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A Prayer for Veterans Day

In the United States, we are approaching Veterans Day – a day set aside to remember and honor those who have served in the military. But more than simply saying “thank you,” it also offers the opportunity to turn our attention to the stories and lives of our veterans. Hold them in prayer and listen to their stories, truly seeing the child of God in your midst. They are your neighbors and are sitting in your pews. Maybe ask them to share their story with you, for it is in sharing the story that community exists, God is present, and healing may be possible.

 

 

The author (center), in her capacity as Chaplain.

God of all that was and is and is to come,

 

You, who bear witness to our creation and usher us home at our final moments,

we ask that you turn our ears to the cries of those we often do not hear,

to open our eyes to the stories in our midst,

to hear the stories of those called,

to hear the stories of those who answer the call.

 

Open our ears to the story of the seventeen-year-old

who yearns to serve in a world with honor,

who seeks an escape from the drug-riddled streets he calls home…

only to be sent to a place where the streets are riddled

with a different kind of violence, replacing one form of hate with another.

 

Give us the eyes to see the single mother,

yearning for a better life for her son,

who is called into harm’s way,

her son sent away to his grandparents yet once again,

in hopes that she is able to provide a better life for him,

who has more of a relationship with her son over phone video

than she does in real life,

only to hear cries of judgment for being a “bad mother.”

 

Give us the hearts to receive the young officer,

who, a few months after graduating from college, barely old enough to drink,

       found himself at war, commanding troops,

                  ordering young people into harm’s way.

Give us the heart to grieve with this leader

who now is writing a letter home to the parents of one of his Soldiers,

bearing the burden for the flag-draped box

that is the resting place for their son’s long trip home.

 

Lord, open our hands to the countless veterans

wearing their respective hats —

or simply wearing the cloak of service on their faces.

Open our hands to the Vietnam war veterans who never received that open hand,

and still live in the torment of war,

even though they have been told they have been “home” for decades.

They never really came home.

 

Lord, help us to hear their stories;

give us the wisdom to close our mouths and truly listen to the struggle,

for though they may be called into war-torn places,

they come home with war-torn hearts, lost and unsure.

 

Help us to be a safe haven, offering more than the mere words:

“Thank you for your service.”

Let us sit in the uncomfortable spaces of their lives for even a minute,

to dwell in the war-torn realities they never left.

 

We remember each year our veterans;

we remember the sacrifices they make…

but, Lord, call to our attention these warriors in our midst

as we seek to live and love in community each and every day.

May we see the scars in our midst,

may we listen to their stories,

and may we love and continue to welcome them home,

until our swords are turned to plowshares

and your reign of peace begins.

 

cross in front of a sunburst

Enough.

As U.S. Navy Chaplains, we have the privilege of serving Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsman, and their families in every clime, place, and context. It is a humbling honor to stand with and for those who defend the Constitution of the United States. Our “ministry of presence” occurs aboard ships, cutters, and submarines; with expeditionary, construction, and amphibious battalions; ranging over air, sea, and shore commands worldwide. We live among our people, we deploy with them, and we preach and pray in some of the most interesting of circumstances.

cross in front of a sunburst

In the Shadow of the Cross

This chaplaincy is unique in the uniforms we wear and the places we go; however, there are a myriad of similarities with any parish or institutional ministry. We provide rituals and rites of our faith group according to our denominational guidelines, we counsel and facilitate religious practice for every service and family member of all faiths, we advise the chain of command, and we are subject matter experts on human care. The following reflection is based on an amalgamation of days and circumstances and reflects a typical spiritual and emotional experience for me as I continue to discover that My Job is really not at all about me. Read more

Memorial Day Remembrance

3560856061_20a83080d0_zP: We gather together this morning to celebrate.

C: We celebrate a country of promised freedom, and the continuing commitment to ensure that all people might call themselves free.

P: We celebrate the many men and women who have served in the military at our behest.

C: We celebrate the courage and commitment of thousands of service people who have given their all in service to their country.

 

P: We gather this morning to honor.

C: We honor all who have left behind family, friends, and community to serve in the military.
P: We honor those who have loved these United States enough to risk everything for her prosperity.
C: We honor men and women throughout the years who have dedicated their lives to our freedom and our rights.

 

P: We gather this morning to lament.

C: We lament the state of a world where war seems the only or most expedient answer to our nation’s problems.
P: We lament the state of our nation which welcomes men and women back from war zones with silence and refusal to hear the stories of war.
C: We lament the state of our souls, ready to send others to do what we would dare not – and then refusing to recognize our own culpability in what they have done.

 

P: We gather this morning to mourn.

C: We mourn for all those who have given their lives in wars they believed in.

P: We mourn for all who have sacrificed their lives in wars they didn’t believe in.

C: We mourn for all who survived war zones, only to lose their lives in the fight against mental illness.

 

P: But most of all, we gather this morning to remember.
C: We remember the service personnel we have loved and lost.
P: We remember the sacrifices of so many in the service of their country.
C: And we remember our God, who redeems the unredeemable, forgives the                           unforgivable, and encourages that we love – both our neighbor and our enemy.

P: So, this morning let us celebrate, honor, lament, mourn and remember. And, as President Abraham Lincoln concluded his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

A Reading from Romans 8: 31-39:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Word of God, Word of Life.

C: Thanks be to God.

 

Time of Story Sharing

P: God of love and justice, it is your will that we live together in peace. Yet we live in a world in which war often seems inevitable. May we recognize with humility and sadness the tragic loss of life that comes in war. And as we enjoy freedom, we give thanks for those who have served with courage and honor; for those who resist evil and preserve justice.

We give thanks for those that are willing to serve. Let all soldiers everywhere serve with honor, pride, and compassion. Do not let their hearts be hardened by the actions they must take. Strengthen their families and keep them surrounded and guided by your love. We thank you for those that put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. Let us all be inspired by their self-sacrifice in service to those who need protection.

We give thanks for those that have made it possible for us to have freedom. Let us call to mind and name those individuals who have served their country . . . . . . . .

We ask that you be with those in pain from their loss and keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn and help us to be a comfort to them as well.

C: Amen.

 

Music for Meditation and Prayer

Taps by First Lieutenant Alicia Smith, Bugles Across America

Dear God, by your grace, may we have the strength and courage to truly honor those who have served by working for peace. May we see in them not only their courage, but also our own call to work for a world that no longer sacrifices life in the quest for peace; that we might envision in our hearts and work in our lives toward that which you have promised through the prophet Isaiah: that day when swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, that day when nation shall not rise up against nation, and that day when we shall not learn war any more.

C: Amen.