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Divisions and greatness

From the Pastor's Desk

Recently, I had the honor of leading a memorial service for a gentleman who was an inspiring hero. He had been a firefighter for 30 years and often walked into danger. There's a particular biblical quote that is usually read at the farewell service for firefighters: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13 NSRSV)

This man had written a brief autobiography and it was precious to hold the pages of his handwritten words. He was one year older than my father and I knew they were cut from the same cloth. They had so much in common. Both were born during the Great Depression. Both had large families with many siblings. Both were dirt poor and knew the hardships of real poverty. When the United States entered World War II, both of them as boys witnessed their sisters go to work for the war effort and their brothers enlist to fight. Both of them experienced the pain of a brother being killed, giving their lives for the rest of us.

Both of these men knew first hand what John F. Kennedy later requested, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." Their families had given the ultimate sacrifice.

During their childhood years, both of these boys grew up understanding sacrifice and what it meant to join together for the good of all. They grew up with rationed meat, sugar, butter and coffee. Car production was disrupted and they experienced difficulty to get engines repaired. Gasoline, fuel oil, coal, certain fabrics and even shoes were rationed. Imagine that, having our shoe choices limited. Imagine every household sacrificing and pulling together for the common good.

This was a challenging era and there's reasons that these men and their siblings have been thought of as belonging to "The Greatest Generation" and the great "Silent Generation." They overcame a world war, put a stop to the holocaust and endured extreme economic tragedy.

Knowing the stories of these two men, I worry that I have not done enough to deserve all that their sacrifices have given me.

I wonder what these two men would say about our current national crisis, and this generation's response to a viral pandemic and the economic hardships it has rendered.

Unfortunately, both men are dead. My dad passed several years ago, and the firefighter is thought to have succumbed to COVID-19.

The firefighter and my father would have likely responded differently. The man I memorialized was an educated man, graduating from high school. My father could not afford to stay in school and enlisted Airborne, risking jumping out of planes, for an extra $50 per month. He had an eighth grade formal education and not a politically correct bone in his body. He spoke his truths plainly. He'd find it inexcusable that people can't be inconvenienced to wear a face mask to protect generations that gave others so much. He'd call it like he sees it - I can hear the cuss words now - condemning "wussy" excuses about "liberties" and "machismo." He'd say real men sacrifice for others, and think folks pretty lazy and undeserving not to do that. He grew up with Rosie the Riveter's "We Can Do It" and he'd condemn those saying "We Won't Do It." And the sad thing is that he would know, as our enemies do, that if WWII were today, we'd have lost. Where is the "greater love" that unites and makes us stronger?

About Tehachapi Community Church, UCC:

No matter who you are, no matter where you are on life's journey, you're welcome here!

The Tehachapi Community Church, UCC is an open and welcoming community of faith that believes that each person, created in the image of God, holds a piece of the truth. Therefore we respect each person's unique spiritual journey. We invite you to experience the difference that religious freedom in a caring community can make in that journey. All are welcome.

We are located at 100 East E St., in Tehachapi. During the current pandemic things are a bit different. In July and August Worship will be outdoors, starting at 10:30 a.m. For the first three Sundays of the month we will meet at Philip Marx Central Park, and on the fourth Sunday, in Bear Valley Springs at Four Island lake (pass required if you are not a resident of Bear Valley Springs). Please bring a chair and wear your mask. Please call us at (661) 822-4443 with any questions. Feel free to visit us online http://www.tcccucc.org.