Like a mighty army?


Dr. Halford Luccock of Yale Divinity School used to tell about a church that invited one of its returning service men to speak at the Sunday worship service. He declined, but when they kept asking and begging he finally agreed with one stipulation. He requested that just before he was to speak that they sing the hymn, “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” They did—“Like a mighty army moves the church of God.” Then their soldier boy got up to speak. It was a sermon no one ever forgot.

He began by saying, “I have been in the army for quite a few years now and I have never seen an army move like a church. Just suppose the army accepted some of the feeble excuses church members use.

“Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the following: Reveille 6 a.m. The sergeant barks, ‘Count four! One! Two! Three! Number four missing? Where is Private Smith?’

“‘Private Smith was too sleepy to get up,’ someone volunteers, ‘He was out late last night and needed the sleep. He said he would be with us in spirit.’

“‘That’s okay,’ says the sergeant, “I understand. When you see him give him my regards.’

“‘One! Two! —Where is Private Jones?’ asks the sergeant. Another voice speaks up, ‘Sir, Private Jones had a slight head cold and, of course, didn’t want to give it to the entire army.’

“‘There surely are a lot of colds going around,’ says the sergeant sympathetically, ‘I will try to get by to see Jones this week. I don’t believe I have seen Private Brown either.’

“‘Oh,’ puts in one of his buddies, ‘Private Brown is playing golf. It is hard for him to get away any other day and he feels that recreation is very important. Besides he says he can train just as well on the golf course as he can on the drill field. He sent his best wishes and said to tell you that he would see you next Easter.’

“‘That’s perfectly all right,’ says the sergeant, ‘I hope he has a good game. We shall look forward to seeing him on Easter Sunday. Does anyone know about Private Roberts?’

“‘Private Roberts really hated to miss this morning,’ another says, ‘You see, his family came down this weekend and they plan to leave around noon. So he couldn’t just go off and leave them, you know.’

“‘Of course,’ says the sergeant, ‘There are some things that have to come first. I believe he was here last week, anyway.’

“Like a might army?” the young soldier concluded, “If the church really moved like a mighty army most of us would wind up with a court-martial!”

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of
First Christian Church, Temple, where he
was senior minister for 23 years before
retiring. He writes a religious column for
several newspapers.

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2012-10-11 digital edition

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