Mac Mertens, CCES Class of 2022, addressed the members and guests of Christ Church Episcopal during the annual Scout Sunday service on February 6. This is an annual service held across America to honor the role of religion in scouting. Although Mac officially became an Eagle Scout in October 2021, he was asked to preach on Sunday as an alternative to the traditional thank you speech and was also awarded his medal. Below are his complete remarks from the service.
Today we celebrate 20 years of Christ Church Episcopal preparing hundreds of young men to be leaders in the modern world by acting as the charter organization for Troop 511 providing the next steps for members of Cub Scout Pack 511, teaching them, as the scout oath says, to do their duty to God, country, and other people.
For those hundreds of young men that have worn 511 on their sleeves, Christ Church and its values have played a key role in their development into men of honor and citizens in their community, nation, and world. Christ Church’s commitment to scouting is truly a fulfillment of Lord Robert Baden-Powell’s, the founder of the scouting movement, mantra: “Scouting is nothing more than applied Christianity.”
In today’s reading we see Jesus’s call to Peter, James, and John, naming them no longer as poor fishermen, but instead as fishers of men, an exhortation we see Christ repeat often. Here also we see Jesus miraculously fill the men’s nets so full of fish that the nets begin to break and their boats begin to sink. This incredible display of divinity causes Peter, James, and John to immediately leave their boats and follow Christ.
Whenever a new boy joins the troop or a new class of cub scouts graduates into boy scouting, the first things they are taught and told to memorize like the back of their hands are not knot tying, knife handling, or fire building, as important as those things are. Instead, every new scout learns the four pillars on which scouting has been based for more than a century: The scout law espouses the 12 values that every scout must live by, including trustworthiness, courtesy, and reverence, the scout oath, as I previously mentioned, pledges scouts to unending service to God, country, and other people, and the scout motto concisely admonishes scouts to “Be Prepared.” These three tenets of scouting are what you will find chiseled into the plinths of statues, printed across the tops of scouting publications, and engraved into the backs of medals. However, scouting’s fourth and often overlooked saying is the slogan of “do a good turn daily,” and this slogan is what I believe to be the most important part of scouting’s curriculum and the reason for scouting’s such large impact on the world.
A good turn is solely an action done for the service of another person. We teach new scouts that their daily good turns can be as simple and everyday as holding the door open for a stranger or helping a friend with their books. Now don’t get me wrong, a good turn does not stop at holding the door. Famously, scouts have done their good turn by saving babies from burning buildings or carrying unconscious hikers out of the desert. As important as these “very good” turns are, they often outshine the importance of everyday good turns. In fact, the most important good turn in the history of American scouting was a “mundane” - and I use the word mundane solely to highlight my hatred of the word in this circumstance - good turn.
On a business trip to England in 1909, an American named William Boyce found himself completely lost in the streets of London on a particularly foggy day. Noticing the lost Boyce, a young man asked him if he needed help returning to his hotel and guided him through the twisting streets all the way to where he was staying. Grateful, Boyce offered him money for the deed but was immediately refused, with the words “no sir, I am a scout. I am just doing my good turn.” This encounter with the near mythical “unknown scout” had such an impact on Boyce that when he returned to the United States, he founded the Boy Scouts of America less than a year later, and the rest is history.
Similarly to the “very good” turns as I previously called them, some of Jesus’s miracles are much more memorable and in the front of our minds than others. If I say to think of a miracle now, what do you imagine? Some of us might see Jesus walking on water in the midst of a rough storm, or dividing 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish amongst 5000 people, or even today’s miracle of the overflowing nets, and for a good reason. These miracles are Jesus’s full display of his divinity. These miracles were specifically performed to be memorable. However, how many of us thought of God’s “everyday” and perhaps even more important miracles?
In order for Jesus to walk on water, 2 hydrogen atoms and 1 oxygen atom have to fuse together forming H2O. And that water allows the existence of life itself. Is not the “mundane” fusion of water just as miraculous as Jesus walking on it? In order for Jesus to feed the multitude, first wheat and water had to be mixed and then baked at the right temperature for the right time into a form of sustenance that has allowed humanity to make its impact on the Earth. Is not the “mundane” formulation of bread and all that we eat just as miraculous as Jesus dividing 5 loaves of it into 5000 parts. In order for Jesus to fill the nets of Peter, James, and John to bursting fish had to live in the Sea of Galilee in the first place. Is not the “mundane” swimming of fish just as miraculous as Jesus' command of them?
Too often, we take these everyday miracles for granted, rightfully remembering the great acts of Christ in his journey to the cross but wrongfully focusing solely on them. Just as we as scouts focus so much on the good turns that make newspapers or win medals. But Jesus’s miracles would not be possible without the very foundational miracles of life itself, and the saving of babies from burning buildings and lost hikers from deserts would not be possible without the foundational, yet everyday, good turn of scouting: helping a lost tourist across the street.
Christ Church’s support of Troop and Pack 511 has facilitated hundreds of scouts to do their good turn daily, and I did the math. If all of the scouts that have passed through Troop 511 have done their good turns daily for 365 days a year, then Christ Church alone is responsible for more than 1,000,000 good turns, both large and small. And that number is truly miraculous.
Please pray with me a prayer written by Lord Baden-Powell:
In the light of this day, we come before thee, O Father, bound in a common brotherhood. Give us such a vision of our promise and law that our actions may be pure and straight, and our prayers may rise unruffled by any petty thoughts aroused by prejudice and intolerance. Help us to live as scouts should live, that we may think no thought and do no action that shall mar the sanction of our prayers and promise. Give us a true sense of dedication in the cause for which we work. Forgive us our shortcomings, this day and always. Amen