So others may live

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One of my Christmas gifts this year was a DVD called “The Guardian”, it’s a movie that I saw in the cinema a year or so ago and I’d been keeping my eye out for a copy at the right price since it came out on DVD.  It stars Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher and tells the story of an instructor and a trainee at the elite US Coast Guard rescue swimmer training school.  It has some of the expected clichés that this genre of film always seems to have, but there is a theme that comes through that really caught my attention.  It comes from the motto of the Coast Guard rescue swimmers, “So others may live”.

At Croydon I will be showing a short documentary on the US Coast Guard rescue swimmers, which gives an overview of the incredibly difficult circumstances that these men and women have to deal with in order to save the lives of others.  Rescues can take place in a range of situations, from the icy waters of the Bering Sea to the aftermath of a hurricane like Hurricane Katrina, storm conditions and sinking ships to mountain-top rescues on land.  These people are portrayed as heroes, and quite rightly, you can imagine the risks that they take each and every day so that others may live.

The theme song for The Guardian (which was inspired by the movie) also asks some interesting questions, perhaps of all of us;

Can you lay your life down, so a stranger can live?
Can you take what you need, but take less than you give?
Could you close every day, without the glory and fame?
Could you hold your head high, when no one knows your name?
That's how legends are made; at least that's what they say.

For me, having become involved in the SA State Emergency Service at 14 years old, the desire to save and protect lives has always been strong and I’ve been involved in various scenarios throughout my life as many of you would know.  Some people thrive on the kind of pressure involved in working in the emergency services; others simply can’t understand why someone would put their life on the line for someone else.

When I ‘Googled’ the phrase “So others may live” I came across an article written by a Father Joseph Peek after he watched the movie.  He had actually been through the tough training school portrayed in the movie and had since also been through treatment for Leukaemia.  He said that “Surviving rescue swimmer school and my bone marrow transplant have given me the gift of facing possible death that I “might live like I was dying.”  It is only in understanding death that I discovered ever more deeply the important things for which I should spend my life. A life spent for other people, not merely self or things, had the most meaning.

Therefore, I entered a new course of training and found great meaning and self-worth in the sacrifice of my life in the priesthood, where daily I serve souls drowning in the misery of their lives, even on dry land. With St. Paul I cannot stand by while they drown, I must help them with the life of the Gospel.

Father Joseph’s statement linked together two themes that had been running through my head.  We spend a great deal of time rescuing people physically, we spend millions of dollars on equipment and training, we risk our own lives so that others may live, but to what end?  Surely our efforts here are wasted if in the end, when these people do eventually die, they die without faith?

Surely what we as a church are about is sharing the message of the one who truly came to give his life so that others may live?

That’s what Paul was on about in today’s section of his letter to the Ephesians; he was putting his life on the line so that the Gentiles, that is everyone on earth, who isn’t of Jewish descent,  you and me included, would have made known to them the promise of Jesus Christ.  What’s that promise?  That he came so that we might all live, not just an earthly existence, but life beyond, eternal life.  Now that’s living!

Perhaps the church should take up the motto of the rescue swimmers as our mission statement?  So others may live, it’s a simple message, but incredibly powerful.  Christ gave his life so that others might live; we need to share that very message with all people so that they can benefit from it. 

Paul wrote that he had become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace, sometimes I wonder if we don’t get so caught up in serving each other in the church that we forget about looking on the outside, seeing what is going on in the community and taking the bold step of spreading the message of the Gospel to all nations so that they may live.

God has revealed his mysteries to us through his Word, Paul didn’t feel worthy of the calling to bring the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles, and if he didn’t you and I may not have been here today, and we might not have been the recipients of God’s grace through Baptism, but Paul did follow through with his calling.  He was able to because of the confidence given to him through Christ Jesus our Lord in boldness and faith.  Paul did this so others may live, and because Jesus had made the ultimate sacrifice already, so that we might all live an eternal life.

As you can see we can take the theme “So others may live” down the path of social justice, supplying the physical needs of others so that they may live, or we can support the emergency services or be a part of them, so that others may live, and we can also take that sometimes scary step, of speaking the message of salvation to all people so that they may live eternally. I like all of those possibilities! 

I think it’s a challenge to all of us to follow through with our calling to make disciples of all nations.  Why?  So that others may live!

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