AMERICAN GRAFFITI

A famous piece of graffiti appeared in a New York subway that simply said ‘God is Dead’ Essentially it was a nod to the famous philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche who was not what you might call famous for his warm, sympathetic views about God, Jesus and Christians. Various spin-offs of the ‘God is Dead’ idea have appeared around the world. One version went like this ‘God is not dead, he just doesn't want to get involved’ I reckon that might be the most devastating lie that’s spread around our shattered society. Having said that, I do understand why people feel that God has forgotten them. We’ll come back to that.

This is Hoglands Park here in central Southampton and in 1944 it was known as ‘Hut City’ and home to thousands of American soldiers. A completely self-contained ‘city within a city’ as the mammoth machine of invasion was assembled and coiled to strike occupied Europe on D-Day. Three and a half million troops, more than half of them Americans, passed through the city bound for Normandy in France. OK, so maybe you’re thinking “What’s the link between Southampton at war and people writing on walls?” To answer that question, we need to relocate a few hundred yards as the crow flies and all will be revealed.

This is the New Docks area of this historic port city, one of those powerful places were the new and the old stand side by side. The new is a £300m epicentre of leisure designed to draw people in and the old is the imposing 700 year old city walls that were clearly designed to keep people out. Stuck in the middle is this very ordinary looking brick wall looking a bit out of place and to be honest a bit in the way. It’s story is awesome but many people who’ve lived here a lifetime have never heard it. Take a closer look and you’ll see that the bricks are inscribed or tagged with people’s names and even where some of them came from.

Many of the two million Americans that came through Southampton were queued here for days waiting to board landing craft bound for the battlefields of Europe. These are the names of over a hundred of those lads. In 2019, as part of the 75
th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings, some of them came back to this wall, all of them well into their 90’s. The wall fades with the memories and is now an eroding snapshot of a moment in time when a generation of young people willingly put their lives on the line, many never to return home. In the decades that have followed people have walked by these names, paused for a moment and then continued on to complete their lives.

There’s a place where our names can be written that never fades with the passing of time because it’s written by the hand of the eternal God of Heaven and Earth. It’s called the Book of Life and it’s really important that your name is written in it. It will be the one thing carries us on into Heaven when our life’s race is run. Here’s how you get your name written indelibly in that book. We need to understand that when God invaded this world with his love in the shape of his son Jesus Christ, he did it to liberate humanity from the self-inflicted captivity of a life estranged from him. Death and decay entered the world because of our rejection of God but it was defeated by Jesus on the cross.

When we personally accept that eternal truth and align ourselves with it, we are transformed by the power that raised Jesus from the dead and our names are written down. Not on a wall or a bus shelter but in the Book of Life.

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