Do you serve with heroes? We should be each other's heroes. And one day we should be able to stand before our God and say that we stood with one another in the great battle as Christian soldiers and we fought our way to the Kingdom of God.
I'd like to ask you a question this afternoon: Do you have any heroes? Do you have any heroes? Mine have changed over the years; I have heroes. As a child my heroes were probably centered around the realm of cowboys and sports stars, not uncommon during my period of growing up. They were my heroes, and I had numbers of them, whoever was on the latest cowboy show, or movie that I'd seen, or the latest star athlete of my favorite team. But over the years I kind of outgrew that kind of thinking, in terms of looking at people that I really didn't know, or were bigger than life on the screen, or because of their certain exploits, and I changed my heroes. I still have heroes today, which I'm sure you do as well, but today my heroes are a bit more realistic, I think.
Today I find heroes among many in the membership. People whose lives of faith inspire confidence, and encouragement for all of us. I find those are my heroes that I look up to, and over the years have gained more encouragement and inspiration from, on a day to day basis, than I could ever have hoped from, then or now, from someone that really doesn't really impact my life other that the fact that they may be an image on a screen, or on a sports arena that, you know, accomplishes it at a certain time. I recently walked into the life of someone, and found a new hero. Sometimes you walk into a room, and you meet someone you've never met before, and you instantly begin to relate to their story and who they are, and I found one just recently, a few days ago. Last week we were in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta for a week-end of World News and Prophecy seminars, and on Sunday afternoon we were in Edmonton conducting such a seminar. We had a chance at that time to meet a lady who made a very deep impression after only really a very few minutes of visiting with her in her nursing home room. The Pastor there in Edmonton, Bob Berendt, had told us on the way to the hall we were using for the lectures, he said "I want you to, after we're all done this afternoon, I'd like for you to come with me around the corner, and drop in on a lady, and just to say hello" — a member that was not able to attend. And of course, we were more than glad to do so.
The lady's name is Marie Brault. She is a French Canadian — she lives there in Edmonton. She is 88 years young — 88. She's recently been baptized into the church. Now, that by itself is not unusual, for even a person of that age to come into the church, and we have many such, but what is interesting about Marie is that she just recently came into the church, after many, many years as a nun in the Roman Catholic Church. And it was fascinating to hear her story. Last year during the Feast of Tabernacles — she went to the Feast in Guatemala City — she fell, she broke a hip, unfortunately, and has still been recovering from the after affects of that, but is recovering, and has a remarkably appreciative attitude for where she finds herself right now, and her physical limitations, and she's coming back from that, but also what's happened in her life as she's come to know the truth. She was for many, many years a nun, working in a very poor Latin American area, and teaching the Bible, and teaching her way of life and all, but she's just recently come to the church — to the truth. And to listen to her talk about that was an amazing thing. She asks — one of her main questions was "Why did God take so long?" Why did God take so long? I don't think Mr. Berendt's given her a bona fide answer for that, and we certainly couldn't necessarily do that, because we don't know why. Don't we all ask the same question at times, whether it's in certain matters and details of our own lives, don't we ask the same question, why does God take so long to act? Why wait so long, Eternal?
In Marie's case there are things that she would like to be able to go back, now that she knows certain things — she'd like to go back in her past and fix — but she's like you and I, she can't go back. Like you and I, Marie can only go forward; we can only go forward, together. We can move forward with her, and all of us. We left her, after twenty to thirty minutes of a very brief visit. We had a group prayer that Bob led, and it was very deeply moving to just meet someone who appreciates what she has, appreciates where she's come from, and understands exactly the fact that she has a new life — she has an new beginning.
You know, we can only go where God leads as well — when God calls and where He says to go in doing His work. And it is in the going that we grow spiritually. And that's what I'd like to talk with you about this afternoon. Our theme is: To go into all the world. I'd like to talk to you about going to the world as a key to growing together spiritually. Whenever we see God's spirit working in someone's life, changing them, converting them, and what after all of our years, I think any of us, when we begin to see a new person begin to open...their mind opened up to the knowledge of the truth, we recognize that as the greatest miracle of all. A mind opened to understand God's precious truth; converted minds. When we see that, we see the fruits of our labor; we see the people responding to the preaching of the gospel. And that's what we do — that is what we do. We go into all the world; we make disciples.
Last year's theme for our General Conference of Elders was: To make disciples — a whole church effort. And it is a whole church effort to make disciples and to preach the gospel. It isn't about just any one person, or one group of individuals within the body of the church to do either job — it is a whole church effort, and we all have a part to play, and a responsibility to accomplish.
