Never Forget! We cannot and will not forget to honor volunteers. I’m reminded of volunteers we can relate to in tangible ways. We could not be a church without the dedicated volunteers to do so much for the church. Volunteers are the ones that make our congregations, schools, and ECC’s efficient and pertinent for our communities and the sharing of the message of God’s grace. One of the States we serve in the Mid-South District is called “The Volunteer State” – Tennessee. Some suggest the nickname refers to the number of volunteers in the War of 1812. Others disagree and point to Tennessean President Polk, who called for 2,500 volunteers to defend Texas against Mexico. Within a week, 30,000 volunteers signed on to defend the legacy of Davy Crocket, Sam Houston, and Jim Bowie’s volunteering at the Alamo. They were all “Volunteers” lest we ever forget.
“Never Forget” was given another boost in our American history, when on March 1, 2008, our nation witnessed another great event in modern US military history. The US Navy launched an amphibious assault ship – the USS New York: 684 feet long, a crew of 360 sailors and 700 Marines, capable of carrying assault craft and helicopters able to penetrate enemy lines up to 600 miles away. Impressive! But what makes the USS New York so different is her superstructure. Her entire skeleton and shell is made from 7400 tons of the steel salvaged from the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9-11. Fittingly, her motto is: “Never Forget.”
“Never Forget” in the Viet Nam era, three of my closest friends volunteered for a belief in our country’s cause of freedom. They volunteered, even if the war was unpopular. Their names are now etched on a black granite wall in Washington, DC because they chose dedication over dissension. Freedom to worship, freedom to strive, freedom to live, and even the freedom to express oneself is what America’s all about. We stand strong because we can stand today to worship God without someone shutting down our services. We can stand because we’re led to understand the meaning of sacrifice.
“Never Forget” in Scripture, when God spoke to Moses, telling him to have all of Israel sacrifice a lamb, spread its blood on the doorpost and lintel of their homes, roast and eat the lamb, along with preparing unleavened bread, wine, and bitters. God promised that on the night of this feast, He would send the angel of death over Egypt to kill the first born males of every household and barns that were not covered in the blood of a sacrificed lamb.
God will “Never Forget.” That was the first Passover that ultimately led Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery. The Eucharist is a demonstration of His great mercy, kindness and grace, where He provides the means by which we are delivered from sin and death. The sacrifice of lambs foreshadowed of the willing sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – Jesus Christ. God’s wrath against sin is satisfied. An ancient promise is fulfilled. By Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection we’re justified.. A living Christ proved God’s acceptance of us all who are joined together in Christ Jesus by the means of grace God offers.
There’s an old man who, for over 34 years, would “Never Forget.” He faithfully visited a broken down pier on Florida’s east coast every Friday night feed sea gulls. Every Friday people watched him volunteer to carry a shrimp filled-bucket to the pier. Sea gulls flocked around him as he tossed shrimp one-by-one for the gulls to eat. He would Never Forget: In October, 1942, he piloted a B-17 on its way to New Guinea. Somewhere over the South Pacific, he lost radio contact with the base. He ran out of fuel and had to ditch the plane. The pilot and his crew endured bad weather, scorching heat and shark invested waters. But, within 8 days, they ran out of water and rations. By the 10th day – a Friday – things looked bleak. But a miracle happened: something landed on the pilot’s hat – a sea gull. It was an answer to prayers. They grabbed the bird. It meant food! The scraps were used as bait for fishing. The entire crew survived for over a month from the appearance of that single a sea gull – uncharacteristically hundreds of miles away from land – that saved a bunch of grateful men. Until the old pilot died in 1973, he never forgot to feed the sea gulls every Friday night. Regardless of the weather, he made his way on a pier in gratitude to the sea gull. The old man was the former B-17 pilot – Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.
We also must “Never Forget,” Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price and offers us the joy and freedom of life everlasting in God’s eternal kingdom. Holy Scripture says, “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Lest we forget the sweetness of freedom in our nation, lest we forget to thank the thousands of volunteers who make mission and ministry possible in the Mid-South District, and lest we forget the glory of the promise of salvation in life everlasting, today, let us “Never Forget.” We honor our volunteers this month, remembering that they serve Christ who lets us live in a nation where we can worship Him without fear. Christians in less-tolerant countries still worship and witness of God’s love in Christ Jesus at the risk of their lives. So, what’s our risk at volunteering to give witness to Christ? Let us “Never Forget.” Thank you Volunteers for your work for the Kingdom of Christ.