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We Could Be (or at least think about) Heroes

All Saints Day is not really a holiday Baptists embrace, but perhaps we should.

No, I don’t mean veneration of the seemingly countless number of Patron Saints who litter some calendars but I mean the point of it all, which is to remember the heroes and seek to emulate their lives, or at least the admirable characteristics of their lives. All of us have clay feet, and no hero or heroine is perfect; and so Churchill did indeed have racist and elitist tendencies yes, but he probably saved the entire world from tyranny; and so to Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man with certain weaknesses that speak to a lack of discipline yet he spoke truth to power and showed us how to combat systemic oppression, and so too Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a woman who leaned far too much to the left for my taste but she was a decent human being who stood up for the rights of those without a voice.

Heroes and heroines are important (and note, I often use the generic ‘heroes’ for both sexes) and All Saints Day is a kind of moment when we can think about how are our heroes are.

I wrote a blog several years ago about some of my professional heroes (CLICK HERE TO READ). Today, I am thinking about another kind of hero; those people who are so desperately needed in our world today who go to work everyday and rarely get told thank you, or who often get the opposite — they see the worst side of humanity. Here is my list, and it is far from exhaustive. It is also imperfect in that within each group of heroes there are baddies — those who are not worthy of their calling and who take advantage of their position. I am obviously not talking about these people, but rather the other ninety-five percent.

Those Who Serve

This is a big category, and I use it loosely to describe those who wear or have worn uniforms and put themselves in harms way for the benefit of our society. This includes the armed forces, law enforcement, firefighters, and a whole host of other people who take huge gambles and risks every day so I can live in safety and freedom. I am a civilian and enjoy the civilian life, and cherish that our nation is led by a civilian government. Nevertheless, I recognize that it is those who serve who guarantee this very way fo life. These people are heroes.

Those Who Heal

Nurses, EMT’s, Doctors, P.A.’s, Pharmacists, counselors — I’m looking at you. We could learn a lot about our role in society if we would listen to those who see us when we are sick, hurting, mean, and ugly and still decided to help us anyway. A nurse saved my daughters life once.

A doctor saved my wife’s life. EMT’s cared for my father so often and so kindly as he neared death. Pharmacists do the every day magic of keeping us supplied with the medicines that keep us going. A counselor once helped me make sense of the world and my place in it. These people are heroes.

Those Who Teach Children

If you are reading this, someone taught you to read it. The basic building blocks of your life such as reading, writing, thinking, analyzing, and mathematics are present in you because someone taught you to do it. That was probably a teacher. I can think of so many in lifetime — too many to name here, that impacted my life for the better. These people are heroes.

Those Who Feed Us

Two categories go into this. One are farmers. So much of the farming our land now is agribusiness, which is unfortunate, but the small farmer is what I have in mind here. The family who grows the corn and gets it to market, the ranch that raises quality beef, the woman who sells her onions and tomatoes at the vacant lot on Saturday mornings are all the kinds of farmers I mean. The second category are truck drivers. These are the people who make sure everything we need gets to the giant mega-store. Without farmers and truck driver most of us would starve before winter was over. These people are heroes.

Those Who Remind

One more group of heroes. Most people know what they should do and how they should behave, but we forget. We forget about it because we get busy, we get comfortable, or we get confused. Those who remind us of our better angels and of the things which matter are vital. They remind us to be kind and compassionate, to defend the weak, to stand for the vulnerable, to protect life, to care about the immigrant, to choose peace over violence, that light conquers darkness. We all know these things, but we need people to remind us of it. Those people who do often put themselves in jeopardy or risk in the reminding, and sometimes they are even killed for their courage. That is why these people are heroes.

This is my short list of heroes, the people I am thinking of on All Saints Day, and the people who I am thankful for.