In Romans, Chapter 10 — Romans the 10th chapter, the Apostle Paul addresses this idea. Romans, Chapter 10 — a well known Scripture to us. As he taught in this section of Romans about Israel, his fellow brethren, and their role and their relationship at the time, and now, in the plan of God, and where they will fit, and opens up tremendous understanding that we know as we move into the meaning of the Last Great Day, and that period of time, and Paul reveals many things here. But in the process here he talks about the preaching of the Gospel, in Verse 14 of Romans 10.
Romans 10:14 Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
American King James Version×How then (he says) shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? — One must hear, in whatever fashion, whether it's through a radio program, as Mr. Rhodes was talking about, or picking up a printed piece of material, being challenged by a question from someone's example, or life, or some other method, whatever it is they begin to hear — How will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? — Someone who carries the message — someone who delivers it.
Verse 15: And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace. Who bring glad tidings of good things!"
Beautiful section — beautiful passage of Scripture to remind us...this is what we do. This is what we are called to accomplish; this is our mission. This is where we are to go, as we go into the world. This is what we are to do. God adds some; He will. We know that that is His prerogative, always has been, and always will be, His job to call, to add those that He will, and wishes, to the church. But one thing we learn, from the time when we run into someone like we did in Edmonton last week with Marie, we learn that God is still in business; God has not taken down the shingle. The business of the work of the gospel going out, of people hearing, and of people responding, and of God, when He chooses to open a mind to understand the truth, is still going on. That's His business — the shingle is still out, the light is still on — open for business when it comes to the gospel, and what is meant in these few verses.
We, must understand and remember, and know who we are. We are the children of God, ourselves, collectively, called, heirs we're told, and we are joint heirs of Christ, and as a result of that we must act based on that knowledge, and understand who we are. Everyone of us in this room, and all the halls and places where our members are meeting today and hearing these services — all of us had to make a decision — at some point in our life we had to make a decision to go when we heard the gospel — to go, to wherever that message led us, to whatever it led us to accomplish. The changes in our life, some cases even physical relocations, but we had to go when we heard the gospel, as the gospel goes into all the world. And in so doing we were like Abraham, the father of the faithful. Back in Genesis, Chapter 12 we read that seminal verse where Abraham, or as he was then, Abram — I'll go ahead and call him Abraham, since we all know who we're talking about — where it is recorded that he received a direction — a directive, an imperative. In Genesis 12 and Verse 1, it says:
Genesis 12:1 Genesis 12:1Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you:
American King James Version×Now the Lord had said to Abraham, (Abram): "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.
Verse 2: I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
Verse 3: I will bless those who bless you, I will curse him who curses you, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
This is the beginning call to Abraham, to go out from his land — to get out of your country. In verse 1, that phrase "to go", to "get out", or to go forth as other translations will put it, it carries in the original Hebrew language an insistent immediacy. The English just doesn't carry over; the English doesn't duplicate it. An insistent immediacy — if you will, in one word, urgency. Abraham had to go, based on what he heard, the way it was delivered, and what he accomplished, he could not just ignore it, and he chose not to. We know the rest of the story.
Thomas Cahill wrote a book, The Gifts of the Jews, and in that book he talks a little bit about what this was, what it meant, and how dramatic it was for what a man of Abraham's time, in the ancient world, to go and do what he did, to leave his father's home. Many of us left our parent's home when we were young; we left our home town, perhaps our home regions, and like in my case I've never gone back to where I grew up, at least to live, only to visit. We do that more in our modern world, but in the ancient world that was quite different for Abraham to pick up and take his wife, his family, all that he had and leave that land and go some place that he'd never heard of, much less seen a picture of, and to do that.
Cahill shows that for a man to leave the comfort of the world that he knew, to go out somewhere else, was unheard of in that culture of the ancient world. Going out, traveling by a different compass. It's a remarkable story; there's nothing quite like it in the ancient world. The ancient world, the religion and the approach to life was more cyclical — things looked round and round. Things didn't change. There was really no known purpose in life; the god's that they worshipped were somewhat capricious, they were inaccessible, and the idea of one God that Abraham began to know was just something completely different. And the remarkable story of him leaving as he did is a remarkable story even in its own setting. Abraham, Sarah, got off the merry-go-round they knew, and they followed an idea; they went after an idea into a new land with a new experience. They were looking for something, and they saw something better, and they went for it. It was a better idea.
