12 Nov All Gave Some, Some Gave All
Rev. John C. Brink
“All Gave Some, Some Gave All”
Mark 12: 38-44
Veterans Day, November 11, 2018
It’s a special day to be gathered together in worship. On this 11thday of the 11thmonth, we celebrate Veteran’s Day, and the commitment and service provided by so many men and women in our church family and the extended family we share.
Next Sunday, on the 18th, we’ll celebrate the commitment of the Stewardship Campaign as we support our budget for 2019. As with all kinds of service, everything is not perfectly set for our year ahead. We need to trust our faith as we move forward so we can respond, adjust, and handle the challenges before us – mostly those we can’t even see yet.
Our Scriptures this morning really tie us into our journey ahead. In Psalm 127 we read, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Sounds like a metaphor for community, church life, and faith. Clearly, this reflects the way we commit to worship and our church life, honoring our discipleship with God and Jesus Christ as our guides, choosing to follow them rather than a self-directed, convenient do-it-my-way existence. We gather to serve and to be served in different ways.
We rely upon God for purpose and fulfillment. And in all ways we trust in God’s presence to guide and support us, in the best and even in the worst of times.
In Mark’s Gospel this morning (12:38-44), Jesus leads us past the ostentatious ones and to the lovely lady who came and gave from her heart, of her very self, regardless of the amount of her offering. The amount was not as important as the gift from her heart. To her it was all she could give – and it was enough.
On this day we celebrate the gift of personal commitment by our folks in military service with the tribute, “all gave some, and some gave all.” This familiar quote is said to date back to the Korean War. The phrase was also the theme of a great song by Billy Ray Cyrus. Maybe you know it: “All gave some, some gave all, some stood through for the red, white, and blue, and some had to fall, and if you ever think of me, think of all your liberties and recall some gave all.”
This year, like every year, 70,000 flags were placed on graves at Bourne Cemetery on Cape Cod. An amazing act of love and commitment to those who have served and gone to a life forever in heaven. Ron Wolfe will be laid to rest at Bourne. His service was celebrated here yesterday.
If we share with each other where we found our Christian commitment to follow Jesus Christ, many of us might say it was not really a decision – it was more an emotion, a feeling of being carried away. Perhaps being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not just a clear matter of the head, but more a matter of the heart, feeling an internal drive, a discovery of energy in our affection for Jesus. Then we step forward to follow Him in life and faith.
Like the woman in Mark’s gospel, our discipleship may well be a matter of spiritual affection for Jesus – something we feel in our hearts before we feel it in our heads. Maybe that explains what happens here in our church family when we don’t wait to be called to serve others; we step up from heart and instinct.
All that is done for others in need, in the name of Jesus, may not seem logical to the general culture in which we live. I respectfully disagree. And I feel you do, too. In so many ways our outreach is the way in which we release our energy, our vitality and passion beyond the bounds of our measured faith and what might seem logical.
There are so many folks here in our church family and beyond who move gently forward with subtle, yet extravagant passion to bring their gifts, just as the gentle lady in Mark’s gospel. The lady’s coins are but metaphors for her life. For each of us is called to give as we are able. Jesus doesn’t have a mathematical, financial guideline for the value of our lives. It is from our hearts that we give of ourselves. Jesus knows this only too well.
This scene in Mark is the last scene in Jesus’ public ministry. From here, all that remains in Mark’s telling is the temple discourse and the passion narrative. So the widow is a glimpse into what Jesus is about. He is on His way to giving “the whole of His life” for all of humanity, the whole world.
Jesus calls the disciples, and the church, to himself and points out this economically poor woman and the strength and manner of her giving and commitment. Her role in the story is to reinforce the call of Jesus to the church – that’s us folks – to give in the same way, with no public mention of the amounts we can offer.
As the Pilgrim Church, united in discipleship to Jesus Christ, we are called to be a sign in and for the world of the new reality that God has made available to us in Jesus Christ. Each time we dedicate our shared offering to God, we do so in the name of Jesus, the Son of God and our Brother and Savior.
How will we be such a sign? Let’s test ourselves against the call of Jesus. We are called to be healing and reconciling and binding up wounds, ministering to the needs of the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the powerless. We are called to engage in the effort and struggle to free ourselves from sin, fear, oppression, hunger, and injustice. Sound familiar? Seems to me we are in step with the call of Jesus.
