after a memorial day prayer...

Our local Memorial Day parade was cancelled this morning due to rain, but the ceremony marking America's fallen war dead still took place and I was grateful to have been asked to share the invocation.  There was a time in my ideological past when I would not have done so - especially in my early pacifist days - because I could not bridge my own inner contradictions about war and peace-making. It was easier to project on to others my own confusion and sit in self-righteous and safe judgment.

But one of the blessings that comes from serving God as a pastor in the local church for over
35 years is the chance to get over yourself:  LIFE is NOT about ME!  It is about how I can be allied with God's love and grace for others in the world as it is. If you do this gig long enough, you get a chance to hang with vets from WW II and Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars - and if you are lucky, you get to hear some of their stories. You also get to be pastor to active duty service women and men, too - and really learn what sacrifice is all about. And if you are profoundly lucky, you get to earn a bit of their trust in the process, too. It comes down to the wisdom Niebuhr articulated in part two of the Serenity Prayer:

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will, so that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Two of my favorite people were present at today's ceremony - both rabbis - albeit from different generations. They, too, know what it means to accept life as it is rather than as they might want it. As the rabbi's benediction made clear:  on this day we must come to terms with the ebb and flow of the divine cycle of times where there is always life and death as well as war and peace. Looking at the faces of so many stony men in uniform (and they were mostly men) brought back my earlier discomfort: for the longest time I mistook these chiseled grimaces for cruelty. But that is so very, very wrong. In reality, in this moment of remembrance, they are just doing their best to keep it together in public as they remember the excruciating agonies they have endured and the immeasurable grief they feel for comrades who have died. Truth be told, these tough looking faces are barely holding back tears we can never comprehend. And they keep it together to honor their beloved friends lost in combat with dignity and affection.

Most of us have no real experience with the insight Jesus speaks in chapter 15 of St. John's gospel:  no one has greater love than this, but to lay down your life for a friend. But the humble gathering today in Pittsfield - and all across the US - know this hard truth and know it from the inside out. It was a privilege to share this morning with these soldiers, sailors, air men and women even as my soul prayed for a peace beyond bloodshed.


Elmer E. Ewing said…
Thank you. Very helpful.

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