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By the Dawn’s Early Light

Some of you have family or friends that at some point in time received medical news that was very difficult to bear.  When one we love is told that they cannot be cured, or the injuries are too severe to be successfully treated, or the person is not going to live… the news sends shockwaves through the entire family.  No matter that death is a certainty for all of us, the reality is that we live as if it will not come to us or anyone in our family. 

We have seen movies of the holocaust, or prisoner of war camps, or terrorism that killed scores of people.  Each time those horrific scenes are viewed, we each wonder what we would do should that ever occur to us.  I have read that those who are prisoners that know they may die at the hands of an enemy live with the hope that they may be rescued even though the prospects are grim.

Bishop Bob Morgan in his book Who’s Coming To Dinner? tells a powerful story about a Dutch pastor and his family who during the second World War got into big trouble with the Nazis.  The Dutch pastor and his family had been hiding Jewish people in their home to keep them safe from Hitler’s
forces.  They were eventually found out.  And one night in the darkness, they heard the sound of heavy boots and the loud impatient knocking on the door.  They were arrested and loaded into a cattle car to be taken to one of the notorious death camps.  All night long the Dutch pastor and his family rode along in heart-breaking anguish, jostling against one another and against the other prisoners who were jammed into the train cattle car. They were stripped of any form of dignity and absolutely terrified.  They knew they were being taken to one of Hitler’s extermination centers.  But which one?  Would it be Auschwitz, Buchenwald, or Dachau?

Finally, the long night ended, and the train stopped. The doors of the cattle car were opened, and light streamed into that tragic scene.  They were marched out and were lined up beside the railroad tracks, resigned to unspeakable pain, as they knew they would be separated from each other and ultimately killed.  But in the midst of their gloom, they discovered some
amazing good news… good news beyond belief.  They discovered in the bright morning sunlight that they were not in a death camp at all, not in Germany at all.  Rather, they were in Switzerland!

During the night, someone through personal courage and daring had tripped a switch… and sent the train to Switzerland… and to freedom.  And those now who came to them were not their captors at all, but rather their liberators.  Instead of being marched to death, they were welcomed to new life.  In the midst of his joy and relief, the Dutch pastor said, “What do you do with such a gift?”

Something like that happened to the disciples at Pentecost.  They were afraid, confused, unsure, overwhelmed… and then came this incredible gift…the gift of the Holy Spirit!  It turned their lives around… and empowered by this amazing gift, they went out and turned the world upside down.

(James W. Moore, Sermon: What Do You Do With Such A Gift?)