This is a solemn but a glorious hour. I only wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe.
For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence, which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity.
We can repay the debt which we owe to our God, to our dead and to our children only by work—by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is—work, work, and more work.
Those words, spoken by President Harry S. Truman, 75 years ago this week, opened his speech marking VE Day. If that last line sounds gloomy, remember, the whole world needed rebuilding, and the Japanese had not yet surrendered. The task was huge, but America met the challenge.
Just as Americans met the challenge back then, we need to meet the challenge of resuming normal life now. We have work to do. The virus is not yet wholly defeated, and much requires rebuilding. It also means that no matter what we think about the coronavirus and our various responses, we must preserve our unity.
I’ve been thinking hard about this, as we consider exactly how and when to re-open our church building and resume regular worship. Ephesians 4:1-3 primarily occupied my mind.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
“Make every effort,” sounds like Harry Truman’s exhortation, does it not? Here’s a breakdown of what it will take to meet the challenge of maintaining our unity as we resume communal worship.
First, practice humility, the art of seeing ourselves as we are, not as higher or more important than others, but not as everyone’s doormat either. It just means, “Wake up and smell the coffee: the world doesn’t revolve around you.”
Second, practice gentleness. Meekness is the old word. An often-misunderstood concept, meekness is not “weakness,” not “milk-toast-ness.” It is not a lack of confidence or living in constant fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It is strength under control. It is the picture of a powerful horse responding to the merest nudge of his master’s knee.
I was born into a home with a big yellow tomcat named Amenhotep, “Teppy” for short. My parents bought the cat for my older brother, who was born six feet tall and 200 pounds so that he could learn how to be gentle with me.
Some of us are stronger than others. Be gentle with each other.
Third, practice patience.
A young father in a supermarket was pushing a shopping cart with his little son, who was strapped in the front. The little boy was fussing, irritable, and crying. The other shoppers gave the pair a wide berth because the child would pull cans off the shelf and throw them out of the cart. The father seemed to be very calm; as he continued down each aisle, he murmured gently: “Easy now, Donald. Keep calm, Donald. Steady, boy. It’s all right, Donald.”
A mother who was passing by was much impressed by this young father’s solicitous attitude. She said, “You certainly know how to talk to an upset child—quietly and gently.”
And then bending down to the little boy, she said, “What seems to be the trouble, Donald?”
“Oh no,” said the father. “He’s Henry. I’m Donald.”
Patience is the ability to endure, putting up with things that make life a little complicated and just carrying on. Be patient with each other.
Fourth, forbearance. Patience emphasizes bearing up under a load; forbearance is about self-restraint, holding back from comments or actions which may be justifiable but ultimately undermine unity.
Everyone knows Winston Churchill, but not everyone remembers Lady Astor, the first female member of Parliament, who was also anti-Semitic and part of the appeasement crowd who opposed Churchill. The two were known for verbal jousting.
Astor is reported to have said, “If you were my husband, I would poison your tea,” to which Winston replied: “Madam if you were my wife, I’d drink it.”
That might be fun, but it isn’t the way to maintain unity.
Forbearance practices courtesy, “the oil that lubricates the fine machinery of civilization.” It recognizes that each of us is a fragile, imperfect creature. Forbearance fuels unity.
“There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all,” wrote the apostle. Therefore, make every effort to keep that unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Eph 4:1–3). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 John Huffman, “The Fruit of the Spirit Is Patience,” PreachingToday.com
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Eph 4:4–6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.