As we heard in Psalm 127 today, “Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain.”We the church are called to undertake the mission of building the material and immaterial church of Jesus Christ, even at personal risk. So we commit our hearts and souls and best-effort pocketbooks first, and then we can meet a budget that fulfills our call to discipleship. Like the widow, we give the best we can, each of us, without regard to comparison. We give like she gave, from her heart and of herself. And as we recall and celebrate, on this day, Veteran’s Day, we know, all gave some and some gave all.
In 1915, John McCrae, artillery commander and military doctor who served in World War I, wrote this familiar poem about Flanders Field, a place I was honored to visit during business travel in my previous career. Flanders Field is on the border of Belgium and France. The poem speaks of the sacrifice of those who died and the call to survivors to live on:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
So many have been called to serve, to offer their lives for others without any certainty of success or perfection. The way in which so many serve in the dangers of conflict and war is much like the woman in the gospel, giving all she could. From the Revolutionary War to today, over 45 million have served.
I am deeply proud to be a Marine. I will always be proud of my service. USMC celebrated its birthday yesterday, 10 November. Do I look like I am 243 years old?
On this day and many others, I honor the courage and faith of corpsman Rickey Scott who died in the last battle of the Vietnam War. Corpsman Scott, a young man from Indiana, was a conscientious objector who would serve but would not carry a weapon, despite the pleading of my best friend and his Captain, Jeff Wilcox. Jeff, a 1968 West Point graduate, was the commander of Charlie Company on Firebase Ripcord in Vietnam. Ripcord was five months long, from March to July of 1970.
Jeff is on our prayer list as he struggles in life with chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Very sad. He lives in Michigan. Jeff and I have been friends for our entire lives. I call him every Tuesday in the hope of helping to support and settle him a bit, and to help his wife, Kathryn, as she is his loving companion along this dreadful road.
Corporal Rickey Scott was killed that last day of the war in Vietnam – not the first or the middle, but the last day. He felt strong enough and protected enough to go into the line of fire, without a weapon, to save another man. He put himself at risk, in the literal and figurative line of fire. The man he went to help was already dead.
Like the woman in the gospel, like Rickey Scott, in some ways, we ask, how will we offer ourselves to do the work that Jesus calls us to do in his name? This is the only real assurance we have – the Love of God, in Jesus Christ. It was all Rickey Scott needed to serve others, even in combat. He is living in his reward today, in Heaven, with the God he trusted.
Today, and many days, I think of Mike Rilea, a Marine on active duty during the same time I was, a friend of mine from Dennis Union Church where I was the pastor for eight years. Mike and I didn’t know each other before then. Mike spent 61 days alone in the jungle in Vietnam – no food, no weapon – all he did was pray, all day and all night. There is no doubt in Mike’s mind about why he is alive. Jesus saved him. There is no doubt in my mind either.
The motto of the U. S. Marine Corps is “Semper Fidelis” which means “Always Faithful.” There is no doubt in my heart that Jesus was faithful to Mike for 61 days. There is no doubt in my heart that Mike was faithful to Jesus as well.
Today, and many days, I think of MJ Wakefield, a church member here and combat nurse in Vietnam. Faced with Agent Orange poisoning and PTSD, she is amazing in her strength and poise. She has shared many of her experiences in Vietnam. She risked her life beyond description, and here she is today, continuing to battle her war 50 years later. I like to visit with MJ. Her spirit is strong.
Jesus is the conscientious objector who gave His life for the lives of others. He lived and died and rose again, that we might know the truth of the love of God and the call to servanthood and community.
Let’s be more like the widow in the gospel, overtaken by the emotional commitment to Christ to be His Stewards, not His bankers. We give of ourselves from the hearts that beat as God created us.
Each of us is a veteran of life and our own challenging experiences. Each of us can and will pray to God for Peace and Freedom to be free. Stay strong, pray for peace, for Jesus Christ, our Brother and Savior, is our Company Commander. To Jesus Christ, to ourselves, and to our country, Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. In the worst of times, we reach for Jesus Christ to be at our side. For Jesus Christ, for our friends, and for ourselves, may we be Semper Fidelis, Always Faithful. Amen.