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Summary: pt. two on the qualities of an elder

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Character of an Elder, pt. 2

This week a cherished family member passed away. To some of you, he was dad, grandpa, or husband. To many of the rest of us, he was family under the Fatherhood of God. I learned and saw a lot about Don Nelson Friday and Saturday, as memories and photographs were shared. Brittany and Wendy talked about how he always asked for Root Beer in the restaurants, and got quite upset if they didn’t offer it. I learned of his unique WW2 army experience, and his being ordered to go through Basic Training twice—because of a paperwork snafu, and the fact that he was trained in three successive skills that the Air Force kept deciding wasn’t needed, until he was finally given a bicycle and told to stay stateside and deliver mail on base in Illinois. And it was around that time that he was divinely led, some say, to meet Reva at a dance. Get this: on their first date, he asked her 25 times . . . to marry him!!! And she kept saying “No!” until the 26th time.

I have always known Don and Reva to be inseparable, and I have seen her love that cared deeply for him even through the very difficult year and a half (or so) of his illness. What I learned yesterday was how much of a princess he treated her like, even going so far as doing the dishes after any and all family gatherings. (Is that possible?)

And while I was touched by so much, for some reason, it was the Veteran’s honor guard ritual at the and that unexpectedly put a lump in my throat. The solemnity. The dedication. The “bang . . . bang . . . bang” of the salute. The playing of “Taps.” The careful, precise folding of the flag. And their honoring Reva as they handed it over, along with some words and the three shells from the salute.

The very ritual, with its awesome juxtaposition of cracking rifles and solemn, muted, bugle, and all the military decorum they would muster, says: this man is important! And though his body lay lifeless, his memory will live on.

I am truly grateful for Don’s service to our country, as I am grateful for the many privileges of this country. And I don’t want that to be misunderstood for what I am about to say next: It occurred to me, that had he not been in the military, he would not have had such a moving ceremonial ending to the service. And yet, his time in the service, even had he served in Iwo Jima or the Berlin Theater, was not the most honorable and noteworthy part of his life. Rather, it was his dedication to his Lord, and how he learned to live that out in the context of his family and friends and neighbors that will for eternity remain the most noteworthy achievement of a life granted to him by the grace of God.

I wondered if all Christians shouldn’t be deserving of some sort of “honor guard” that in all humility honored the deceased for their steadfast and grace-covered life in the Lord. Surely the life of a devoted Christ-follower is worthy of honor!

Last week we keyed in on the role that Elders have as spiritual men, whose specific qualities enables them to guide the church to hold on to and live according to God’s truth.


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