The Hallelujah Homecoming
by Charles Robey
I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all. (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
Please allow me to reminisce a little.. I remember standing on the sidewalk by my Grandmother's steps and seeing my Uncle Carl come walking bristly up the street. He was dressed in full uniform and shouldering his big duffel bag.
As my eyes scanned up and down, I saw that big grin beneath his cocked uniform hat. I just knew there was something special for me in that sack. And, oh yes, among the other souvenirs, Carl gave me a small piece of fiberglass from an airplane glider. Boy, what a present, that day. A friend even offered to trade me his favorite "marble steeley."
Yes, World War II was "the best of times and it was the worst of times" It was a time when heroes were born. It was a time when decisions were made for Christ.
For you see, there were not many atheists in "fox holes."
Then David said to Solomon his son, "Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished." (1 Chronicles 28:20)
This rather unique sermon is just one of those times. Maybe you can look back and relate to a family member or friend.
World War II had come to an end and amidst all the hustle and bustle our town's Soldier Boys were coming home. Dad was so excited. He hardly missed the nightly radio newscast; the one which gave a rundown each night of the local boys who were coming home.
For you see, George had been serving his country overseas going on two years.
"Dad, Dad!" I exclaimed. "When will George be coming home?" George was my oldest brother and had always been my hero. He had excelled in every sport he undertook.
I remember Mother telling me one day that she had found all those medals tucked away in his clothes draw when she was cleaning George's room. But that too didn't surprise me as that was just the way George was, kind of private.
"If only George would get up on Sunday morning and go to Sunday School with his brothers and sisters," Mother would often say. Mother would then follow her remarks by questioning why George chose not to attend church since he was such a good boy.
Well, time went by, George grew up and answered his country's call for service. And as Mother always did, she prayed for him constantly.
One occasion, as we were talking about George being over there, so far away from family, Mother shared with us how she had sent George a "New Testament", the type the Gideon's were giving out with the heavy metal jacket.
Then Mother concluded by sharing that George had not written back in several months. She felt it may be because she would always include a New Testament Bible verse at the end of her letters. Anyway, as Mother brushed back the tears, she reminded us that she just knew George was still all right, as God had given her perfect peace.
Then Mother actually shared with us the last Bible verse she had included in her last letter to George.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." (Isaiah 26:3)
Time passed on. Days seemed like weeks and weeks like months. Then, one evening,
as Dad was listening to the nightly news, Dad let out a big roar. We all rushed to his aid, as we didn't know what had happened. You see, the doctor had told Daddy, he needed to get his weight down and do some exercise.
Dad then exclaimed the news had just broadcast that George' group was on their way home and would arrive Saturday afternoon by train. You've never seen such dancing and singing in all your life. Well, Mother even got religiously happy and started "Praising the Lord."
The group hug just had to be some type of world record, as even the neighbors joined in to celebrate. What seemed like a lifetime finally became Saturday afternoon.
"Does this dress look all right? Is my hat on straight?? Mother asked.
"Oh, come on Mother, we'll be late," Daddy answered.
So off we went. I have never seen such a crowd in our little town as was gathered around the train stop that day.
"Here he comes, no that's not him. That?s Brother John's boy. You know John, the Elder from the church."
About that same time, I looked up and saw George running at full speed. The first thing he did was grab Mother up and spin her around. "George wait, you're messing up my hat," Mother said with a big smile.
Well, we all settled in back home. And oh yes, I almost forget. George had told us he had something important to share with us but he said it would wait till after supper.
You wouldn't believe the supper Mother cooked that night. Why the whole table was crammed full Mother's famous pot roast, vegetables galore, a salad, two pies and Mother?s homemade bread. When asked how long the supper took to put together, Mother just smiled, giving her classic answer, "Tis nothing, I just threw some things together."
When we all had eaten and Daddy had loosened his belt, it was George's turn to speak. George stood up, came over and hugged Mother, and pulled what resembled the New Testament Bible Mother had sent him from his pocket. With tears streaming down his face, George began to speak.
"Thanks, Mother, for all your prayers. See this New Testament? One night, while napping in the fox hole, our group suddenly came under heavy enemy fire. As we started responding to the attack, I felt a heavy blow hit my chest. Instinctively, I reached into my pocket and to my surprise the metal jacket New Testament had taken the bullet that had been meant for me.
I immediately pulled out the bullet and the book opened, as by divine instruction to this scripture. Please let me read it to you.
"For God so loved the earth that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Mother then asked George if she could see his New Testament Bible. "Why George, I can't even read the word "whoever" as it was damaged by the bullet."
"Don't worry, Mother," George replied. "That bullet was meant for me as was the word 'whoever'." And now not only am I a member of the U.S. Army but I'm a lifelong member of God's army."
And guess what? About that time we had a knock at the door. It was Pastor Smith. Pastor Smith just wanted to welcome George home and also welcome him into our church family. How Pastor Smith knew what had occurred, I'll never know.
"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the spirit." (John 3:8)
"What a Hallelujah Homecoming!" Mother shouted. And we all, including Pastor Smith, chimed in to say, "Amen."