Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Notes for the Veteran’s Day Message 2015.

This message was preached on November 11, 2015 at the Ecumenical Veterans Day Service at Kingswood United Methodist Church, 300 Marrows Road, Newark, DE 19713

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Today is the day when many nations around the globe remember and honor their veterans. We honor our veterans on the 11th day of the 11th month because on that day in 1918 (almost 100 years ago) an agreement to cease hostilities (an armistice treaty) was signed at 11:11 o’clock in the city of Compiegne, in Northern France, and World War I was officially over.

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Shortly after, President Woodrow Wilson wrote,

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations” (Veterans Day Quotes).

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Veterans Day is about gratitude and stewardship. On Veterans Day we proclaim our gratitude to those whose service in the military has secured our freedoms and national security through the years. Whether or not we approve of our nation’s foreign policy, we need to support the everyday people — mostly working class, often minorities — who fight our nation’s wars (Epperly).

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President John F. Kennedy wrote, “As we express our gratitude [to the veterans], we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” (Veterans Day Quotes).

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Veterans Day is our chance to say “thank you” to the men and women who served their country in the past and who are serving their country in the present. Veterans Day is about our actions in support of the well-being of veterans, especially those who have been injured or traumatized by war. Veterans Day is about our own commitment to the common good and our nation’s care for its most vulnerable citizens, those for whom our soldiers sacrifice.

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Truth be told, most of us don’t know what it feels like to feed fleas and lice for months on end while living in the trenches and being shot at; I hope and pray that we never find out.

Truth be told, most of us don’t know what it feels like to take another human life and what it does to our psyche; I hope and pray that we never have to find out.

Truth be told, most of us do not understand the emotional battles that our veterans live through every day of their lives after returning home. Just like our veterans from World War II, from Korea, and Vietnam, some of our veterans returning from Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Middle East come home with deep physical and psychological wounds, scarred not just in body, but also in mind. As a nation, and as Christian sisters and brothers, it is our duty to help to heal these wounds with love, patience, understanding, respect, and admiration.

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On November 21, 2011, Time Magazine had a special issue titled “An Army Apart.” Here are some of their observations:

The gap between the military and everyone else is wide, and it widens further every day. We don’t know what our soldiers go through. Talking to the veterans of WWII, it sounds like everyone in the neighborhood had a family member in uniform. That is not the case today.

Today if we remove those who are unlikely to serve because they are not physically fit, or who have a criminal record or are in college, only 15% of American youths between the ages of 17 and 24 are eligible to enlist. Think how different our nation would be if every young man and woman had to serve in the armed forces. Think how it would induce a deeper sense of service and community among our citizens. Think how it would influence our nation’s foreign policy and shorten the armed conflicts and wars that we are involved in (Thompson).

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The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures, Early Christian Writings and Jesus make it abundantly clear that to speak of love and sacrifice, without making the commitment to sacrifice for the well-being of our neighbors, makes us no more than “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1). When Veterans Day is understood in the spirit of the Biblical tradition, it reminds us that there is no such thing as rugged individualism or absolute property rights; everything is a gift from God to be used for the well-being of others as well as our own kin. Sacrifice is not just the responsibility of veterans; it is required of all who make a choice to follow Jesus. In the spirit of President’s Wilson’s proclamation, justice and peace should guide our national and personal decision-making. God’s vision of abundant life is much more about “us” as a community and a nation then about “me” as an individual (Epperly).

It is becoming more and more commonplace for American soldiers, many of them National Guard and reservists, to be activated and sent to the theater of war in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

On October 28, members of the Delaware National Guard were deployed to the Middle East {Click [here] and [here] for the stories in The News Journal}. Jessica Hamilton of Middletown said, “That is not his first time…” John Marinangeli of Landenberg, PA said, “Once you get over there… it’s just day-to-day work… except you e-mail everybody at home instead of talking…” (Giletto) – {[CLICK ME] for the video essay on The News Journal website}. These man and women serve their country with valor and distinction; they do what they have to do to get their job done.

Sad truth is that our soldiers come home to a country divided and distracted by internal politics. Our returning soldiers come home to find that the public has little interest in what our veterans have been doing for the nation. That is heart breaking and that is the reality of our lives today.

Whether we individually agree with the wars that our nation is involved in or not, all of us “own” that war. That’s how our country works. Every man and woman who wore the uniform overseas went over there wearing the American flag, representing each one of us and our nation’s ideals. As our soldiers come back, they face new and different battles when they arrive: staggering unemployment, financial crisis, inflation, and apathy and indifference to name a few.

It is not all doom a gloom though…. The tide is turning.

{{ News Journal Story: A place for veterans: Victory Village nears completion – [Link] }}  //  {{ News Journal Story: An effort to get homeless veterans off the streets and into a permanent housing – [ Link ] and [ Link ] }}

Our veterans can teach our nation an important lesson. That lesson is that there is no threat that we cannot face and overcome together; there is no challenge we cannot figure out and find a solution to. Our veterans teach us that we are a nation and one country under God that does what is necessary to assure that future generations have opportunities to build their lives.

Our communities need the veterans and our veterans need our communities. We need their leadership abilities and skills as we try to rebuild after the economic crisis of the last decade, and our veterans need our compassion, understanding and love to help them reinvent themselves after what they have been through.

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Listening to the stories, understanding the sacrifices and recognizing what our veterans face challenges our lives.

  • Do our actions promote the overall well-being of our nation’s peoples and this good earth?

  • Do we focus on our own welfare to the exclusion of our neighbors?

  • What are we willing to sacrifice so that others may live abundantly?

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On this Veterans Day 2015, let us be grateful and let our gratitude inspire us to generosity and commitment to the well-being of our nation, and most especially to its most vulnerable citizens and veterans who suffer the ravages of war. Then, our love of nation will take us beyond nationalism and self-interest to the affirmation of our role as God’s partners in healing the earth.

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In 1967, the great American musician and composer Stevie Wonder released a song titled Someday At Christmas. It is a beautiful prayer that will touch the heart of every man, woman and child who really listens and comprehends the words. Here are some of the lyrics.

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas, there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth (Wonder)

Someday At Christmas is a prayer of hope and faith that someday we will live in a world where men and women are free of oppression, where guns are silent, where there is no hunger, where each heart has hope and where brotherly love prevails in every heart… That song is about everything that our veterans are willing to sacrifice their lives for…

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President John F. Kennedy wrote, “As we express our gratitude [to the veterans], we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them” (Veterans Day Quotes). We can express our gratitude to our veterans by working towards ideas set forth in that simple and powerful song.

God Bless America!

God bless the men and women in the service of their country!

May peace prevail all over the world!

 

Works Cited:

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