1st Peter: 24-25
It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas Macarthur in New Guinea.But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life. Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean...For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long. But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.
In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B-17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off." Now this is still Captain Rickenbacker talking..."Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it."
And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it. And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eye browed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one, which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness. ("The Old May and the Gulls" from Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story by Paul Aurandt, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80
Captain Rickenbacker had to remember he could not would not forget a sacrifice that enabled him to live! This memorial day weekend, our thoughts journey back to loved ones and to those we never knew who when duty called to serve the Land of the free and the home of the brave, served. Many died and freedom, that hard to describe and sometimes-illusive gift was won at a price that cost millions their lives. This Memorial Day weekend, I am thinking of heroes unnamed but not forgotten, lives cut short in their prime, for people they would never meet. People who must never forget! Memorial day is defined as: " A day designated in the United States, for honoring dead servicemen, a day also known as "Decoration Day"
Memorial day for Christian people is also a day as all days are to remember what "Our heroic Savior" accomplished. Think of it this way. Sin put you wounded and behind enemy lines, safety seemed far away. You had never felt quite so alone. Looking out across no mans land by faith you saw the form of a friend, making his way toward you, risking it all, enemy shrapnel and bullets just missing him, though not for a lack of trying. All the forces of hell were put on alert, the barrage unrelelenting! The only way to make it to safety is on the back of this heroic Savior. He scooped you up with tender hands, as you both made your way back to safety he was mortally wounded death comes to him. Suddenly the enemy retreats, hell retreats and is forced to surrender a white flag is being tossed by a breeze and you are free! Peter tells us as much in 1st Peter 2:24-25.