Archive for the 'Veterans Day' Category

“…Study War No More…”

Recently our grandson graduated from Coast Guard Intelligence School. A large delegation of his family (including Dianna and me) attended the event. The trip over Veterans Day weekend took us near historical sites from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. Our family found ourselves experiencing an extended US history seminar  during the weekend of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I on November 11, 1918.

In this country, Armistice Day evolved into our Veterans Day holiday. We honor all who have served in our country’s armed forces. The church where we worshiped that Sunday recognized veterans who were present. Many religious and secular events throughout the weekend offered veterans well-deserved recognition and appreciation for their service.

As a rule, I don’t believe patriotic observances belong in Sunday worship.   The church is not a patriotic organization. But the 100th anniversary of “the war to end all war” and “make the world safe for democracy” offered a significant “teachable moment” for the church. How do followers of the Prince of Peace manage the tension between being citizens of a nation (USA, Mexico, etc.) and citizens of God’s Kingdom? How does the church exist in a particular place and time and also honor our commitment to Christ that transcends all human and national boundaries? The church where we worshiped on Veterans Day recognized and thanked the veterans present. They remembered and gave thanks for those who had died in combat; they asked God to bless and protect those currently serving. AND THAT WAS ALL. 

The teaching moment came and went–in that congregation and, I’m afraid, in thousands of others. When the church’s patriotic observance merely mirrors secular ceremonies, we’ve failed to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ whom we call “Prince of Peace”. When we fail to share our message of transforming revolutionary hope for all humanity and all creation, we fail to be the Church. The difference between the Church of Jesus Christ and the service at the cemetery or the Legion Hall is, after all–JESUS CHRIST!

I believe an authentically Christian observance would move from grateful remembrance toward Proclamation of Good News: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15). “Repent” means far more than “Sorry.” It means “Turn around. Choose a new direction. ” “Repent/Turn Around” is Good News because it affirms that we can turn. We can change. We can become New Creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). What if Veterans Day worship invited all within reach to turn away from “studying war” toward “the things that lead to peace…” (Luke 19:42 CEB). We learned on our trip that approximately 650,000 people had died in the Civil War–about 2% of the nation’s population! This chart documents war’s death toll over many centuries. Some figures are careful approximations, of course. But these hundreds of millions of senseless deaths tell the shameful story of our continuing inhumanity to one another. More than 13 million people died in World War I, 69 million in World War II–and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. These figures include all God’s precious children who’ve died as a result of war–not only soldiers, but all the noncombatants who are warfare’s “collateral damage”. No, I didn’t add up the grand total. I didn’t want to know that number.  Let us repent of this horrific obscenity–before “studying war” is the death of us all! Let us rather share, pray, and work toward God’s dream for God’s world:

“They will beat their swords into iron plows and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation; they will no longer learn how to make war.
All will sit underneath their own grapevines, under their own fig trees. There will be no one to terrify them;              for the mouth of the LORD of heavenly forces has spoken.”—Micah 4:3-4 (CEB)

A faith-full Veterans Day observance might move from Remembrance to Repentance to Renewal. As we said, the call to “Repent” is hollow without a meaningful possibility to which we can “Turn”.  Visionary Easter faith sees possibility even for folks like us who thought “studying war” was our only option. Easter faith sees light-years beyond “thanks for your service” to the Risen Christ’s promise that “I am making all things new…” (Revelation 21:5) When did we last proclaim that Good News on Veterans Day or Memorial Day? The promise sounds wonderfully, impossibly good. We don’t dare believe it. We dare not turn fully toward the Light of God’s New Day. We dare not “pray without ceasing” for the prophet’s dream of peace to fill the earth. We close our ears to Jesus’ disappointed “O ye of little faith” (Matthew 8:26). We offer no altar call for peacemakers in the spirit of Jesus: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” . (Matthew 5:9) Altar calls, after all, are risky business. What if nobody steps up–even me??

This turned out to be about much more than Veterans Day, didn’t it? Like so much of our Christian life, growth means choosing between the status quo we know and love and the “new thing” just coming into view. What if we believe those ancient prophets? What if we make their inspired vision our own? What if we energetically pursue the blessing of becoming peacemakers? Most of all, how do we get from here to there–and invite our neighbors?

Rick Love is a pastor whose ministry invites Christians, Jews, and Muslims to the same table–for coffee and tea, a good meal that observes everyone’s dietary restrictions, and honest discussions about what they have in common, where they differ, and how they can live together peacefully. Rick says Romans 12:18 is the key verse for practical peacemaking in the Spirit of Jesus: “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.” (CEB) In this video, he talks about what he calls “Peacemaking for Dummies”.

The implications of that verse would take me at least another thousand words–but not now! It will start a journey from business-as-usual to repentance toward renewal and re-creation. I invite you to spend some time with this sentence. Focus on each phrase. Start a conversation with one or a few others about how this might impact your life and relationships. If you dare, include folks whose worldviews differ from yours. Try not to yell! Expect to be surprised by what’s “possible”; by how “best” your “ability” becomes when it’s Spirit-empowered; by the depth of the “peace” you share; by the way your life is enriched as your circle of “all people” grows. `