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Help Me Save One More

Luke 21:5-19

The Rev. Jon Roberts

13 November

2016

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

5 And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?” 8 And he said, “Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once." 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be a time for you to bear testimony. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; 17 you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

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Hacksaw Ridge, Movie, 2016

For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things shall not be remembered or come to mind.[1]

On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, “Our Country ‘tis of thee,” observes the truce of war known as Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day. It is a day of remembrance and a day to give thanks to the countless men and women who served so valiantly in our armed forces, combatting enemies, both foreign and domestic.

In the year 1919, a year after the day of Armistice was declared between Germany and the Allies of World War I, a little baby was born in Lynchburg, VA and they called him “Desmond.” He grew up through the difficulty of the Great Depression. His father was a depressed veteran who saw death in the trenches of France and turned to anger and alcohol. Uneducated and with very little opportunity afforded, young Desmond was cast like so many men of his age (18) into a new conflict, a new war with the same enemy as before. By the time he enlisted, much of Europe had been reclaimed by the Allies but the Japanese in the Pacific remained. Many young men felt it was not only their duty to serve but that it would give honor to their lives. There would be glory. There would be a new heaven and a new earth for the courageous conquerors who fought to overturn evil.

Desmond Doss, however, was different. He didn’t go into this war for glory or patriotic pride. In fact, he refused to touch the rifle issued to him through basic training and it nearly cost him a court martial. It was argued his constitutional right to not bear arms and his right to serve in the military, as a battleground medic. Desmond went in with the 77th Infantry unit, who scaled the walls of Okinawa’s rugged, mountainous landscape. When asked by the Colonel why he wouldn’t pick up a gun to fight, Desmond simply said, “With everyone determined to take life, I feel God has called me to put it back together.”
On Hacksaw Ridge where the heaviest fighting was seen, his unit was decimated during their assault and a fifth of those who were fortunate to survive returned to base that evening, knowing there were several wounded still on top. At night the wounded laid there, and the enemy sent out squads to find them and kill them. Desmond, out of duty to save life, found one, then another, then another, in foxholes and under the cloak of smoke and night, he carried and dragged them to the edge of the ridge and lowered them down to safety. Seventy-eight to be exact. When the sun rose and the commanders saw how many came to the infirmary throughout the night, they wondered why. When told it was the conscientious objector, Desmond Doss, they rushed back to the ridge and saved his life and defeated the enemy. Over the course of 82 days, this “Rain of steel” assault with bombardments, bullets, and bayonets gave the Allies the strategic footing for the invasion, of Japan, only 300 miles away. It would come with a cost, as 15,000 Allies and 77,000 Japanese were killed in action.[2]

Through the hell of war, in sacrifices too many to number, we hear the voice of the psalmist, who gives hope and promise. The former things experienced by our veterans are so hard not to remember. Listen to the voices of the fallen and those determined to save one more.

“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress.

No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord-- and their descendants as well. Before they call, I will answer, while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent-- its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”[3]

When Jesus said this earthly temple would be destroyed and that wars and rumors of wars, he is saying he will be with us in the fox holes.[4] Isaiah says that the new heaven is a place of closeness to the Savior, where blood and death are no longer. Desmond was close to God in his day and God will be close to you when you call out for a new heaven and a new earth. These former things will not be remembered. They will not matter, when you see Jesus coming to your aid with the words on his lips, “Lord God, help me save, just one more.”

[1] Isaiah 65:17-25
[2] Hacksaw Ridge, 2016
[3] Psalm 65:17-25
[4] Luke 21:5-19

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