Abraham, we were later told in the Book of Hebrews, "looked for a city whose builder and maker is God." In other words, he looked for the kingdom of God. That's what he went for as he began to learn about it. He followed an idea, a remarkable idea. It was a vision of something better. Something out there, in the future, that was better than what he knew. How else would we explain a man of his time, getting up, pulling up stakes, and leaving and going someplace that he did not know about. He had no other indication other than just a promise; he went after an idea.
This is what we have given our lives to, the same idea, in this age. Christ said to go into all the world with a message that defines a life; after a message, after an idea, that defines a life. For more than forty years, this has defined my life — forty-seven years to be exact; longer for some of you, I recognize. The idea of the kingdom of God has defined my life, and it is a vastly different life than I could have ever imagined and dreamed of myself. Everyone of our lives has been defined by the gospel, by the truth of the kingdom of God, by our searching and moving in that direction toward the kingdom. Why is that? Well, it's really no more difficult than the fact that we decided to go, like Abraham, like everyone since then — we decided to go, to go according to this way of life; to live according to this way. And we have followed an idea, and we, too, look for a city whose builder and maker is God. We look for the kingdom of God.
In 1995, we came together with nothing — no money, no building, no desks, no phones, no post office box — all we had really was a faith to preserve, and that was quite a bit. We had a faith to preserve. We also had a people that we wanted to secure, at home. And we had a work that we wanted to do. We had an idea, the idea that formed our life that we were not willing to give up. I look here at Mr. Carey — I was reminded that he and I were working together at the time — and we decided we had to go; we could no longer remain where we were. And as the custom was at that time — many of us were employed — we were resigning via e-mail, and we pushed the send button, as we were both on the telephone at the same time — and went together...went together. We had an idea, and that idea is still very, very strong; that idea has fired our imagination, and our lives. It was, and is, the gospel of the kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ. As far as I was concerned, a lot of other impediments were stripped away; we had the most essential. And we came together to perpetuate that idea, if you will, as God had given it to us and it's what we felt we should do.
A few weeks ago I was having dinner with a fellow Pastor and we were talking about that particular time, and he was relating to me his impressions. In May, 1995 we had a Sabbath service there in Indianapolis, at the Holiday Inn. We hadn't even had our first meeting as a group of elders, the 150 elders that came together there — we hadn't even had that, we just started with the Sabbath service, an all-day service, and I remember seeing him as we walked in — we were talking that night — remember seeing him as we walked out of the parking lot that day, and he was telling about the individuals, the conversations that he had when he got to the door, went into that room of that Holiday Inn. He was met by a number of people, and as we all did and will remember who were there — he said, "A lot of men just came up to me, and embraced me", he said. They said, "glad you are here — glad you're here — good to see you...good to see you!" "There was a warmth, and there was a camaraderie", but he said, "I looked around, I felt that warmth, and expectation", and he told me, he said, "I decided right then, I want to serve with those men — I want to serve with those men."
And so we gathered, to keep alive something, to do something, to keep alive an idea. And a bond was formed. I, too, felt that bond during those days — so did many of you. We looked on one another with love, and appreciation, and a brotherhood. To be honest, at that point in my ministry, it was a feeling that I had never experienced to that degree. What happened to that feeling? I often ask myself that question. What happened? And I ask myself, "Have I lost it?" I don't want to lose it. And I'm reminded of a verse in Matthew, Chapter 11. It talks about this journey toward the idea of the kingdom of God. Matthew, Chapter 11, in Verse 12 — I'll just read this one verse in this section, from Christ — Christ said:
Matthew 11:12 Matthew 11:12And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
American King James Version×"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."
Or press toward it, as Luke's account puts it. Many times I have read this verse, and to me it's been kind of an enigma, exactly what is being said here. You read a good commentary on this verse, and you will see there is confusion among the experts as to the exact interruption of this verse, and what Christ meant. All the interpretations seem to touch on a struggle upon the kingdom, externally, and the church, or the people like John or others who are involved in the work of the idea of the kingdom of God. But there's also understood to be a certain struggle within those, and among those, who press toward the kingdom of God. So, no matter how you slice and dice the wording here, and to the degree you try to understand it, there is a dimension of struggle involved with this way toward the kingdom. We cannot deny that I don't think from what Jesus says, from what we read in certainly the New Testament church history, and our own experience in all of our years within the church. There is a dimension of struggle that is involved with this way and the kingdom of God. We must press toward that, because it's not always an easy road; we cannot deny that.
