A Higher Call
A HIGHER CALL
Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / November 08, 2015
¹ Show Veterans salute video (from Worship House Media).
¯ Sing Song #1022 / Eternal Father, Strong To Save
(Soldiers please stand during your verse and then be seated after your verse - - - then all soldiers stand together on vs.4.
Vs.1 (sea) – Navy & Marines (Coast Guard) please stand
Mark Glasgow…Mark Lombardi…Shawn Wood
Vs.2 – (land) – Army
Harold Hibbs … Richard Maas … Vern Martin … Ed Phillips … Burdette Stewart … Elwood Stone … Bob Villers … Dave Wood
Vs.3 (air) – Air Force
Introduce our veterans and give a thumbnail sketch of their service
O Presentation of Flag Grommets to each of our veterans. O
In just a few moments, I want to share a riveting story with you that took place during WWII.
It’s a story of valor & chivalry and mercy & human kindness that is sure to warm your hearts.
First, however, I want to make a personal exhortation.
Many of our WWII Veterans are disappearing from our midst.
During WWII, 16 million men and women served in our military.
Less than one million of those veterans now remain - - 855,070.
Most of them are now in their 90’s (Harold Hibbs & Elwood Stone) - - they are dying at the rate of 492 per day.
The Veteran’s Administration estimates than by the year 2036 all of them will have departed this life.
A few months ago I begin to think about my dad and his short stint in the military
My thoughts might have been triggered by Memorial Day events coupled with a book
that I was reading on WWII and the anniversary of my father’s passing.
I am embarrassed to say that I know so little about my father’s military experience.
He was in the Navy for a few years (two, three or four), stationed in Pensacola (where he met my mother).
I honestly do not know any of the real details of his training.
I recollect that he was out to sea for some period of time.
I knew that he served on an air-craft carrier, but I didn’t know which one.
I wanted a medallion of his carrier (cap pin) for my collection that hangs on a tapestry in my office.
So I began to research the matter. I called two of my mother’s sisters (Barb & Shirley - - both seem to be all-knowing).
They could not tell me. I asked my Dad’s sister and her husband (Aunt Peg & Uncle Ed) - - they didn’t know.
Finally, I did research online and discovered that it was the USS Monterey was stationed in Pensacola where he served.
My exhortation is simply this - - get to know your veterans.
Make a record of their service because they may soon be gone. Sit down with them and listen to their story - -
it may not be overly dramatic, but it is a story of service to our country, and it needs to be cherished.
The Bible instructs us to give honor to whom honor is due (Rom.13:7) - - our service men & women are worthy of our salute.
This morning I want to share with you an amazing account from the annals of WWII.
It is detailed in the book, A Higher Call, by Adam Makos.
It happened five days before Christmas in 1943. It is the story that features two pilots: Charlie Brown & Franz Stigler.
A badly damaged American bomber in the 379th Bomb Group was struggling to return to England while flying over worn-torn Germany. At its controls was Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown, a farm boy from WV who came to captain a B-17 Bomber.
Second Lieutenant Franz Stigler, was from Bavaria. He was an airline pilot who sought to avoid fighting in WWII.
Just prior to making their scheduled bombing run with Ye Olde Pub, Charlie and his crew were hit.
Their plane was hit in the nose by canon fire from an 88mm ground weapon.
It ripped a huge hole in the nose of the plane that created hurricane winds inside the craft.
200 mph winds ripped through the plane and the temp dropped to seventy below zero.
One of their four engines had caught fire and had to be shut down.
Another shell ripped a gapping hole in one of their wings.
They dropped their bombs (three tons of cargo).
They then turned as quickly as they could and headed home to England via the North Sea.
They didn’t realize until later than their “fighter escorts” had already headed home because of strong winds.
A second engine began to fail.
They watched helplessly as their squadron began to leave them and one other damaged bomber in their wake.
Their companion bomber was hit and faded into a black cloud as it exploded.
Bandits suddenly appeared - - eight deadly German fighter planes.
After some heroic maneuvers to evade the enemy combatants, a third engine began to struggle.
The German fighter planes began to dismember the Pub.
The pilot ordered a “mayday” to be sent out asking for help from any allies, but the only response they got was static.
Charlie’s crew was decimated and he was hit in the head and bleeding badly and soon his oxygen mask stopped
feeding him air and the plane began to drop - - 22,000, 20,000, 18,000, 16,000, 14,000, 12,000, 10,000.
In a full nosedive, Charlie regained consciousness only to see the ground less than a mile below.
Some how, some way he managed to scrape the treetops and stay aloft but the clock was ticking.
The crew members consider bailing out, but doing so would have brought certain death in the Russian woods.
Charlie told his comrades they could jump if they wanted but he was going back to England.
