And David said, What have I now done? Is there not a cause? 1-Samuel 17.29
The last combat veteran on record from World War One died. Cpl. Howard V. Ramsey died in his sleep on February 22 at an assisted living center in Portland, Oregon (see the article by Spc. April L. Dustin at military.com). A 21-gun salute and a bugler playing taps signaled not only the end of a grand life, but, the conclusion of “the Great War.” While there are still seven veterans from WWI listed as alive, Mr. Ramsey was the last one who served in combat. When he was born there were 45 stars on the flag, and President McKinley was about to declare war on Spain. In Mr. Ramsey’s life, spanning three centuries, he lived under 19 presidents. But the amazing thing about this man was not any of those things. The amazing thing was the man himself. He was interviewed before he died and his story was familiar to those who know anything about those who serve in the military. He was too young to be drafted, so he tried to enlist. Rebuffed and having to wait, he returned. Then he was told that he was too skinny. So he gorged himself on bananas and water in order to meet weight standards. He finally made it. He joined General John “BlackJack” Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force. He was a driver. He often drove under the fire of enemies. After the war, he had to pick up the remains of his fallen friends who had been hastily buried in the trenches. He was on the detail to bury these heros in the Muese-Argonne American Cemetery, the largest American burial ground in Europe. In an interview, over 90 years after it happened, he expressed great regret on not keeping a diary that he found on one dead GI. He wanted to send it back to the boy’s mother back in the States. But the “regs” were that nothing was to be taken from the bodies. He hopes that someone along the way picked that diary up and sent it back. He wishes he would have broken that rule and sent it back himself. Funny what old warriors think about. But one thing is for sure. When we buried Cpl. Ramsey this past week, we Americans buried a hero.
What made a young man lie about his age to get into a war where men, if you can call a 17 year old a “man,” were dying in trenches in a far away place? What made this young man stuff himself with bananas and water to pass a physical in order to go and be shot at by Germans? Why would he leave his parents and the comforts of home, to jeopardize his future, for the rigors of military life? For the stench of dead bodies on Flanders Field? Why? Because there was a cause.
I often laugh in disgust when I think of advertising companies contracted by the Army trying to recruit young men into their ranks by promising perks. That is not why Cpl. Ramsey risked his life and that is not why young men today will leave it all to fight in Afghanistan. What causes young men to take a stand is patriotism. “For God and country” is still why men fight.
David cried to his brother who wanted him to go home, “Is there not a cause?” David was personally offended by the Philistines who taunted the people of God and defied the holiness of the God of Abraham. He was willing to sacrifice all to stand up to this giant.
My prayer today is that we will welcome people into the ranks of our church with a challenge: join us here, not just so you can be a comfortable Christian, but so you can lock arm in arm with us to take a stand for Jesus Christ in this generation. This is our time. There are giants in the land who are defying the God of Abraham, who are denying the beauty of our Savior Jesus Christ. And our work is not to take up arms, but to take up the weapons of this spiritual war: the Word of God and Prayer. Worship, in this context, becomes a weekly renewal in the sacred vows we have taken to follow Him. Worship becomes the place where Christ Jesus is magnified in our hearts. Worship is the place of being strengthened in the Word to go our and live for Jesus Christ and share HIm with others. There are no “comfortable seats” in this place. We are in a battle and our Captain is Jesus Himself.
Let us call others to see the stakes:
The eternal destiny of our souls
The souls of our loved ones
The soul of our nation
The future of our country
The future of our world
The honor of Jesus our King
The blessings or curses that come from receiving or denying the King of Kings and Lord or Lords.
Let us sound the alarm of a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain.
Let us lift up the banner of:
Jesus our savior
Jesus our righteousness
Jesus our hope
Jesus our friend
Jesus our Mediator
Jesus our Advocate
Jesus our all in all
Jesus our ever present helper in times of need
Jesus, who takes our sins, bears our shame, lives a life of beauty before the Father on our behalf, and Jesus who hears and perfects our every prayer!
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
And let us cry:
”Is there not a cause?”
I find the easy-believism, cultural Christianity, seeker-friendly, cushy religion that is so often advertised to the world (by well meaning Christians, I am sure) an affront to the cause of Christ,, a lack of faith in the ordinary means of grace, and a lack of faith in the God of the Bible. And I find advertisements for a “How to” religion that promises “health and wealth” to be personally repugnant and unworthy of my all. And I think most people feel the same.
The thing that stirred the heart of a young man from Portland, Oregon, sailing from America to France in 1918, is the thing that stirs hearts of young men in 2007 to leave good jobs and loving homes to fly to Bagdad in 2007: to stand up for the rights and freedoms of a great nation, to liberate other humans from terrorists and mad men, to heed the call of their Commander and Chief, and to stand up for their God and their Country. And the thing that stirs the hearts of Christians, young and old, to live for Jesus, to leave all to follow Him anywhere, to stand up and confess His name though all of the world oppose us and all of mankind threaten us, is the honor and glory of the name of Jesus our King, the challenge of His Great Commission, and the beauty of the Gospel of grace that breaks the cycle of pain in our families and establishes a new covenant that goes from generation to generation.
”Is there not a cause?” Yes! And let that get you out of bed this Sunday! Come hungry! Come thirsty! Come desiring to stand up, stand up for Jesus! Come ready to be strengthen by the singing of hymns to Jesus, to be deepened in your commitment through the confessions of faith, to be turned again to Christ in the preaching of the Gospel, and to be sent out into the world to live for Him!
This is our time! “Is there not a cause?”
Yes, my sons! Yes, my daughters! Yes, my fathers and my mothers! Yes, there is a cause! And giants shall fall, enemies shall become friends, and Christ shall be victorious until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.