We certainly understand that there is a struggle against the world, and against Satan, and how he uses this world to entrap and to entice and to take away, snatch away, that which has been sowed within our lives. There's certainly the struggle within our own nature as we struggle to overcome ourselves and sin, put that from us, as we're reminded annually through the Passover and Unleavened Bread experience. There's also, as we all well understand, sometimes the struggle against each other. And lately, against each other a lot. This is a verse that I've often gone back to, to just orient myself and to recognize that working toward and moving toward the kingdom of God, the idea that Abraham went for, requires a sense of forward leaning, always. Moving in that direction, moving against the wind, against opposition, but there is something that we press toward the kingdom of God in our lives.
I have often, as I've thought about this, imagined the kingdom of God as a city, whose builder and maker is God, taking that image out of the Book of Hebrews, a beautiful shining city on a hill, toward which we are always moving, along the path, along the road. And along the way we face many obstacles; obstacles that are meant to discourage us, to keep us from reaching our objective...we start with enthusiasm, just as Israel went out of Egypt with a high hand. Enthusiastic about what we learn, about those with whom we come in contact that feel the same way, and the fellowship, and the joy of that. And of coming to know God, and to see Him in a sense completely different with blinders lifted off of our eyes. But as we know, time, life, and events wear us down; life goes on. It challenges us. That's part of it. Along the way many others join, and together we continue moving in that direction toward the kingdom. Some remain while others drop off along the way. Christ always gives us the sense that this journey would not be easy, and indeed it's not, it's not without its challenges, but Christ always has promised to help. He said He would be with us until the end. And He said, take my yoke...it's easy. Coming to that ease is the challenge for everyone of us as we learn to let go and let God.
We're part of a large, powerful, story. Scripture paints the picture on a bold canvas for us to understand. But we must have the eyes to see, and to understand what we are a part of, and never lose sight of it. I've often thought as I've looked on those verses about Abraham how often he may have thought about going back — did he make the right decision. But in his day and time there was no option of going back; he was on a different road, different track. And as I've thought about myself and my life over these many, many years, I've had to realize that I shouldn't go back — just as you have. We set out hand to a way of life that there's no turning back. And God called us from whatever we were, whoever we were, wherever we were, to go, and to be different, and to follow a different path. And that has defined our life. It's a very large story — it's a powerful story, and we've got to have the eyes to continually be focused and to understand. But sometimes we lose the focus; we don't always understand, but we should.
Herbert Armstrong understood, certainly, and taught us all the need to go to the world. Not just for numbers growth, although as Melvin was pointing out in his message, certainly that happens when God blesses, and when it is done right. Mr. Armstrong understood something even beyond that in the preaching of the gospel. He understood that that preaching of the gospel was a means for the church to grow spiritually. We will remember what he would say. He would say we grow spiritually to the degree our hearts are in the work. I remember hearing that as a young man, not fully understanding what it meant at the time, but I heard it many, many times. He would also say we are called now, in advance of all the others in the world, and all the rest of humanity...we are called now to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. Those are quotes that so many of us could quote from memory. We've heard them; they were true — the fruit of application is always true.
My own personal antidotal observation, I suppose is to put it, is the illusive unity that we always look for and search for within the church. And it has, many times, as I looked at it and tried to analyze it over the years, my personal belief it seems that the times that we were clicking on all cylinders, of preaching the gospel to the world and looking to go to the world, were the times when we perhaps had the greatest measure of unity, at least of my own experience and from my limited point of view. Others of you may differ with that, I understand that, but that's how I've come to understand that unity, and looked at unity at terms of how we get to that great desire that we always are looking for, and wanting within the body of the church that the apostle Paul talks about. And from my own experience it seems that some of the greatest times were when we were focused outward, and going to the world. Boldly taking a message of hope to a world that is held captive.
And I well remember one of the most effective booklets we ever had was that one kind of a black booklet with kind of a unique cover that showed a globe and then an overlay over it of a set of bars — prison bars: A world held captive — capture the idea; capture the truth. And our job is to go to that world with the message of the kingdom of God, with the idea that has fuel-driven and inspired our lives. And whenever the church is focused vigorously on preaching the gospel, it has, and will, move forward. We sing a hymn that tells us this. We sing it quite often in the church. As I thought about things, in recent years, I've come to the conclusion that this one particular hymn perhaps is the most misunderstood hymn in the entire hymnal that we have. There are others that I sometimes think we...I've come to the conclusion that we sing a lot of the Psalms, and they're put to music, and we sing them because we are familiar with them, but to stop and really think about them as we should, and we need to, is another matter — and we all do — but sometimes...and this one to me, at least, is perhaps the most misunderstood song in our hymnal. It's a well known Marshall hymn: "Onward Christian Soldiers" — "Onward Christian Soldiers" — 175 in our present version of our hymnal.
