I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf "of those" who will believe in me through their word; John 17:20.
A few years ago we were studying the week leading up to the crucifixion and part of my reading for that lesson was John 17. Richard Brunton told me that Steve Brown, a pastor, motivational speaker and founder of the Key Life Network, calls this passage the real Lord's Prayer. It is a beautifully written passage, with the words of Jesus as he prays to his Father, mind you, almost immediately before he is taken by the Jews. There is so much in this chapter that can be studied, discussed and have sermons written about from now until the end of time. However, after I finished reading John 17, caught my breath and my heart quit racing, verse 20 jumped out at me. And ever since that day, I had a whole new outlook on the bible. On if the words from 2,000 years ago are relevant to today's world and even more so, relevant to me. You see, I believe all of us, at one time or another, have a hard time seeing how God's word, written 2,000 years ago applies to our lives. Well for me, after reading John 17:20, I never really felt like that again.
Jesus was offering this prayer to his Father on behalf of the apostles, his friends. In the hours prior to being subjected to a suffering he knew would be extremely painful and torturous, Jesus took the time to pray for his friends. And every time I read that passage, it just warms my heart. You can feel the love he has for them and the genuine concern he has for them when they have to fend for themselves in the world. I can see why Mr. Brown calls this the real Lord's prayer. And in the midst of praying for his friends, Jesus prays verse 20. And in that verse, believe it or not, Jesus prayed for you, for me and for all of us.
How did you first come to Jesus or to God's word? Maybe it was via a Christian upbringing. Maybe through a church you attended or attend right now. Maybe through your parents, or another family member or close friend. Maybe a Sunday School teacher or pastor. However it happened, I would say for most of us, it was through the works of another person of faith. And how do you think it happened for them? Probably through one of those same channels. So when Jesus prayed not only for his disciples, but for those who will believe in him through their word, he in essence was praying for all of us. The words of the apostles were delivered to others of faith, who delivered those words to the next group of believers and so on and so on, until those words made it to the person or vessel that brought Jesus to you and to me. So yes, the words of 2,000 years ago are for you and for me, as was a part of this amazing prayer.
And finally, what's really great about being brought to Jesus is that it's not a one time thing, like if you miss it, you don't get another shot. In fact, you might have even got it and then lost it, but he's still there, he's still waiting for you to come to him for the first time, or to come back to him. And short of divine intervention, guess how that happens? Usually through the good works of those doing God's bidding on this earth. My first introductions to Christ were most definitely through my Catholic upbringing. However, I had those dark spiritual years as a teen and 20 something where making it to church was about my only contact with Jesus. And then over the next 30 years or so, I rode the spiritual roller coaster, through the highs and lows of my faith, often being brought back up by one "of those".
You see, Jesus prayed for us way back when he walked this earth. It's right there in John 17:20 and I know that he is praying for you and for me every day, 2,000 years later. My prayer for you is that you have many "of those" in your life and that you are one "of those" to others.
This month I am reporting on the month of December, 1941, seventy-five years ago in Girard First United Methodist Church history, and also, of course, seventy-five years ago in the history of the United States of America. If you have been reading my previous little monthly reports, I have noted some of the increasingly ominous world news that our church family would have been seeing at their visits to the local movie theaters along with their radio newscasts, as well as newspaper reports, even in the local weekly Girard News. None of this has been reflected in our church archives, which are usually reports of the business proceedings of various church groups. But we know our church family had to feel anxious and worried about world and national events. Our local young men were being drafted into the armed forces, ostensibly to be trained for our defense if war should come.
As a history buff, I have wondered how to approach this month’s church history, because it was so shattering and life changing for every American. I finally decided to tell it as a story is usually told, from the start of the month to the finish, only of course, we have the luxury of 75 years of hindsight, while our poor church family members had no idea how it would all come out.
