This Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion along the Normandy coast of France that played a major role in the eventual victory in World War II. In 2017 Vickie and I had the privilege of visiting the American cemetery overlooking Omaha beech. It was a moving and inspirational experience. One of the survivors of D-Day was an Army chaplain named Gordon Cosby. His experiences that day and during the subsequent days of the Allied invasion, were foundational in God’s call on his life that led to forming The Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. Our ministry is based in New Community Church which is one of the eight faith communities that developed from the original Church of the Saviour. I am blessed that Gordon was a mentor to me as I discerned and worked through a transition in God’s call on my life that resulted in establishing the Cornelius Corps in 2001. In 1994 on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Gordon Cosby reflected on his experience on the beaches of Normandy. Here is an excerpt from his reflection:
As a chaplain, my sole task was to share faith, nurture faith, deepen faith- in men under extreme conditions of crisis. Men who after I met them, often had only a few hours or days or weeks to live…We are storming the beaches now. I see our present context in Washington as dramatic and much more demanding than that period when we wondered whether we would be driven back into the sea. My task on the beach was the sharing, nurturing, and deepening of faith for those about tho perish. Our task now on the current beach is the same: strengthening of belief…Because of the intensity and starkness of human need, we can hear God’s question - Jesus’ question - “Do you believe? Do you love me? Will you take the leap into my arms?…Will you leave the way of security, power, violence, force, killing, triage? Will you, with me, see a new city - a new nation, a new church? (From By Grace Transformed: Christianity For a New Millennium, p. 206 and 209)
Gordon Cosby spent the rest of his long life, until his death at 95 in 2013, following God’s call through the many expressions and ministries of The Church of the Saviour. He also nurtured hundreds of others including me to follow God’s call to live the way of Jesus in our time. His focus on holistic discipleship as a journey inward (practicing spiritual disciplines), outward (discerning and following God’s call to service in the world), and together (in-depth small group Christian community) was forged on the beaches of Normandy but continues to bear fruit in the lives and ministries of people in Washington, DC, throughout our country, and around the world. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day this Thursday, I will give thanks for the sacrifice of those who died but I will especially thank God for Gordon Cosby who survived that day and went on to be an agent of God’s love and transformation for so many of us.