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Before the war he’d sold lacquerware and fancied tailored American-made suits. When his emperor declared war on those same Americans in 1941, Hiroo Onoda was tapped as an intelligence officer on the Philippines’ archipelagic island of Lubang, and assigned to the command of Major Yoshimi Taniguchi.
It was Taniguchi who waited under a tent for Onoda on a typically sunlit day in March, not to dispatch him on another reconnoiter of the area, but to request that his subordinate surrender his weapons. For on that day, Onoda was to acknowledge formally the end of combat operations, just as his Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu had done previously aboard the USS Missouri with General MacArthur and 2700 American sailors looking on.
Except that Onoda was following this final order of his commanding officer on March 9, 1974–some thirty years after the Pacific campaign had come to a sobering end in the shadow of a mushroom cloud. Onoda, you see, had not learned of his country’s surrender to Allied forces in September, 1945, and therefore continued to gather intelligence, compose reports, and simply stay alive for three long, quiet decades. Even on that March day, Onoda wondered if the whole affair was only a ruse intended to trap him.
For thirty years Onoda engaged in a battle in which he would never triumph. For thirty years, he employed all his resources and training for what he thought was a noble effort–one that would end, one way or the other, in glory for him and his family. For thirty years, Onoda fought a campaign long since concluded. Mr. Onoda died this year at the age of 91.
Nearly two thousand years earlier, the Apostle Paul wrote to a smattering of fledgling churches he’d planted in the southern region of Asia Minor (now Turkey), but not with his typical elation and gratitude for their growth in faith working through love. This erstwhile persecutor turned proclaimer of the gospel wrote to lovingly but firmly chastise these new believers.
To the church at Rome he’d warned of a lackadaisical posture toward the grace of God in Christ. His wrote to Ephesian churches to address their proneness to division, now that two previously estranged constituencies had merged into one with Jesus as Head. The church at Philippi’s struggle with intramural rivalry and conceit prompted Paul to write them from prison.
But Paul saw an even greater challenge to the progress of the faith among the churches of Galatia. Like Onoda, they were being seduced to take up a campaign of sorts that had been long since concluded, one they might find a kind of glory in prosecuting but one in which they could never prevail. They’d been won a freedom they were preferring to fight for themselves. Divine approval had been granted them through the work of Another, but they’d been led to believe such approval had to be obtained through their own efforts. So these believing descendants of ancient Celtic tribes saw their primary battle as one for the very favor of God, rather than for faithfulness in response to His graciously bestowed favor.
This Sunday we begin a series of sermons that concern Paul’s strident letter to those Galatian churches. We’ll wade through Paul’s part diatribe, part agonized plea because we are as prone to the same seduction that ancient church fell prey to. We may say and sing we rest firmly in a Favor already bought us, but how often do we find ourselves fighting for something that even if we got it wouldn’t get us what we thought?
This week one part of the world reels at the untimely loss of a talented comic (perhaps only confirming how easily our collective attention can be diverted from more massive calamities). But Robin Williams has something for us in his story perhaps just as poignant as Mr. Onoda. I’ll share one of his more candid comments from an interview back in 2010 that perhaps revealed what most animated him, and ultimately consumed him. Both Onoda and Mr Williams give us a reason to give our attention again to what Paul had to say to the church at Galatia.
Some move on for the forseeable future, others for just a season, albeit a regular one.
They left us last month for a new season of life in the Pacific northwest, but the DeBoer’s (Davis, Kacy, Elias, and Gabriel) have settled in nicely in their new home in Medford, OR. Kacy just began a new work at Providence Hospital there in Medford while Davis is taking the first steps at cultivating an orchard! They wrote recently to give us an update and to send their thanksgiving for their time among us. Here’s a shot of them at Crater Lake. Feel free to drop them a line!
Meanwhile, Jane Pappenhagen is about to make her annual five-month excursion to Thailand to teach english among nationals. She specifically asked us to pray for her time there. She’ll be with us this one last Sunday before she departs, so take note of her email address and drop her a line from time to time, too.
Community Groups have begun to form, the details of which you can now find at our Community Groups page. Larry and Cathy Wiseman’s group that begins next week has just a few spots left open. The women’s groups starting later in October are beginning to organize and plan, too. Sidle over to the page for more information, including how to contact the Group Facilitators. We’ve spent the last four weeks unspooling the nature and necessity of community in our personal pilgrimages. Put the sermons into practice by committing to a group as these and others form.
Finally, as promised, First Sunday Lunch (FSL–all things must have an acronym), will be back in session in September, with a bit of a twist. We’ll have it right after worship, so think of it like a brunch/lunch (for those of you who care about stuff like that). We hope all you families with young children will stick around to eat with everyone. Furthermore we’ll make a potluck out of it, with the church providing the meat. Stay tuned for your instructions.
Among the needs you might pray for, consider these, too:
- for all those who suffer with depression and for their courage to find help and true hope
- for the ongoing strife in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq
- for the Community Groups forming over the next several weeks
- for FBC and our neighboring churches