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.
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.