So Many (Ordinary) People
September 19, 2021
In Elmer Bendiner’s book, Fall of Fortresses, he recounts an air raid of Kassel, Germany, in the plane for which he was the navigator, the B-17 Tondelayo. More than three decades after the event, he and the pilot met to remember the war together. Eventually they talked about July 30, 1943, a day in which the Tondelayo had been shot up badly. What was particularly remarkable about that trip was that a 20mm shell had pierced their gas tank and had not exploded — an astounding providence that saved their lives. Bendiner tells of his conversation with the pilot, Bohn Fawkes:
I reflected on the miracle of a 20-mm. shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion.
Now Bohn licked his chops so that I could see that a revelation was on the verge. It was not the case of an unexploded shell in a gas tank, he said. It was not so simple a miracle. At the time Bohn too had thought it was no more than that. On the morning following Kassel, while I slept late and missed my breakfast, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell, as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. Marsden told Bohn that there had been not just one shell but eleven of them in the gas tanks—eleven unexploded shells where only one would have sufficed to blast us out of the sky with no time for chutes. It was as if the sea had been parted for us.…
Bohn was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why.
The professorial captain of intelligence confirmed the story. Eleven shells were in fact found in Tondelayo’s tanks. No, he could not give one to Bohn. Sorry, he could not say why.
Eventually the captain broke down…[and told Bohn the story.] He swore Bohn to secrecy.
The armorers who opened each of those shells had found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and as harmless. Empty? Not quite, said the captain….
One was not empty. It contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The intelligence captain had scoured Kimbolton for a man who could read Czech.…Translated, the note read: “This is all we can do for you now.” [Elmer Bendiner, The Fall of Fortresses, 130ff.]
The Czech saboteur obviously wanted to do good for the Allies, but he had no idea of the life he gave those men in that B-17 that day. Perhaps it seemed to him just a simple thing — maybe even insignificant — was it even worth the risk and the effort? It was.
At times, as we serve in the church, we may also wonder about the significance of what we do. Is it worth it? Am I making a difference? Am I really helping anyone? Am I being useful to the Lord?
In a passage that seems to be on the fringes of what might be “profitable” in Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17), Paul greets particular people in the Roman church. In fact, in these 16 verses, he sends greetings to 24 people by name, two other people that he does not name, and five groups (including three churches, vv. 5, 14-15). And in the following verses, he will also send greetings from an additional eight people. How should we think of all those names and what is the significance of those names?
We will draw several principles from this passage, but as an overview, we do well to remember that as Francis Schaeffer said, There are “no little people” in Christ’s church. “The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God.” That is exactly what Paul exemplifies in all his greetings in these verses. The lesson for us from this passage is:
Treat every church member as vital to the church.
In these verses Paul teaches us of the importance of every member to the body of Christ:
- The Importance of Phoebe (vv. 1-2)
- The Importance of the List (vv. 3-16)
- Some Important Principles
Download the rest of this sermon on Romans 16:1-16.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.