ALL HEROES DAY AKA ALL SAINTS DAY

This is the last re-posting I’ll make during the week of “Hallows Eve.”  Next week I will return with original content; assuming I can come up with something.  A bit of sadness marks this particular re-posting as the only living member of the “heroes on the wall club” died a couple of months ago

C. S. Lewis As He Hangs on My Wall

I’ve spent some time this morning reflecting on the nature of All Saints Day and what it might mean for me; a Protestant who rejects using the word saint for anything other than a description of any Christ-follower; which is how the New Testament uses it.  The problem is I completely understand the human impulse to want to emulate other human beings.  I just think that perhaps the best word is not saint but maybe hero.  So on this All Heroes Day I am thinking about those who have served as heroes for me.  Their pictures hang in my study, just over the door.  They hang high so they can watch me do my work.   There are four of them.

C. S. Lewis.  Lewis was not only a great writer but a great thinker.  He reminds me of two things.  One, he teaches me to be creative in my writing and in my preaching.  The imagination is a powerful tool in doing the work of ministry.  Second, his brilliant mind encourages me to think through things logically and critically; particularly issues of how the Christian faith interacts with the world around me.

Ernest Hemingway.  Hemingway could never be characterized as Christian, but he still teaches me something that relates to my work.  Hemingway wrote what he knew and he wrote it precisely and concisely.  His stories, though fictional, are always anchored to his real world experiences.  This gives him credibility in his subject matter that comes through on the page.  I need to keep that in mind if I am to keep credibility in my daily life and my ministry.  I must stick to what I know and not pretend to be an expert on things I don’t know about.  When I write, I should center my stories in a setting about which I am conversant.

C. H. Spurgeon.  Spurgeon is still the Prince of Preachers even though he’s been dead a very long time.  Like Lewis, Spurgeon teaches me multiple lessons about my ministry.  One, he encourages me that being a Baptist is not a bad thing.  Second, he affirms that controversy is not bad either.  Most of Spurgeon’s ministry was bathed in one controversy or another and whenever there was a lull, he invented it!  Spurgeon was a very complicated man whom the Lord used to do wonderful things.  May I be as blessed.

Calvin Miller.  I’d never heard of this great leader until I attended Southwestern Seminary.  It was hearing him preach in chapel one day that I realized I could be me—who I was—and not a cookie cutter product of a bland seminary.  But as I learned from him at Southwestern and later at Beeson he opened my eyes to a fundamental truth that informs my sermonizing:  The sermon has work to do, and as the preacher my job is to accomplish the work which the text demands.  A non-preacher might not understand that, but it is easy to get sidetracked in the preaching task and lose sight of the fundamental work of the text, which must be accomplished in the sermon.

Photos of these four people hang in my study and watch me.  I will probably add Bonhoeffer sometime this year, and who knows the great cloud of witnesses may grow over the years.  These heroes keep me focused; and provide a path for me to travel.

O Almighty God, who has knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord:  Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (BCP–Collect for All Saints Day)

AUTUMN–A WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR

NOTE:  As we near Halloween, I will be reposting older blogs on this theme.  This post was originally titled “Autumn’s Miscellany.”  If you want more Halloween themed writing, you can always read my new story, Jolly Rogers:  A Story About Boyhood which is set on a magical Halloween night.  If not, enjoy the post below from last year.  Also note, this year’s Autumnfest was a smashing  success. 

 

Fall has announced itself with all the tell-tale signs of autumnal change.  Leaves are falling gently to the ground.  The temperature has dipped low enough to require a jacket or coat when leaving to go out and about.  The rain has picked up in intensity and frequency.  The World Series is on the television.  Supermarkets are selling large amounts of chocolate candy.  The first round of conferences at school.

Three items are on my mind this Friday evening, even if they are only loosely related by being specifically fall topics.

1.  Apparently corn is a tricky substance–(link and more link)?  A man and a woman were so befuddled by a corn maze that they not only could not find their way out, but they called 911.  That’s right, they called 911 to rescue them out from a corn maze.  Really?  Part of the reason they called 911 was because they had a small baby.  I worry about the safety of that child.  I mean, I grew up in cornfields and often harvested it by the bushel or even in heavy years truckload.  Corn is not dangerous.  You can walk right through it.  It is not an M. Night Shyamalan movie with aliens in the field nor is it a creepy movie about children who live in the corn.  Its corn.  I wonder if this was not some kind of prank, because it is hard to imagine this.Would you be my neighbor?

