Saturday, August 7, 2010
Entrusted with Much
The USS Astoria (C-34) was the first U.S. cruiser to engage the Japanese during the Battle of Savo Island, a night action fought 8-9 August 1942. She scored two hits on the Imperial flagship Chokai, but the Astoria was badly damaged and sank shortly after noon, 9 August.
About 0200 hours (2 AM) a young mid-westerner, Signalman 3rd Class Elgin Staples, was swept overboard by the blast when the Astoria's number one eight-inch gun turret exploded. Wounded in both legs by shrapnel and in semi-shock, he was kept afloat by a narrow life belt that he managed to activate with a simple trigger mechanism.
At around 0600 hours (6 AM), Staples was rescued by a passing destroyer and returned to the Astoria, whose captain was attempting to save the cruiser by beaching her. The effort failed, and Staples, still wearing the same life belt, found himself back in the water. He was picked up again, this time by the USS President Jackson (AP-37), he was one of 500 survivors of the battle who were evacuated to Noumea.
On board the transport, Staples, for the first time, closely examined the life belt that had served him so well. It had been manufactured by Firestone Tire and Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio; and bore a registration number.
Given home leave Staples told his story and asked his mother, who worked for Firestone, about the purpose of the number on the belt. She replied that the company insisted on personal responsibility for the war effort, and that the number was unique and assigned to only one inspector.
Staples remembered everything about the lifebelt, and quoted the number. It was his mother's personal code and affixed to every item she was responsible for approving.
-- Commander Eric J. Berryman via Daily Encounter
This story dramatically underscores the importance of doing our best with whatever task has been entrusted to us. And that is what this week's reading is all about.
The whole of Luke 12-32-48 is summarized in the last two lines. "Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." I actually prefer the translation, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."
The point is that each of his has been given different gifts and different understanding. And based on that you will be judged. It can sound harsh but it makes sense. Not too long ago, our parents drove us around and seat belts were optional. There were no booster seats and infants sometimes slept on their mother's lap in the front seat. No big deal because we didn't know any better but now we do. Now we expect people to buckle up, to put children in baby seats and booster seats because it's safer. Our understanding of the dangers from accidents cause us to behave differently. And if we don't - we are judged harsher for it than our parents would have been judged in their day.
In the same way, God is not going to judge as harshly those people who have not heard about him or his teachings. An Indian living in the Amazon Rain Forest who has never heard of Christ will not be judged the same as someone who grew up in 21st Century America who heard about Christ but choose to reject him. That's fair because the person that knew of but rejected Christ anyway should be held to a higher standard.
I sometimes hear from Christians who complain because they feel that being held to a higher standard is unfair. Usually it is because they want to do something that they know isn't right and then the complaint begins, "It isn't fair that people expect us to behave better just because we are Christians!"
If we are going to call ourselves Christian and commit ourselves to follow Jesus example - shouldn't people judge us by our actions? Isn't that really the only way that people will know what it is to be Christian?
As inconvenient as it can be sometimes, those of us who have chosen to follow Christ should be held to a higher standard because we have been entrusted to witness to others of the truth of God's transformational love. And actions speak much louder than words ever can.
But I haven't been entrusted with anything. I am just living my life. Honestly it is a challenge just doing that. My life is hard. I am afraid. I have suffered more than people realize. They see my mask that I wear but it's not the real me. I don't want them to see the real me - the suffering me.
Many of us feel that way. But even in our suffering we have been entrusted.
What? God has entrusted me with suffering?
Yes - here is another story I want you to consider.
In 1873, a Belgian priest named Joseph Damien De Veuster was sent to minister to lepers on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai, but the people there shunned him. No one responded to his ministry. After twelve years, Father Damien decided to leave. As he made his way to the docks to board a ship, he wrung his hands in despair. As he did so, he noticed some mysterious white spots and felt some numbness. He realized he had contracted leprosy. When he returned to the leper colony, word of his disease quickly spread. Hundreds gathered outside his hut, understanding his pain. But the biggest surprise was the following Sunday. As Father Damien arrived at the chapel, he found hundreds of worshipers there. By the time the service began, there were many more with standing room only; and many gathered outside the chapel. His ministry became enormously successful. The reason? He was one of them. He understood and empathized with them.
Our suffering helps us to understand and empathize with others that suffer. Just as you can never understand love if you have never been shown love, you cannot truly understand those that suffer if you have never suffered. The thing is that we have all suffered.
Differently but suffered nevertheless.
Before our daughter Rebecca died, we thought we understood those that experienced loss but we really didn't. It was only after our own terrible journey of grief that we really understood the irrational, trauma of grief. It was one thing to know the cycle of grief - it was something totally different to live it. To intellectually understand what was happening and still feel no comfort from this knowledge. To be feel like you are flying apart and barely hang on. To sincerely pray for death.
I get it.
And it is because of my suffering that I have been able to reach out and minister to those that have suffered and suffer from this loss. The loss of a baby, the loss of a parent, the loss of love.
We are all entrusted with much, some more than others. The thing is that God wants you to do something with this trust. Whether it is as a parent, at work, or with your suffering. He expects us to act because he has entrusted "this" to us.
And God knows we can do good with whatever "it" is. If we trust him - like he trusts us.
Christ was found guilty for crimes that he did not commit, all his friends left him, and he died an agonizing death on the cross for us. Because he knew we were worth saving despite all of our shortcomings and our sin. Because he knew he could trust us because he loves us.
Now it is up to us. To do something with what we have been entrusted because we have been entrusted with much.