Saturday Sermon: The new Jerusalem

By the Rev. Gene Rice
April 27, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 26, 2012 at 11:27 p.m.

Editor's note: this is a excerpt from a short story I am writing. The story is inspired by a man who is now 102 years old. While the deeds described were not all things he has actually done, the values expressed here are embraced and promoted by his lifestyle.

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19 verses 41-42 we read: As He (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace ..."

I remember the first time we met. He was looking out the windows of the observation deck at the World Trade Center. They called him the centurion, not because he had commanded 100 men in war, but because he had influenced thousands of people in peace for more than 100 years.

His legacy began at the age of 20 in a small rural town in Kentucky. The town was hit by two devastating tornadoes. He was the only survivor. He never asked "Why," at least not within earshot of anyone. However, it was in the aftermath of this destruction that his mission began to be defined.

He would lead the way in rebuilding, not only his home town, but thousands of others - towns, schools, churches - in the years that followed.

This story, his first rebuilding effort, made national news. What a wonderful human interest story, a young man - barely out of his teens - leads out in massive rebuilding effort to restore his town to honor the memory of those who lived and died.

His story was so moving and compelling that people began to move to this small town, building their own home and helping to rebuild their new home. At times it sounds idyllic, but the hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours put into the rebuilding demand its reality.

The young man's tireless campaign inspired others and guaranteed the successful rise out of the rubble, chaos and ruin. It was a passion that burned red hot in his soul. A cleansing fire, he called it.

A fire that purified his motives, clarified his mind and solidified his mission. It was almost two years to the day that the project was finished. Some called it a "labor of love." Others called it a miracle. He never called it anything, but necessary.

The work force that came to help said they were inspired by his tenacious spirit, his laser focus and his profound sense of purpose. When asked, he described it as passion fueled by compassion, what he saw in Christ.

Yes, I remember the first day we met. He was looking out the window onto that vast city - he was 102 years old that day. A party had been planned for the celebration of his birthday, but when he turned to look at me, I knew he was not thinking about the party.

As he turned to look at me there were tears rolling down his face. As he turned to look at me, I could see the concern in his eyes and he in mine. As he turned to look at me and I him, he stared for a moment, then said, "The new Jerusalem."

The Rev. Gene Rice is pastor of The Church at Spring Creek in Victoria.



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