Summary: A salute to Veterans. The kind of loyalty and unity and love and oneness that is hard to find. The meaning of Church membership.
“Something In Between”
“And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ who fills everything everywhere with his presence.” Ephesians 1:22-23 NLT
Intro: The Battle of Okinawa was the last and biggest of the Pacific island battles of World War II. It involved the U.S. Army against the Japanese Army. At stake were air bases in between the Allied forces and the projected final invasion of Japan to bring an end to the war. Between April 1 and June 22, 1945 Eric Grant tells his story. In the early-morning hours Eric Grant strapped thirty pounds of ammunition and explosives to his already overloaded back hopped on resupply truck and headed toward a rendezvous point. There were twelve soldiers in each truck in a convoy of six vehicles. The front end of the truck was packed with hospital beds. At the time, they were empty. Within hours, they would be full. The first several miles were pretty smooth. Eric could close his eyes and almost see the front porch swing at his home. Then suddenly he was jolted back to Okinawa by the sound of an explosion and gun fire. The front of the truck started smoldering and filling with smoke. Eric picked up his rifle and jumped over the tailgate, off the truck and landed on his feet. He could hear bullets whizzing by his head. They kind of sounded like the buzz of bumble bees. Standing there he remembered that he had thirty pounds of ammunition and explosives strapped to his back. He fell to the ground and began to crawl toward safety and the tree line at the edge of the road. About half way to cover he looked back and could see the truck was now on fire. He knew that besides the hospital beds there were also two cases of grenades. And still eleven other men.
He was faced with a choice. Keep crawling and save himself. Or go back and risk death. It only took him a second to drop the backpack of ammunition and start crawling back toward the truck. The rest of the story is kind of a blur. He just remembers grabbing limp bodies and the two cases of grenades (which if they had exploded would have killed them all) and throwing them over the side of the truck. Later Eric received recognition from the Army for his bravery that day. He was able to save three of the eleven men from the burning truck. Eric Grant was the only thing that stood between those three men and certain death.
That kind of loyalty is hard to find.
Yet it is the story of the early disciples at the beginning of Christian faith. Some would have us believe that everything that has ever been written and everything that we have ever been told about Jesus’ life, death on the cross and resurrection is a lie. They would have us believe that we are crazy and ludicrous. They would have us believe that it is ridiculous to trust in a supernatural Jesus. They would have us believe that it is idiotic to think that God would love the world enough to give his Son so that people like you and me would not perish but have eternal life. Yet this Jesus stands between us and what waits for us after death.
Maybe life does just end and when we die there is just nothing we just cease to exist and that is it. But if there is something else. If there is eternal life after death. If there is a heaven. If there is a hell. I sure don’t want to get that choice wrong.
How many of you here are really good at keeping a secret? I have a friend who has already told me one of the presents I am getting for Christmas.
Now let’s imagine what would have had to have taken place after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Here are eleven disciples because Judas the Betrayer is gone. He could not keep a secret. He told the Jews where Jesus was praying in the garden so they could have him arrested. We have eleven men who would have had a secret meeting. It would have gone something like this. O.K. guys I suppose we were wrong about this guy Jesus being the Messiah our Saviour. But let's go steal his body. We will sneak up on these Roman soldiers who are guarding the tomb in the middle of the night. We will not kill them. We will just knock them unconscious. Instead of killing them we will take a chance that they will recognize us and be able to identify us tomorrow when they wake up. We will steal the body of Jesus. We will dig another grave and hide him there where he can’t be found. Then we will pretend that we have seen Jesus alive and tell everyone and risk being persecuted ourselves. We will make up some stories about him eating supper with us like he always did. We will invent all kinds of made up lies about Jesus so that we can keep this falsehood of religion going. Now let us just suppose that the disciples all agreed and that they are able to follow through with their secret plan and are able to keep all their stories straight and keep all their lies and deceptions from giving them away.