Summary: Twelve Biblical lessons interwoven with the story of the Wright Brothers. Great PowerPoint slides are available. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
During the summer of 2019, my son was doing his clinical rotations. So the Familty, and I went to visit him over the Fourth of July in Dayton, Ohio. What is Dayton famous for? That’s right, Dayton is famous because the Wright Brothers built the first airplane there. Between parades and fireworks and visiting his lab, I read many internet articles about the Wright Brothers. When I discovered one particularly amazing fact, I said to myself, “I have got to use that in a sermon.” You will have to wait until the end for the most amazing fact. Most of the information about the Wright Brothers in this sermon comes from the book The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. The spiritual lessons come from God’s word, the Bible.
Wilbur, the third of seven children, was born on April 16, 1867 in Millville, Indiana, 70 miles west of Dayton. Orville, the sixth of seven children, was born August 19, 1871, in Dayton. None of the Wright children were given middle names. Instead their father tried to give them distinct first names. (I would say he succeeded in 3 of the seven: Reuchlin, Lorin Wright, Wilbur, Wright, Otis, Ida, Orville, and Katherine.) Because of their father’s job as a bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, the family moved often, 12 times between 1877 and 1884 when they returned to Dayton.
Neither of the Orville nor Wilber Graduated from High School. Wilbur was an excellent student. In the era before grade inflation, his grades were all in the 90’s and he was an excellent athlete. There was talk of him going to Yale. However, in 1884 the family had to move abruptly back to Dayton. It was near the end of Wilbur’s senior year and even though he had completed 95% of the requirements, he could not graduate. The diploma was awarded posthumously in 1994. Even worse in the winter of 1884-1885 Wilber was playing ice hockey and was hit in the mouth with a hockey stick, knocking out most of his upper front teeth. Excruciating pain, false teeth, digestive problems led to depression. For three years Wilber became a recluse, largely housebound. During this time he took care of his mother who was dying of tuberculosis. Bishop Wright credits Wilbur with lengthening his mother’s life by two years. (Lessons: Depression, End from the beginning)
Lesson 1. The Lord Is Close To The Brokenhearted. Throughout the Bible, there are a number of stories about godly, influential men and women of faith, who struggled and battled through dark times of hopelessness and depression. David, Jonah, Job, Moses, Jeremiah, and Elijah all said things like, “I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.” in 1 Kings 19:4. Even Jesus Himself was deeply anguished over what lay before Him. In the garden Jesus prayed, all alone, calling out to His Father, asking Him for another way. “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death....remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.'" Mark 14:34-36. We can be assured, that in whatever we face, Jesus understands our weakness and suffering, our greatest times of temptation and despair, because he too traveled that road.
What’s true about all of these stories and many others is this: God was with them. Close. Near. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Ps. 34:18. He was there in the good days and in the dark days too. He didn’t condemn them for their questions and pain. He didn’t tell them to just tough it out. He reached down to their deepest pit of suffering, and lifted them out. He cared. He showed compassion. He offered mercy. He brought hope. He instilled purpose. He gave victory. And He still works in the same way today.
Our world desperately need joy-givers, hope-bringers, those in our lives who will help us remember what real grace is and where lasting help is found. The greatest truth is this, we have a Savior who understands our pain, who knows about every weakness and hurt, and reaches out with compassion and hope. He is Healer. Redeemer. Restorer. And friend. He will never waste the seasons of suffering we face, but will use it, in some way, to bring good, to instill purpose, to help others, and to make us stronger. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28. “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him” DA 225.