2.  Halloween, though eschewed by many Christ-followers (for completely understandable reasons) is a wonderful time to meet your neighbors and interact with the world.  Last year I began a practice, which I will do again this year, of serving up hot cocoa for my trick-or-treaters as well as yummy candy.  I’ve found sometimes parents like the hot cocoa and it allows for a moment of social interaction.  I also like to emphasize, in our worship, Reformation Day (although I am far from reformed, but admire the boldness of the Reformers) and appreciate the liturgical aspects of All Saints Day.  It is a neat time of year with rich and meaningful religious themes.

3.  Many churches participate in some kind of Fall Festival or Halloween-ie-esque party.  Ours is called Autumnfest and is this Sunday.  I’ve been trying to think up of different names we could use, though.  Maybe Pumpkinalooza.  Cake-Walkathon.  Candymania.  Sugar High and the By and By.  XtremeChurch.  Corny.  Corn Pone 2011.

It is hard to find one particular name that covers all we do—hayride, food, cake walk, sack races, preschool games, etc…  It is always great fun, a sort of heritage celebration of how we used to be; back when the harvest was important to most every family and America was an agricultural agrarian society.  Our Autumnfest always has a bit of everything.

Except a corn maze.

ALL SAINTS–A DAY FOR HEROES

I’ve spent some time this morning reflecting on the nature of All Saints Day and what it might mean for me; a Protestant who rejects using the word saint for anything other than a description of any Christ-follower; which is how the New Testament uses it.  The problem is I completely understand the human impulse to want to emulate other human beings.  I just think that perhaps the best word is not saint but maybe hero.  So on this All Heroes Day I am thinking about those who have served as heroes for me.  Their pictures hang in my study, just over the door.  They hang high so they can watch me do my work.   There are four of them.

C. S. Lewis.  Lewis was not only a great writer but a great thinker.  He reminds me of two things.  One, he teaches me to be creative in my writing and in my preaching.  The imagination is a powerful tool in doing the work of ministry.  Second, his brilliant mind encourages me to think through things logically and critically; particularly issues of how the Christian faith interacts with the world around me.

Ernest Hemingway.  Hemingway could never be characterized as Christian, but he still teaches me something that relates to my work.  Hemingway wrote what he knew and he wrote it precisely and concisely.  His stories, though fictional, are always anchored to his real world experiences.  This gives him credibility in his subject matter that comes through on the page.  I need to keep that in mind if I am to keep credibility in my daily life and my ministry.  I must stick to what I know and not pretend to be an expert on things I don’t know about.  When I write, I should center my stories in a setting about which I am conversant.

C. H. Spurgeon.  Spurgeon is still the Prince of Preachers even though he’s been dead a very long time.  Like Lewis, Spurgeon teaches me multiple lessons about my ministry.  One, he encourages me that being a Baptist is not a bad thing.  Second, he affirms that controversy is not bad either.  Most of Spurgeon’s ministry was bathed in one controversy or another and whenever there was a lull, he invented it!  Spurgeon was a very complicated man whom the Lord used to do wonderful things.  May I be as blessed.

Calvin Miller.  I’d never heard of this great preacher and writer until I attended Southwestern Seminary.  It was hearing him preach in chapel one day that I realized I could be me—who I was—and not a cookie cutter product of a bland seminary.  But as I learned from him at Southwestern and later at Beeson he opened my eyes to a fundamental truth that informs my sermonizing:  The sermon has work to do, and as the preacher my job is to accomplish the work which the text demands.  A non-preacher might not understand that, but it is easy to get sidetracked in the preaching task and lose sight of the fundamental work of the text, which must be accomplished in the sermon.

Photos of these four people hang in my study and watch me.  I will probably add Bonhoeffer sometime this year, and who knows the great cloud of witnesses may grow over the years.  These heroes keep me focused; and provide a path for me to travel.

O Almighty God, who has knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord:  Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.  (BCP–Collect for All Saints Day)