From the Pastor’s Study (1/10/2021)

By Bread Alone…

I recently completed Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley’s best-seller about the six U.S. Marines who raised the flag on top of Mt. Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.  The flag raising was made famous by a photograph taken by combat photographer Joe Rosenthal.  The picture became the model for the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.  Flags of Our Fathers describes in grim detail the hardships the Marines experienced as they fought one of the costliest battles in American history.  On this small island of just five thousand acres the Marines suffered 26,000 casualties, with 6800 men killed.  The author was inspired to research and write this book following the death of his father, John Bradley, who was one of the six flag raisers.  John Bradley was not a combat soldier.  He was a Navy corpsman – a medic – who administered first aid to wounded and dying Marines.  He was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism under fire. 

Among the various men involved in this horrific month-long battle, James Bradley also mentioned chaplains.  Navy chaplains assigned to the Marines went ashore with the combat infantry to minister to their spiritual needs, often on the front lines under enemy fire.  Three of these chaplains were wounded.  Six were awarded the Bronze Star.

During World War II the United States military recognized, in addition to the material needs of the fighting men, there were also spiritual needs to be met.  Weapons and ammunition, food and water, medical aid, and service for the soul were all deemed essential.

Immediately following His baptism, our Savior spent forty days fasting alone in the Judean wilderness.  With perhaps a touch of inspired understatement, the Bible says at the end of these days of deprivation, “He was afterward an hungered.”  Then the devil came to Jesus tempting Him, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.”  Jesus was indeed the Son of God.  But in spite of His hunger, He Who would later turn water into wine and feed thousands with a little boy’s lunch, declined to avail Himself of the prerogatives of His own divinity.  He responded instead by quoting Moses, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  In citing the great Law-giver, Jesus was resisting temptation by affirming to Himself, to the devil, and to every successive generation who would read this account in Scripture, that food is not all that a man needs.  There is a requirement greater than feeding a famished stomach.  Life is more than the physical.  Man has essential spiritual needs. 

Last week a member of our church was hospitalized.  As has been the case for the greater part of the past year, I did not make a hospital call.  For twenty seven years, as a pastor, I have regularly visited the hospitalized and the shut-in.  However, I am currently banned from visiting in the hospital.  In response to the Covid 19 pandemic, the government and the health care system has determined that ministers and immediate family members may not attend those who are suffering in the hospital or lingering lonely in nursing homes.  This restriction has existed in most instances even for the dying.  “It is only reasonable,” some argue.  “The virus might be spread!”  Perhaps.  But physicians, nurses, food service personnel, maintenance workers, janitors, clerical workers, etc., are all granted access.  Again, some say, “They are essential.”  But not those who care for the soul?  Why?  Because the popular secular mind believes quite wrongly that man shall indeed live by bread alone.

People need spiritual support in addition to nutrition or medical treatment.  Jesus said, “The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” (Lk. 12:23)  In the past months, how many have endured anxiety, felt abandoned, or worse, stepped into a Christless eternity because no one ministered to their spiritual needs?   For those who are vexed with loneliness, tempted with depression, or fearing an uncertain eternity, the care and counsel of a wise pastor can prove far more essential than food or medicine.  Man does not live by bread alone.