As authorities hunted for the Austin serial bomber, people phoned in hundreds of tips. A reward of $115,000 was posted. Police pled with the bomber through television.
But the case was solved by hundreds of federal and local authorities working tirelessly. They pieced together the bombs that were used, discovered that the batteries had been ordered online, and determined that a single person was responsible.
They were also able to use cell tower signals to distinguish mobile phones near the blast sites. They canvassed neighborhoods where the bombs were delivered and sifted through hundreds of reports of suspicious packages. Examining surveillance footage at FedEx centers, they identified the suspect.
These unnamed law enforcement professionals are heroes today to everyone in Austin and the rest of us as well.
A SWAT officer and courageous athletes
In related news, Blaine Gaskill is being recognized for his courage in stopping the shooter at Great Mills High School in Maryland last Tuesday. The police deputy rushed toward the sound of gunfire, risking his life to disrupt what could have been another mass shooting.
This was not the first time the SWAT-trained officer has dealt with armed confrontation. In 2016, he engaged an armed man standing not far from the high school, convincing the man to drop his weapon without firing a shot.
Meanwhile, the underdog Loyola men’s basketball team defeated Nevada last night in the NCAA men’s tournament. Loyola has been making headlines largely because of their team chaplain, a delightful ninety-eight-year-old nun named Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt.
But they made headlines fifty-five years ago for a very different reason.
Sportswriter Pat Forde has a terrific story about the 1963 national championship team that included four African-American starters. The unwritten rule of the time was that teams would not start more than two black players.
The African-Americans on Loyola’s team were the targets of slurs; white fans threw ice and coins at them; a restaurant in St. Louis denied them service.
One player told Forde, “When racism is being thrown in your face, it takes its toll on you.” The athletes who endured such injustice courageously paved the way for others.
Nearly six decades later, they’re still heroes.
“The urge to serve others at whatever cost”
Joseph Campbell believed that “a hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” It’s hard to be heroic except in the service of a heroic cause.
But serving the cause rather than oneself is vital. As Arthur Ashe noted, true heroism “is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
Where do we find the strength to serve a great cause with great courage?
I found an unusual metaphor in Scripture today. In Psalm 81, God tells his people, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (v. 10).
To obey this command, I must make four decisions: (1) I admit that I am hungry and need to be fed; (2) I will refuse all food except that which comes from God; (3) I will receive what he gives me by faith; (4) I will seek all he has for me.
What cause does God intend your life to fulfill? Whom does he intend you to serve today?
“My anchor holds within the vale”
A dear friend suggested this week that I read the fascinating story of Edward Mote.
Mote grew up in London, where his parents managed a pub and he played in the streets on Sundays. Nevertheless, he came to faith in Christ, then worked as a cabinetmaker for thirty-seven years. At the age of fifty-five, he became a pastor.
He served his congregation for twenty-six years. In gratitude, the people offered him their building as a gift. He replied, “I do not want the chapel, I want only the pulpit; and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that.”
Mote is best known today not for his preaching but for his hymn writing. Approximately one hundred of his hymns have been published. My favorite includes these lines:
When darkness seems to hide his face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the vale.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Where do you need courage to serve Jesus in our “high and stormy” culture? Ralph Waldo Emerson was right: “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”
Hang in there, knowing that Jesus is hanging onto you (John 10:29).