The first meeting we have on record for this month was on Thursday, December 4th, 1941. The official board met at the church at 7:30 PM. It consisted of the usual call to order by the board President, an opening prayer, reading of the minutes of the November Meeting, and the Financial Report. The Supt. of the Sunday School, Mr. Teeter, reported that attendance was good, and the plans were in place for a program on Thursday evening, Dec. 23rd, for a Christmas program. Then came the Pastor’s report: Rev. Maly reported on receiving new members and making sick calls. He also reported on plans for special services for Christmas, including an evening service on Dec. 21st, and an 11:30 PM service on Christmas Eve. He was also planning two programs of “sound” movies on New Year’s Eve, one in the afternoon, and one in the late evening. With that, the meeting was adjourned, probably with everyone present thinking ahead to the wonderful Christmas services, and apparently a new experience for New Year’s Eve.
The next day, Friday the 5th, was the first edition of the Girard News for the month of December. In the Sports section, it reported on Coach Koppel’s plans for the Girard basketball team. He had two lettermen returning: Elmer Aho and Bill Williams. Coach would fill the remaining slots from the following five boys: Pandel Savic, Tony Romanowsky, Dave Hall, Nick Sherock and Harry Bundy.
The next date in our progress through the month of December, is the Sunday School attendance report for the first Sunday, Dec. 7th. There were a total of 312 members present, including both students and teachers. The total amount collected in the Sunday School offering was $17.22. Now, of course, we all think of Sunday, Dec. 7th, 1941 as the beginning of World War II for our country because of the surprise attack on our United States Navy Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii by the Imperial Japanese Aircraft from their Navy carriers. We have all seen the photos and the movies and know that the attack began at 7:48 AM that Sunday morning. However, morning in Hawaii is more like afternoon in the United States. Our church family would have been home from Sunday school and church and probably finished their Sunday dinners by roughly 2:30 PM when they would have first heard about the attack, if they happened to be listening to their radios. The word would have spread quickly and soon everyone would be glued to their radios. With this devastating attack on our country, everyone knew that we were really at war, our worst fears had been realized, and that everyone’s life was going to be different from that day forward. Japan would not formally declare War on the United States until the next day, Monday, December 8th. They also declared war on the British Empire, and attacked Hong Kong less than eight hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Ten hours after Pearl Harbor, they also attacked the Philippines and destroyed our air craft on the ground at Clark Field there. With all these attacks occurring seemingly simultaneously, President Roosevelt called a joint session of Congress that Monday, at 12:30 PM to speak to the country about the attacks of the previously day, which he called “a date that will live in infamy”, and to ask Congress for a declaration of war upon Japan. This speech was broadcast live over all four major national networks. It attracted the largest audience ever for a radio broadcast and was heard in over 81% of our country’s homes. Within the hour following the speech, Congress gave the President the Declaration of War upon Japan, and he signed the bill at 4:10 PM that same day. On December 11th, Germany and Italy also declared war on the United States. We responded in kind. It was a wild, wild week.
On Wednesday evening we know that the Friendly Class, our largest adult Sunday School Class, met at the church for their annual Christmas party. We can only imagine how they felt as they went through the ritual of a Christmas party, while wondering what the future would bring to each of them and their families. They would get a small taste of what was to come when they got their weekly issue of the Girard News that Friday afternoon. The large bold black two columnheadlineread DefenseCouncilForCivilianProtection To Organize At Meeting Of City Officials
For the next three years, the folks who did not go off to fight, who stayed at home, would constantly be vigilant, practice blackouts, write letters to their sons, nephews, neighbors, and other young men serving, watch with apprehension how the war was progressing, and long for the awful war to be over. Bur, of course, they also celebrated Christmas as they had planned back in that innocent first week of December. And, in the issue of December 26th, the last issue of the year 1941, the Girard News reported that the Boys Basketball Team had beaten Newton Falls 37-22 in their first home game of the season.
On that happy note we will leave our church family in December of l941, hoping for better news in the coming year.
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