"Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life."
~ Revelation 2:10
I probably heard that verse 1000 times this past year. You see, whenever it was my turn to take my youngest son to preschool, we'd do memory work on the way. It started when the four-year old wanted to say the books of the Bible like his older brother and sisters, so we'd practice them on the way in to school. It's awesome to hear a 4 year old try to say "Ecclesiastes."
Anyway, once he had the books of the Bible, we memorized the Christmas story - Luke 2. Then he was doing so well, I had him learn the passages that I was teaching to my middle school Confirmation students at church.
And for some reason, he really clung to Revelation 2:10. In fact, he asked me if he could do his "favorite" one in between every other verse I asked him for. "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." It's something special to hear your 5 year old repeat that, realizing that that is my ultimate goal as a father - to see my son in heaven. And along the way - my prayer is for his faithfulness.
And of course, this week, we can't hear that word "Faithfulness" without thinking of the faithfulness of so many who wore that motto "Semper Fi" on their hearts and sometimes even on their skin. We can't help but think about all those who have fought to earn and defend our freedom, sacrificing so much, losing so much so that we might win.
The stories of those sacrifices are legendary, their bravery historic. It was Nathan Hale who said, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country" as he was hanged by the British for all he did for our Independence. Patrick Henry demanded, "Give me liberty or give me death." And he meant it.
And no less impressive is the enduring image I have in my mind of our Veteran's Day ceremony at church. Each year, we ask all the Veterans to come forward so we can thank God for them and pray for them. To see the chance filled with men and women who gave so much for me is truly something my words here can't do justice.
Just as powerful are the images of all those soldiers fighting right now to defend that freedom, the ones I can't see because they are 7,500 miles away. I'm sure you even know some. Please take some time this week to thank them. Write them a letter. Send them a card. Pray for them. It's an awesome thing to see faithfulness in action.
It is an awesome thing to see faithfulness in action. So, on this Fourth of July weekend, let's take a minute to see ultimate faithfulness, the faithfulness of the one about whom Paul wrote:
"If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself." You see God made a promise.
Our military heroes promised to do all they can to protect and defend us. Our God promised more. He promised to crush Satan's head. He promised to remove our guilt and win for us perfection.
And he did it. He had no regrets, because as he died, he answered his own prayer: "Father, forgive them." As he died, he not only demanded our liberty, he won it. And then he rose, to keep his promise: "Because I live, you also will live."
He won for us the crown of life, so he can say to us in his word, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." How awesome is it that that is my son's favorite Bible passage.
Is that something you can pass on to your kids? A little more than a week from today, they'll have a chance to learn so much about that passage. It's the theme passage for our Summer Soccer Camp, July 16-20, 9 a.m. to noon. The whole camp will run under the theme: "Go for the Gold!" keying off of the Olympics this summer, and we'll look at the faithfulness required of those Olympic athletes as they strive for their goal. Then, we'll see how Jesus demonstrates that faithfulness perfectly and inspires us to be faithful when we keep our goal in mind. You can register your child for Soccer Camp at soccer.abidinggrace.com or call the church office for more information.
I hope to see you there. In the meantime, be faithful.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.