It was my last year in college and I was blessed to be able to study abroad for two months in Germany at the University of Bonn. One weekend, several of us Aggies decided to take a road trip to Paris. I suggested that we also visit Omaha Beach, which wasn’t that much further. I had been there when I was younger on a family vacation, and I thought it would be neat to see it again. For those of you, who may not know, these are the beaches where the D-Day invasion of WWII took place. There is a beautiful Memorial Cemetery above the beach and it’s an awesome place for any history buff. Plus, since several of us were in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M, I thought it would be fitting to squeeze a visit in.
The group of us agreed, and so that next Friday, after our studies, we piled into a rental car and set off on a 450 mile, three day road trip across Germany and France. It was fantastic!
A couple days later–after spending more time in Paris than we had planned–we finally arrived at Omaha Beach. I was driving and I noted how the scenery looked so very much the same from my first visit years earlier. But then, about a half mile before we got to the gates, we encountered something unexpected. Several military Humvees were blocking the road and some armed soldiers directed us to pull over. It was all very intimidating.
A sergeant came up to our window and asked to see our paperwork. Paperwork? What paperwork?
When we asked about it, the Sergeant gave an exasperated sigh and explained to us that since it was June 6 the cemetery was closed to visitors. But after, seeing the clueless looks on our faces, he gave another exasperated sigh, and explained further:
“It’s June 6th, 2004 which means it is the 60th anniversary of D-Day!” he said. “Several special things are happening in the cemetery today and President George W. Bush is giving the keynote address to all the WWII veterans and their families. If you kids wanted to get in here today you would have needed to fill out applications months ago… and background checks. And even if you had done all that, I doubt you would have been let in.” Then he proceeded to tell us to turn around and go back to wherever we had come from.
But one of my buddies decided he wasn’t going to take NO for an answer. He pleaded with the sergeant about how we had come all the way from Texas A&M to honor our fallen heroes. He was very dramatic and I guess the drama had an effect, because finally the sergeant said he would go ask his supervisor about the situation and see what could be done.
We waited for at least a half hour, and when he returned, he was accompanied by a 2nd Lieutenant, who proceeded to explain that he, too, was an Aggie and as he said, “Aggies always help Aggies out.” He asked for our social security numbers and then He went back to his Humvee and within about ten minutes he returned with a smile. He handed us some lanyards with I.D. Tags, but then he leaned in the window and whispered that these were special tags. He told us that we weren’t just going to get in the gates, we were going to get to sit in the VIP section. These were family passes, passes typically reserved for veterans and their families.
I guess it’s true what they say about the Aggie Network!
And so, like wide-eyed little children, we made our way into the cemetery and found our seats. It still sends shivers down my back thinking back on it. All around us were great men–real life heroes. We chatted with 80 and 90 year old veterans as they told their stories–events that had happened just a hundred yards or so from where we were sitting–as the waves crashed ashore on Omaha beach where so many of their buddies had died. And then with great pomp and circumstance, the ceremony began and not 30 yards away President George W. Bush stepped up to the podium and delivered an incredible speech. I felt like I needed to pinch myself.
I don’t know what went wrong with U.S. military security that day, but for some miraculous reason they let some Aggies get past the gate and I got to be part of something incredible, something I didn’t deserve–blessed to be surrounded by honorable and distinguished men on such hallowed ground.
And ever since that day, my definition of grace has never been the same. Before that, I had always thought of grace as just some kind of gift or favor that God shows us out of love, kind of like when a coworker brings you a soda because he was getting a coke and two came out of the machine instead of one.
I think we hear the word grace so often in chruch, our defintion of it becomes too puny. Real grace is profound. Real grace is when you are given an extraordinary privilege–a once in lifetime opportunity– and it changes you. Grace is when you should have been sent back home in disappointment, rejection and shame, but instead, by some miracle, you were given family passes and allowed to enter through the gates into glory and mingle with heroes.
As Christians we all have been shown amazing grace like that from God the Father. God has given us a family pass. Through our Baptism, God has connected us to Jesus. This is the connection that Paul is referring to in Romans 6. We have died with Christ in our Baptism. His death has become our death. Now we live with Christ and His resurrection has become our new life, and one day we will get to enter the hallowed grounds of heaven, surrounded by the great heroes of the faith.
Some seasons of life, we get too focused on ourselves and our troubles, our situation in life and our fears, our hopes and our dreams, and we just flat-out forget how incredibly blessed we are. We forget how much grace we have been shown.
- How does understanding grace help us be more gracious?
- Does your sharing in a common Savior motivate you to to have the grace to forgive and reconcile with those who have hurt you, lied to you, gossiped about you, let you down and broken their promises?
- How does grace affect the way we as a church should look at our community?
O Lord Jesus, grant us Your grace and never let us lose sight of it. Let Your amazing grace change us. O Lord, I want to keep Your commandments and do your bidding. I want to choose the better part and no longer follow evil. Give me Your strength to do this, O loving Savior, for Your own name’s sake. I am a poor sinner, O God; forgive me my sin! I will make no further mention of merit or worthiness on my part, by Your grace, Lord, I plead, make no mention of judgement! O God, with my works I have earned nothing in Your sight. I hold fast to Your grace and mercy and nothing more. Amen.