Let me read to you, as you will know, Verse 2 of that hymn, where it says: "Like a mighty army, moves the Church of God , brothers we are treading, where the saints have trod. We are not divided, all one body we, one in hope and doctrine, one in charity." Verse 2.
Why is this misunderstood, from my point of view? A couple of ways. Number one is: indeed we are in a spiritual battle. A soldier has no reason to exist as a soldier unless there is a fight to go toward, or something to defend, to preserve, or to protect. And whether we're moving forward, whether we're protecting is a challenge, it's something that we have to always be on alert for, as we well know. We are in a spiritual battle; we don't always live with that understanding, and we forget that. And we may forget it as we are even singing that song, and not fully understand its ramifications from all the many Scriptures that point us to that reality. It's a very real battle that is a battle to keep us from our goals, in one sense, which is, the city, which is the kingdom of God — the idea. We know this very well from Ephesians, Chapter 6, where Paul uses this example to talk about the spiritual armor that we are to put on, but before he goes into each of those individual pieces, in Ephesians 6 and Verse 11, he says:
Ephesians 6:11 Ephesians 6:11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
American King James Version×Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Verse 12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
In one verse Paul sums it all up to show what our battle and our struggle is really against. It's not against flesh and blood; it is against spiritual wickedness arrayed against the people of God in all the many deceptive forms that come our way in this life. And we cannot afford to forget that; we cannot misunderstand exactly what it is that we have to deal with. Now, I think a mature Christian is not living in fear of that. We're not obsessed necessarily in an abnormal, unbalanced way with that, but neither is the balanced Christian going to forget that, as we go out each day, to our jobs, in our life, as we interact in and among ourselves within the church as well. Because sometimes we think we battle against one another, and we get to falling into that — battling against our own comrades — our own flesh and blood. And Paul says, that's not where our battle is in the end, and in the long run.
Our real fight is against the one who would keep us from achieving the goal of the kingdom of God. That is what we cannot forget. That kingdom, that idea to which we've given our lives is bigger than every one of us, and it's when we submit to the quest of that goal of the kingdom that we're capable of far more than any of us can do individually. The whole, indeed, is greater than the sum of its parts. When we work together, when the people of God move together, on its knees, God can do some rather good things to those people who are united in that effort.
Our calling is more than we sometimes really see and understand, and it takes a great deal of focus for us to stay there. It's more than the daily routine of e-mail, social media, everything on the internet; fast food, our bills. It's more than that. That's part of life, but for a Christian, moving toward the kingdom of God is far more than that. We can't really afford to "twitter away" our reality. The church is really more than "pot-lucks" — and I like pot-lucks! I'm not against pot-lucks — we have good ones in Indiana. It's more than socials, and it's more than our own dramas at times. God has called us to an idea that is older than Abraham, an idea that was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. That's what we're called to. We're in a high-spirited, dramatic story, and every single one of us have a part to play — every man, woman, and child in this church and the body of Christ has a part to play in the most dramatic, most important high-spirited story that one could ever read about, dream up, or imagine. God has called us to be sons and heirs of the kingdom. And there is a force, an evil force, bent on ripping that from us. And our challenge is to resist it, and to wrestle against it — not against ourselves. And to keep that firmly fixed in our mind and in our hearts. And when we do, we can do some good things — God can do some good things through us.
For nine years, at the beginning of the United Church of God, Debbie and I had the unique opportunity to be a part of helping to build the United Youth Camp program, and we worked at the Camp Heritage program up in Pennsylvania. The nine summers that we spent there were some of the most challenging and unique and invigorating...part of the whole opportunity that really stands out in my years in the ministry — the time that we had there. And I knew from the very beginning when we started the program in '95, '96, and working with it at that time, that working with young people, holding together a staff, and a one-week type of program that we were designing was a challenge, to get everybody working toward the goals and the mission that we had set for the camp program. And so, however it came — I don't remember — I challenged our staff that developed over the years — every year when we would try to orient the staff and all come together, I would say: "Listen, what we're doing here is something very important." We later encapsulated the idea into the concept of the zone, which talks about the...another way of talking about really the kingdom of God, that we tried to create an atmosphere of a week of people being loved, feeling a part of something, being cherished, and all that goes with that. And everyone of you, our young people, and staff who's over the years worked with the program understand what we are talking about there. And it's been a very successful effort that we have made, I think, accumulative over the years. But I was challenged to try to get that into everybody's mind and heart at the very beginning as quickly as possible, for we only had seven days — and still do.
