The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton
The Reverend Karen Crawford
Feb. 9, 2019
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
30 Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
31 but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.– Isaiah 40:28-31
President Wilson, in a January 1919 edition of National Geographic Magazine, declares the creation of a 1,700-square mile national monument in Alaska, which was a U.S. territory at the time. This followed five expeditions to this region to study the effects of the great Mt. Katmai/Novarupta volcanic eruption from June 6-8, 1912. This was the world’s largest volcanic eruption of the 20th and 21st centuries (so far) and one of the five largest in recorded history; in 60 hours, 17 kilometers of magma exploded out of the earth– 30 times more magma than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Local residents were forced to abandon their homes, never to return to live there. To get an idea of the magnitude of this eruption, if it had happened in New York City, it would have completely destroyed it, and Philadelphia would have been buried in a foot of ash.
The area became known as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, so named by Prof. Robert F. Griggs of Ohio State, who, after traveling there to study in 1913, led National Geographic Expeditions there in 1915, 16, 17, and 18. The Society predicted the area would be “America’s greatest natural-wonder playground of the future.” The Society would provide a grant of $35,000 for Prof. Griggs to lead another summer expedition in 1919 for further study of “the mysterious forces at work in the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” The Society’s expedition of 1919 would be “more elaborately equipped in every respect than any of the previous undertakings in this region.”
Those who went with Professor Griggs on the 1919 expedition included chemists, “motion-picture photographers,” topographers, petrographers, a zoologist and about 8 “assistants,” including Richard E. Helt, Charlie Helt’s father. Richard was a 25-year-old Ag student at OSU, studying under Professor Griggs. He was one of the first generation in his family to go to college, putting himself through school.
I can understand how it came to be that Sharon Helt’s most memorable journey with her father, Charlie, would be a 2-week Alaskan trip in 2000 with her 3 siblings, Charlie, and his wife, Pauline, to trace the footsteps of Charlie’s dad, Richard, and the expedition of 1919.
Charlie was born in 1929 in Zanesville and was raised on his parent’s dairy farm outside of Dresden. Like his father, Charlie attended Ohio State Ag College and graduated in 1952. He was a passionate fan of OSU football and went to the Rose Bowl in Jan. 1950 with his buddies, when guys still wore ties and fedoras to the game! Sharon has his souvenirs from the game kept all these years–a wooden folding chair that says “made in occupied Japan” and a small wooden block–a piece of the goal post that they tore down!– carved with the date and final score of the 1950 game: OSU 17, U of C 14.
After college, Charlie couldn’t find a job right away; he enlisted in the Air Force, serving from ‘52 to ‘57. He flew B25 bombers and trained pilots who fought in the Korean War. He married Patricia O’Donnell of Hopewell, OH, in 1956; they raised 3 daughters while he worked with chemical companies in Chicago and Cleveland as a tech service man for factories, breweries and dairies. He was good at solving problems and, later in life, would love to do jigsaw puzzles. Sadly, his career ended abruptly in 1980 when he was just 53 years old after doctors removed a softball-sized brain tumor, and he developed seizures. Two years after the surgery, his first wife died suddenly at 47.
Some people would be tempted to give up hope and turn inward after the loss of his career and then his wife of 26 years. But Charlie was a man of faith, with a playful spirit and a servant’s heart. He found new purpose in his life through serving others–spending time with his children, grandchildren and friends, and becoming a zealous volunteer for community organizations and churches. He came to The Presbyterian Church in Coshocton in 1983 after he married Pauline Buckey Cox of Adams Mills. Charlie was ordained an elder in 1985 and could be relied upon to repair and maintain the church building and help anyone who might have a need that he could meet. Charlie was also a caregiver for his aging mother on the farm in Dresden and then Pauline for 7 years when she struggled with health issues.
The reading from the prophet Isaiah spoke to me as I prepared the message for today’s service to remember Charlie and give thanks for the gift of his life. Even the most faithful can grow weary through trials and tribulations, through illness, suffering, and loss. Israel, during the time that Second Isaiah wrote, was rediscovering their love for the Lord and the faith that was all but lost after their captivity and exile. Isaiah in chapter 40 preaches comfort for God’s people, reassuring them and the many generations to follow who hear and embrace God’s Word that the Lord is not only the creator of the world and all its creatures. He isn’t a faraway, standoffish God! He isn’t too busy for the cares of this world. This God of the Israelites is our God, too. This is the one who loves human beings and is intimately involved in our daily lives. Though we mortals grow tired, the everlasting God is an eternal being and “does not faint or grow weary.” The Lord’s understanding is “unsearchable”–beyond the grasp of human beings. It is only through God’s strength that we are made strong.
This promise of strength for the weary was revealed in Charlie’s life. He knew and was a witness to the power that our compassionate and merciful Lord gives to “the faint” and the “powerless,” for Christ understands what we are going through. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The Apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 12:7-10 tells us that it is through our weakness that our witness is strongest. “My grace is sufficient for you,” the Lord told Paul in a vision, “for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
And the God we worship isn’t just the Lord of elderly people. We must preach this Word to our children and grandchildren, who may not think that all this religion stuff is relevant and necessary to our every day lives. This is the God of even the youth, who will “faint and be weary, and the young” who will “fall exhausted.” Everyone –the old and the young–need the Lord!
What is this “waiting” that we are told to do for the Lord? That means during our darkest hours, when the future seems most uncertain and even the thought of tomorrow without our loved ones beside us fills us with fear and sorrow, we can count on the Lord to guide and provide for us, moment by moment. We open our hearts, minds and souls to the power that will come to us, the power of God’s love, as we wait and pray–on our own and with other believers gathered for worship.
Isaiah saw the walk of faith made as graceful and powerful as an ancient bird of prey that soared high above his or her head. If we endure these hard days with prayer, clinging to the belief that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, we shall be renewed in strength. What a wonderful promise! The weariness of body, mind and spirit that grief brings will be lifted!
And we shall rise up! We shall mount up with wings like eagles!
We shall run and not be weary. We shall walk and not faint.
Let us pray. Holy One, we thank you that the way we might feel now–our grief and weariness and perhaps even anxiety for tomorrow–will change as we wait on you and pray in faith. Grant us your power, the power of love, that is promised for us at our weakest moments, power to endure and even rise up and soar like eagles. May we be your humble servants. Stir to us to show our love and commitment to you by loving one another and serving Your Church. Help us to be pleasing to you, seeking your will, all the days of our lives. Amen.