Memorial Day

Flags In Ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary on May 24, 2012

Someone once said of our Memorial Day celebration and Memorial Day worship that it sounded like we were celebrating war. One thing is for sure; no one in their right mind will celebrate war, except perhaps those who love it. I am appalled at the words attributed to Generals George Patton and Douglas MacArthur… especially MacArther. General Patton said: “God help me, I love it so.” but MacArthur went way beyond the pale to say of the outbreak of the Korean War: “It was a gift from God for this old soldier.” I can’t even comprehend the amount of hubris it takes to even think of a statement like that, much less voice it.Imagin that God would allow (cause) millions of people to suffer and die just so an old General could have one more swing of the bat? Insane!!!

Anyone who has been in a war will not want to be in another. The human psyche was not meant to see or endure all the evil that war brings. I spent a short time in Vietnam before being wounded and taken to Japan. But it didn’t take me long to realize that war is not the way people and countries need to settle conflicts. It might be fine for the people who sit at desks or make the command decisions from country villas, but the ones who pay the price are the civilians and the pawns of war known as the average everyday dogface, mud Marine and those who fall from the sky. It has long been my contention that everyone comes home from war wounded to some degree or another. For some… they fight their battles most every night when they once again see the sights, hear the sounds and smell the stench of war.

Yesterday James reminded us of the mercy and grace that took place on Christmas Day during WWI. The silence of the morning is broken by a German soldier singing Silent Night. Then, across no man’s land and into the trench of the enemy, came a rum cake. Back across that battle area came a bottle of wine. After a while one soldier came out of the trench to meet his enemy on the battlefield not with a gun but with a handshake and a smile. All day more and more soldiers from both sides joined in the games, laughter and peace.

A miracle happened in the hearts of those men that day. The next day when ordered to attack many of them did not. Matter of fact many of these men had to be transferred to other places in order for the war to continue in that place. Could that possibly be God’s way of saying that if we take the time to meet and greet, to get to really know our enemy they no longer remain our enemy?

I weep for all the people on all sides of wars who died in battle because it didn’t have to be that way… they didn’t need to die… to leave wives, mothers, children without a husband, son or father. But we go to war because we are told we have to go. Somehow, someway, sometime, someone must stand up and say NO MORE! THERE IS A BETTER WAY!

May God’s profound peace touch the souls and surround all the families of all the people who gave their last full measure of devotion.

Grace and Peace

Steve



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The Struggles of The Church

grace_wordle-600x274The struggles of the church are many, most complicated, and fraught with political factions from all sides. We have just returned from General Conference which many people describe as “so nasty that they must have left Jesus at the door.” Is that wonderful words for a delegate to use in describing the meeting of the church which stressed “Holy Conferencing.” It is amazing to me that we in the church keep Jesus at the door while we discuss His Bride with words that should not be used in reference to the church.

It is amazing to me that 12 million people in the United Methodist Church all have a different take on what the church should be doing and what is most important in our calling as the church. We have our own agendas and many will do everything they can to see that their agenda comes out on top. Either my way or the highway. Either my way or I will make you pay. That is a very sad indictment against the church and those called to serve and lead.

In the fourth century a little monk named Telemachus from Asia (modern day Turkey comprises the Roman province of Asia; or perhaps Asia Minor is meant), was led by an inner voice to go to Rome without knowing why. He followed the crowds to the Coliseum. Two gladiators were fighting, and Telemachus tried to get between them to stop them, shouting three times, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Telemachus was killed by being run through with the sword of one of the gladiators. When the crowd saw the little monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent, leaving the stadium, one by one. Because of Telemachus’ death, three days later, the Emperor by decree ended the Games.

One person379_10156671904895324_987263482948793362_n can make a difference if we are willing to give our lives in the service of the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Our calling, as the church, is not to decide who is worthy. Our job and only job… our calling and only calling is to love without qualification, without questions, without excuse. Love no matter what. Love no matter who. Love no matter how.

Don’t get all caught up in the trivial matters of faith, the words used to describe your faith, the name of your denomination or anything else. Will you love as Jesus loved.

Back in college in the 1970’s we were taking a New Testament course from my friend Dr. Horace Maness… a man I dearly loved and respected. Dr. Maness had given his lecture on beliefs. At the end we asked: “Never mind what you teach, tells us what you personally believe.” Dr. Maness thought for a moment and finally answered: “In the end love will win against all evil!” We thought it was a cop out on his part. However, the older I become, the more complicated the world becomes, the more difficult and personal the issues are which face the church, the more I realize how very profound were the words of this PhD. in religion. The last hope of all belief and hope is will God win in the end. If not all this is for nothing. If God wins then we are part of that victory. When all else fails or is in question this is what really matters.

So are we contributing to the love of Christ in this world or are we contributing to the division which finds no place for the Jesus of the Cross and the Jesus of the Basin? Where are the words of the Spirit taking you. I pray that we are joining hands and hearts to love and lift the lives of ALL humanity.

Grace and Peace
Steve



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