And so I told them, what we're doing here is very important. It's about an idea. And the staff at Heritage knows that I would tell them every year, "It's not about you. So don't come to me telling me your aches and your pains, or the bed's not comfortable, or your clothes are wet, or..." I'm talking to the staff. I said, it's not about you. It's about the kids; it's about what we're trying to teach them. It's about an idea, the idea of this way of life. The idea of the kingdom of God, which we were trying to squeeze into that one-week intense program. I said, it's not about you; it's not about me. Nine years — that was, in a sense, my mantra. One of the staff called me a few days ago, we were talking, and he brought that up — he brought that up. He said, "You still remember that?" I said, "Oh yeah — yeah, I still remember that. Still believe it."
Some of the staff remember it from year to year, and when we left Camp Heritage our last Sabbath, or last year, they gave us a pewter plate, and on it they engraved something that embodied, I guess, what they remembered of what we tried to teach in the program. And gave this to us, and it sets in our dining room today. I pulled it down to bring it here to read it. Here's what they wrote: "It's not about you." If you keep it simple enough, you can remember something. It's not about you; it's about an idea — it's about an idea. You want to call it the zone — call it the zone; you want to call it God's way of life; God's way works; the kingdom of God; the Millennium; A way of life — that's all, that's what it is. However we brand it, put it out to ourselves, that's what it is. "It's not about you; it's about an idea. It's about what we're building", they went on to say. "Many thanks for your years of service in building a program worth serving, for an idea worth teaching."
I don't know — it's not so much the plate, but the fact that a few got it, and remembered it. One of the staff, I think, had kind of written it into some notes, or maybe part of their Bible on the very first year, and kind of remembered it. Just became what we tried to work off of and our operating phrase. Some of them got it. Do you get it? Do we get it? It's not about you; it's not about me. It's not about any of us; it's not about any one person. It's about an idea. It's about an idea that's bigger than all of us, it's about the kingdom of God. It is about what God has called and put in front of us and told us to go and to preach, and to take to the world. That's what it's about. It's the same idea that Abraham left his home and went for. It is the same idea that every one of us as young people, teenagers, young adults, or like an 88 year old former nun, in Edmonton, Alberta has decided to go for. That's what it's about. And when we keep our eyes focused on that, we can have unity. God can use us and we can go forward together.
I once read a book called, "Band of Brothers". Many of you will be familiar with that book — it was Stephen Ambrose's story about a company of airborne soldiers in World War II who fought from Normandy all the way to Hitler's Eagle's Nest in Germany. It was made into a HBO miniseries. It's quite an interesting tale of this group of Air Borne Infantry Easy Company who were bonded together from basic training and stayed throughout all the months of World War II and fought together and worked together in a rather unique way.
In the ending of the story, Stephen Ambrose tells how one man, one of the Sergeants from that group, wrote years later about the war, and about a question that was put to him by his grandson who came up him, and knew that he had fought in World War II, and had had some interesting adventures. One day his grandson came up to this old soldier and he asked him, "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?" And the Sergeant, the old Sergeant thought for a moment and he replied, "No, I wasn't the hero, but I served with a company of heroes." He served with dedicated soldiers who looked after one another, and cared for one another through thick and thin. And typical of that generation, they did it in a matter-of-fact, self-effacing way — they just got the job done.
Ladies and gentlemen and all of us gathered around the world, we should be each others "company of heroes". And one day we should be able to stand before our God and say that we stood with one another — not against one another. We stood in the great battle as Christian soldiers; we fought our way to the kingdom of God. A part of that band that pressed toward the kingdom of God, and by God's grace, as His army, receive a crown of life. That's all we desire — this is what we do. This is who we are. If I am blessed by God to live long enough to comb gray hair, as the Irish say, and who am I kidding — I just want to have some hair by then! But if I'm blessed to live long enough to comb gray hair and one of my grandchildren come up to me and ask, "Grandpa, what did you do with your life?" I will say, "I served with heroes — I served with heroes."