Thursday, November 11, 2010

Let there be Peace on Earth...

Elizabeth and Mark in Iraq, (2004/2005)
My sister and brother are both Lt Colonel's in the Army.  I am very proud of them and supportive of all that they do.  They have both made sacrifices that are unfathomable; physically, psychologically, in their family lives.  They are very talented, focused and they are very good at their jobs.  As I said, I am very proud of them and appreciate all that they have done on my behalf.

Before them our family military service record is pretty sketchy.  A couple of Uncle's during the Vietnam era (none saw combat), a hint of a relative or two on the Lazarus (mom's) side.  There is a story of when Dad's number came up at the draft board during the Korean conflict - and how they decided they needed farmers more than soldiers - so he was deferred.  Dad always said if he had been drafted he would have gone in as a conscientious objector...which I think irks my sister a bit.

I know that when Liz or Mark are deployed my dad has made peace with their decision to be in the military - but he still prays without ceasing and is unsettled while they are out of the country - as we all are when a loved one is in harms way.

When I worked at Turner broadcasting in the early 90's I was the producer of the franchise "Operation TNT".  Veterans and their families submitted hundreds and hundreds of personal stories, photographs and other memorabilia to us which I then used to produce vignettes that aired during our various war movies.  I considered it an honor to be the holder of these stories, and as a result of reading them I have a great appreciation for Veterans and their loved ones and I love hearing and re-telling their stories.

So it seems fitting that I preached my first sermon on the day before Veteran's Day, November 10, 2002.  I was newly minted from the Iowa Lay Speakers Academy, a nearby pastor needed someone to fill her pulpit and knowing that my church (Eldora UMC) had 14 lay speakers to choose from she called my pastor for someone to fill the pulpit in Gladbrook for two Sundays in November.  As my pastor read the names of her Certified Lay Speakers she chose me (for some odd reason) to preach.

I was nervous and excited - and determined to prepare a good sermon.  I can't find a copy of the sermon anywhere, but I do remember calling Liz to ask her for some thoughts about being a veteran.  She said that she wanted me, and all of us, to remember that soldiers wanted one thing - peace.   It may seem counterintuitive to many of us, but she pushed again saying; "what we want and work hard for and train for is ultimately peace -peace for our country, safety for our loved ones, and for the world to be a better place."

Which leads me to my point.  I hate war. I hate what war and going to war does and has done to our young people.  I hate how victims of war seem to be the poor, the weak and the most vulnerable.  I hate that war is a part of our government's policy.  I understand the concept of defending our country from aggression, but the toll that it takes on the human spirit is devastating.

Because I hate the effects of war I have intentionally taken additional training on PTSD, on walking alongside Veterans and military families and I seem to gravitate to those who have served our country.  I genuinely love veterans!  From years of hearing their stories I have no doubt that Veterans experiences in the military, whether at times of peace or war, were the most formative and perhaps even the most invigorating experiences in their lives - because they lived into radical community, team work and service beyond themselves.  That is what military training does.

Radical community, team work and service beyond ourselves is what I too am passionate about - it is my vision for how the church should and can be - if we live into our call to be authentic followers of Christ.  I am not sure that we could get folks to enter into the kind of training the military does, but I get glimmers of this sort of passion through shared mission/service experiences and it warms my heart.

The song, Let There Be Peace on Earth, is challenging me today...

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth the peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father brothers all are we,
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me let this be the moment now.
Withe very step I take let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment and live each moment
with peace eternally...
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

What if we were to walk in harmony with those who thought (looked, acted even believed) differently from us?  What if we were to take a solemn vow to live in the moment - loving God and loving others as Christ modeled for us - wouldn't we then have a world built on peace, rather than ruled by the threat of violence?

Look at how we can't even talk about public policy in our own communities without dissolving into name calling and rhetoric - friends - this is NOT what God had in mind for his good creation, and not the kind of Church that Christ handed over to Peter, James and John.

Show me where Jesus said that his followers had to all think alike to be loved by God?  No, Christ came to free us to be unique and creative people with one focus:  to love God and to love one another!  We need to get a grip here and think about what is truly important -how can we say we love our sister or brother if they don't have clean water, shelter, food, or their basic physical needs cared for?

tomb of the unknown soldier
Arlington National Cemetary
Don't we owe it to our Veterans to go beyond waving a flag for the day or posting comments on Facebook to truly honor them and their sacrifice by doing everything WE can to make things more peaceful back at home and around the world?  Let's not let their efforts be in vain.

I'm just saying -

Let there be peace on earth -
and let it begin with me,

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