Suddenly Franz Stigler, a decorated German fighter pilot appeared.
Franz decided to attack from the rear. Franz squinted and aimed his gun sights.
But then he saw that “something was wrong”. He saw that the B-17 was already almost obliterated.
Franz had seen planes come back from battle shot to pieces, but he had never seen anything like this.
A gear clicked in Franz’s soul and he decided
“this will be no victory for me … I will not have this on my conscience for the rest of my life”.
Franz flew side by side with the bomber, looking Charlie eyeball to eyeball, urging him to land.
Charlie shook him off. Franz pointed north and mouthed the word, SWEDEN.
On the grounds below, German soldiers manning the Atlantic wall prepared to shoot down The Pub.
But then they saw Franz in his German fighter plane and held their fire.
Taking one last look at the American pilot Charlie Brown, he did the only thing that came to mind,
Franz saluted him, turned aside and flew away.
For years, Franz could never tell his story – he’d be executed by the Third Reich for allowing an enemy plane to escape.
Years later, after endless “wondering” and much searching, Charlie found Franz, who was now living, surprisingly in Seattle.
Read the letter from Charlie to Franz / A Higher Call, pg 362
Now let me close with a couple of observations from the Scriptures.
John’s gospel records the words of Jesus (Jn.15:13) - -
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”.
The story that I have shared this morning about Franz Stigler has not been a sermon filled with Scripture citations.
It is a sermon about man’s capacity to love not only his friends but his enemies as well.
In this sense, the Franz Stigler story is loaded with Scripture.
There is no explanation for Franz’s action except to understand that he had this text stored away deeply in his heart.
Hitler and his ruthless generals had made it perfectly clear that no enemy combatant was to escape.
Allowing such would bring about one’s own execution and swiftly so - - there was no leniency on this matter whatsover.
Many of the German pilots adhered to an unwritten code of honor and chivalry.
Sometimes it showed itself in refusing to shoot in mid aid those who parachuted from a bombed-out plane.
On this matter the fighter pilots “covered” for one another - - refusing to report such.
But Franz’s action on that day in late December in 1943 went well beyond an act of chivalry.
It was a full-throttled act of mercy and loving human kindness towards an enemy combatant.
In this instance Franz felt a higher calling that not only countermanded Hitler’s orders but superseded them as well.
The apostle Paul (perhaps while imprisoned himself) once urged his readers,
Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ / 2Tim.2:3
Being a good soldier often entails considerable hardship.
Our nation has been blessed with many sons (and daughters) of liberty - - freedom fighters.
Not war-mongers - - but those willing to sacrifice for a cause that is good & just and noble & necessary.
Sometimes soldiers are placed in exceptionally awkward positions.
Perhaps the ultimate illustration of this is found in Mt.27:54, where the Roman Centurion who oversaw the execution of Jesus, was able to step back and peer through the fog of another kind of “war” to declare, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”.
Franz Stigler’s life also represents the epitome of this kind of dreadful predicament.
It was one thing to be a German pilot fighter and fire against an enemy that was firing back.
But it was another thing altogether to blow an enemy out of the sky who had already been rendered helpless.
Franz had been brought up in a German home where faith was important.
He himself had once undertaken seminary training.
Although he was at first a reluctant warrior - - he excelled, becoming one of Germany’s greatest Aces.
He was compelled to serve in the German army, but he never lost sight of that HIGHER CALLING.
That’s the only explanation for how such a man of valor became a dispenser of mercy and human kindness.
No matter who might enlist us, as believers of Christ, we have this same higher calling.
In Philp.3:14, Paul coins this rich phrase: THE UPWARD CALL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS.
I want to end this Veterans Salute by reading one small closing section from the heart-touching book.
This special gathering (a reunion no one could have ever imagined) took place in Massachusetts on Sept.13, 1990.
Read from A Higher Call / pgs 366-368 |
Read in closing a “Veterans Day Prayer”:
VETERANS DAY PRAYER
By Alden Solovy
God of compassion
God of dignity and strength,
Watch over our veterans of the United States
In recognition of their loyal service to our nation.
Heal their wounds,
Comfort their hearts,
Grant them peace.
God of justice and truth
Rock of our lives.
Bless our veterans,
These men and women of courage and valor,
With a deep and abiding understanding
Of our proud gratitude.
Protect them and their families from loneliness and want.
Grant them lives of joy and bounty.
May their dedication and honor
Be remembered as a blessing,
From generation to generation.
A MEMENTO OF OUR GRATITUDE
On this Sunday before Veterans Day 2015 our Cortland Church Family will be presenting
to each of military veterans a grommet that came from the ashes of numerous U.S. flags
that were properly and respectfully retired by our Boys Scout at our recent Fall Festival.