Real Heroes

May 26, 2019

I’m sure you recognize the iconic photograph on our bulletin cover, taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945, which depicts United States Marines raising a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, during the Battle of Iwo Jima, in World War II.  The photograph was first published in Sunday newspapers on February 25, 1945. It was extremely popular and was reprinted in thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, and came to be regarded in the United States as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war.  But did you know that three Marines in the photograph, Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block, and Private First Class Franklin Sousley, were killed in action over the next few days?

On Memorial Day we rightly honor those brave men and women who have given their lives for America, its people, and all we stand for. 

But in addition to our military, I would also like to salute heroes such as the teenager who recently gave his life for his fellow classmates on May 7th – Kendrick Castillo.  Although his father had once told him that should he ever be in the situation where a shooter entered his school, he didn’t have to be a hero, Kendrick insisted to him that he would act, by saying “You raised me to be a good person.  That’s what I’m doing.”*  And this is indeed what he did.  When a gunman burst through the door at STEM School Highlands Ranch, barking at students to stay in place and not move, this brave 18-year-old boy rushed the shooter, which gave his fellow students a chance to bolt for safety or take cover under desks.  He took the gunfire that would have harmed or killed other students upon himself, sacrificing his life to save theirs.  One of his fellow classmates, Kevin Cole, said of him, “Kendrick was one of the nicest people at that school by far.  He always helped others whether he knew them or not.  He didn’t have a secret motive…  It didn’t matter if he knew them personally, if they were new students he was always that person who was there to help.”**

That is the spirit that our Lord calls us to have, the spirit of love.  The same love that Jesus has for us.  The same love that led Jesus to leave the immeasurable beauty, joy, and peace of heaven to be born as a human in this world filled with people who would hate him, curse him, mock him, and ultimately nail him to a cross.  And yet he sacrificed his life for those very same people.  He took their sins upon himself, suffering spiritual anguish even greater than his physical pain.  And he did it to spare them from an eternity separated from all that is good, all that brings joy and peace - an eternity filled with darkness, hate, bitterness, sorrow, and pain.  He did it to open up the way to heaven for them and for us, to offer us forgiveness, to bring us lasting peace and joy, to fill our hearts with love and our spirits with the power to overcome fear, resist temptation, and stand against evil.  Yes, he did this for me, he did it for you, he did it for those we think of as noble and good, and he did it for those we might think of as completely unworthy.  Because remember, none of us is worthy.  Each and every one of us is a sinner deserving of death and eternal separation from a holy God.   But when we put our faith in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he cleanses our heart, sets our spirits free from the darkness, and prepares a place in heaven for us to live with him forever when we leave this corrupt world.

We might not ever be called upon to give our life for another by going into the military, or by taking a bullet to save our classmates.  We might never have to choose between denying our faith or being executed for it, as are thousands of Christians every year.  But if the Holy Spirit truly lives within us, we should be willing if called upon to do so.  And if we have truly given our hearts to Jesus, we should not only be willing to sacrifice our life for him, but be willing to live our lives for him as well.  To live our lives by loving others, including those we deem unlovable.  To live our lives seeking and saving the lost, because our hearts are broken over every person who dies without Jesus, knowing how it breaks Jesus’ heart.

So who is a real hero?  A real hero is someone who puts the needs of others first, whether that means sacrificing your life to save the life of others, or sacrificing your lunch by giving it to classmate who doesn’t have one.  A real hero is the parent who sacrifices their dreams for the future of their child.  A real hero is the child who sacrifices their dreams to take care of an elderly parent.  A real hero is the one with the courage to stand up for what is right when everyone else is applauding what is evil.  A real hero doesn’t give up even when the odds seem insurmountable - they just pray harder.  Real heroes put their faith in God, know their strength comes from God, and give God the praise instead of seeking it for themselves.  We all know real heroes like this.  I pray you are one of them.  Amen.

*quote from USA Today.  **quote from NBC News


"Confidence"  (Sanctus Real)

"Overcomer"  (Mandisa)