Sermons

Summary: Just as comic strip characters were saved from the Great Dismal Swamp because their Eveready batteries summoned the Fleet, so also if we will use the resources we have, we can save others from this world because the risen Christ is our resource.

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The travel brochures say practically nothing about it, and yet it is one of the largest features on the landscape of two’ adjacent states.

Two incorporated cities encompass include a great deal of it, but very few people live there. It’s mostly hundreds of square miles of nothing.

The official highway map of the state of Virginia shows it in a whole series of little squiggly symbols, each of which is supposed to look like a clump of marsh grass, but the map says very little more about it.

The official highway map of the state of North Carolina labels it in tiny little letters, uses no squiggly marsh grass symbols, and says absolutely nothing about it.

I am talking about the Great Dismal Swamp. What a name for a piece of geography! The Great Dismal Swamp: acres and acres of water and wetlands, marsh and mud; half land, half river; part waste, part wild; much of it ugly, barren, useless, even ridiculous, at least to those seeing it for the first time. And obviously whoever named it had little regard for its potential -- the Great Dismal swamp. Sort of makes you want to give up, doesn’t it? Sort of makes you want to run the other direction, any direction, and put some distance behind you.

Who could fall in love with anything called the Great Dismal Swamp? Hey, fella, where are you from? Who, me? Oh, well, my home is the Great Dismal Swamp.

No wonder Virginia just puts it on their map with squiggly marsh grass symbols and says nothing else. No wonder North Carolina doesn’t even use the squiggly little symbols -- North Carolina already has plenty of things to apologize for!

The Great Dismal swamp. But now I remember that when I was a boy, I used to buy penny packages of bubble gum -- that dates me, doesn’t, penny packages -- pre-inflationary price, pre-Iraq, I guess? -- and in those bubble gum packages there was not only a two-inch square of sugary, minty, tough gum, but also, it was wrapped in what was supposed to be a short comic strip. Do you remember that?

The thing that I remember about those comic strips is that they were at one and the same time a brief adventure story for kids and also a short advertisement for a battery manufacturer.

The story line was almost always the same: two kids, a boy and a girl, were out in some dangerous situation. They faced imminent danger. One thing and only one thing could save them, and that would be if the old rusty flashlight they just happened to have with them would light up bright enough and long enough that some grownup could find them.

And so, as you turned over the little gum wrapper, chewing madly as you read to see how it all came out, sure enough, little Susie, acting properly submissive to her big brother Johnny, in those innocent days before feminism, would suggest, “Oh Johnny, what if the flashlight doesn’t work?” And brother Johnny, brave and stouthearted, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, patriotic, and all the rest, would push the switch and behold, the sky would light up and they would be saved. Why? All because they had packed that flashlight with “Eveready” batteries.

And so in one particularly gripping episode, which was so powerful I needed a second package of gum just to get through it, Johnny and Susie were lost in the Great Dismal Swamp. There wasn’t room in one little piece of paper to tell us how they got lost out there all by themselves, but the artist did have room to show us trees with limbs that reached out and tangled your hair and clouds that hovered about four feet off the ground and ‘gators that lurked only inches beneath the surface of the water. The place was the Great Dismal Swamp, and never mind that ‘gators do not live as far north as Virginia and North Carolina! The picture of danger was indelible. Johnny and Susie were goners, for sure, this time.

But behold, Susie stumbles -- girls always stumbled and looked weak in those days -- Susie stumbles over something on the path, and, quite naturally, shrieks. But Johnny, bigger, braver, more trustworthy, loyal, helpful and patriotic than ever before, picks it up, and what is it? A flashlight; a flashlight that is caked with mud and crud and baked-on rust. Surely this is of no value. Surely this cannot help. But Johnny points it up to the sky, presses the switch -- and voila, a strong bright beam of light that reaches all the way to the 6th Fleet at Hampton Roads and brings most of the U. S. Navy out to rescue two kids from the Great Dismal Swamp.

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