Tuesday after Epiphany
John 6:30-33, 48-51
30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
Before Boy Scouts, like so many of our once-treasured institutions, became captive to evangelists for the zeitgeist (the spirit of this present age), they were one of the best ways to prepare boys to become men of high character. When there was still compulsory military service for American young men, Boy Scouts of America readied boys for wearing a uniform proudly, for duty to God and country, and for sacrifice.
There was an esprit de corps about every scout troop in our hometown. The troop sponsored by the Presbyterians was an Eagle Scout machine. The one sponsored by the Methodists was a troop for some of the prominent families. The one sponsored by the Disciples of Christ (Christian) church was the troop founded by the oldest families in town, who viewed the troop’s use of their facilities as an act of noblesse oblige. Mama, Kinky (who was from one of the oldest families), and Betty were den mothers for our Cub Scout group, formed from boys that had attended the Bonham Free Kindergarten. When it came time for Webelos, Leonard, the pastor of 1st Christian, was our leader. When I began Boy Scouts, John was the man who gave hours and hours to our development into young men.
By day, John was a pharmacist at the Bonham Veterans Hospital. He was a Baptist, the father of boys, a World War II veteran, and the possessor of a great sense of humor. That helps when you take boys on camp outs and to summer camp. When you are a child, you don’t think about what a big deal it is for a man to work all day, come home for supper, and then go out one night each week to work with boys on various skills and to give up a Friday night and Saturday each month for campouts and a week each summer for Boy Scout camp. Sleeping on a cot in a tent, cooking over a campfire, and redirecting the energies of boys who would like to stay up all night long and, then, sleep all day. And to do it all for free? Such a deal! I look back at this point and stand in awe of a man who did that for love of God and neighbor.
John knew my Mom from work and my Dad from all his community volunteerism. They shared a special comradery as veterans of a war that had only been over for twenty-one years. War memories were fresh for that Greatest Generation as they began to have babies and to raise them to adulthood. When I think of how the turn of the century is almost two decades past now and how fresh those memories are for my wife and I, then I can only imagine what it was like for John, my parents, and their peers. They had seen so much death. They had been marked and shaped by coming of age during the Great Depression. They were grateful to be alive and citizens of the most exceptional country on earth. Lord, we need them now.
John was kind enough to allow me to bring my dog, Lady, on almost every camp out. She was never a bother, infinitely sweet, and very protective of the child she had helped to raise thus far. After setting up tents, digging latrines, making small cooking fires for each tent, and one large center fire, we ate, played games, and then gathered around the campfire for skits and singing. John loved to teach us a song: “Once I went in swimming where there were no women and no one to see. So, I took the dare and hung my underwear up in a high oak tree. Dove into the water, graceful as the Pharaoh’s daughter dove into the Nile, someone saw me there and stole my underwear and left me with a smile.” We sang it with gusto.
I remember learning from John the chant with hand motions called “Going on a Bear Hunt.” We learned more than we knew, because we learned there are obstacles in life that you can’t go over, can’t go under, can’t go around it, but got to go through. I think of that in all the dark seasons and remember John.
Dear Father, thank you for John and all the men who sacrifice so much to shape young boys into men. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS
St Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.