Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
On Memorial Day, I went for a visit with Dad. Dad’s current address is Sunnyside Cemetery, Coupeville. It is a bit of a family joke, but we like to say Mom and Dad have a nice room with a view. Anyway, Dad’s headstone reads:
Vivian T Kidd
S Sgt US Army Air Forces
World War II
Feb 1915 – April 2009
Father & Grandfather
Mom lived another 7 years. Every Memorial Day, I go for a visit and a little conversation.
Vivian, kind of an interesting name for a dad, don’t you think? Dad was a tobacco sharecropper’s son. All the men in his life, a father and three brothers, were dead by age 32. He was pretty much on his own in his teens, with a 6th grade education. His story was not unique for his generation, lots of survivors of the Depression became members of a unique fraternity known as the greatest generation. He was a good man. Never really heard him complain (unless it had to do with mom saying, “You’re not going to wear that are you?”). He grew up in a segregated, sometimes racist, world, yet continued to grow and evolve so that by the last chapter of his life, he was one of the most inclusive-thinking men I knew. That memory makes me proud.
Toward the end of Dad’s life, if I was in need of one of his ice-breaking smiles, I would ask him, “What was the name of that song they sang at your baptism?” He might not open his eyes, but he’d smile and start singing, “Shall We Gather at the River.” All four verses. Long ago, he told me about that day down at the Ohio River. There were some terrible parts to his life, but he always kept going forward. I think about that a lot, about going forward.
There are many reasons that motivate a person to keep moving forward. Sometimes anger will do the trick, or desire for revenge, or monetary gain, or hate, or… you get the idea. My experience is that hope is a uniquely religious motivation that inspires us to keep moving forward. Viktor Frankl (“Man’s Search for Meaning”) wrote profoundly of the power of hope as a result of his experience surviving German concentration camps. Even among the most hideous realities of such inhumane places of death, those who could raise up hope had a chance for survival. There is power in hope.
Hope itself is a sign of salvation. Let that wash over you for a few minutes. Think of hope not as a gift, or an idea, or a goal to be achieved as a result of a level of faith. Think of the experience of hope as a sign that the Kingdom of God is present with you. Like oxygen. If you have hope, you can live with the assurance that God is close. And hope keeps us moving forward.
“… we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God… and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts…” Romans 5:1-5.
Hope is more than willpower; it is a sign of God’s very presence.
In this pandemic age of fear, confusion, anger, disease, isolation and death, the world needs us more than ever. We are holy agents of hope. Hope, which is core to our being as followers of Jesus, is the sign that the Kingdom of God is close, despite life’s circumstances. We are unique, we are ambassadors of “going forward,” even in the face of all that is going, or could go, wrong.
So, on Memorial Day, I visit Sunnyside Cemetery, lay a rose, and have a conversation with Staff Sargent Vivian T. Kidd. I need to be reminded what going forward can look like… “Dad, what was that song they sang at your baptism?”
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