Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus, the  prince of peace.

Good evening, and welcome to Commerce Presbyterian Church.
My name is Rev. Craig Topple, interim Pastor of this caring and committed community of faith.
This is the third consecutive year the church is hosting a service of worship to praise God our Maker, and to say “thanks” and pray for those who have worn the uniform and their families.

In preparation for this evening, I was reading a blog post of a veteran who is now a pastor in Kansas, named Mitchell Lewis.
Sadly, veterans are too easily forgotten for any number of reasons:
- indifference toward the conflict they are and were engaged in,
- inadequate resources and care for them when they return home,
- not to mention those who fight their own demons from what they encountered in fighting for ‘our freedom.”  Suicide rates among military personnel is tragically high.  

Rev.Lewis is encouraging churches to become “military friendly.”
To do this, Rev. Lewis says, churches need to remember,
“War is serious business – too serious to trivialize it with naïve exuberance in worship.”
Therefore, “a church need not (and should not) become a cheerleader for (or against) any political party or military strategy.
Lewis points out, “Military service members have volunteered to put themselves (and their families) in very difficult situations for the sake of others.
Christian service members know the tension that exists between the demands of serving their government in a fallen world and serving God and seeking God’s reign of peace.
In order to be “military friendly,” Rev. Lewis encourages churches
“to pray for the well-being of soldiers,
for their families to remain strong,
for leaders to be wise and selfless,
and for peace.
Churches can also help with the practical matters of life: assisting the non-deployed spouse with child care or fixing a leaky faucet, for example.”

In this spirit, we welcome all service members;
we do not denigrating their vocation,
nor do we expect them to be more broken than the rest of God’s people.

We Welcome all, and a special welcome to our guest speaker, Judge Henry Banks.

In this spirit, we gather as Christians to express humble, quiet appreciation to service members for their sacrifice.

Our Opening Litany for Veterans* (a combined litany from Robb McCoy and Tom Williams) acknowledges our connection with our armed forces in various ways.
As your particular connection is named, you will be invited to stand as you are able, and I ask that you remain standing.
We will say together the bold printed prayer in the program.
Let us pray:
God of love, peace and justice, it is your will for the world that we may live together in peace. You have promised through the prophet Isaiah that one day swords will be beaten into ploughshares.  
Yet we live in a broken world;
forgive us for apathy toward conflict.
let us never believe war is the only option,
have mercy, when we are led to believe war is the best option.

as we gather to worship You, We ask You to bless all veterans in a special way today, as well as the families of these veterans.

Please Rise as you are able and remain standing:
Those that are in our presence that are either in active duty or reserve duty, and the fathers, mothers, siblings, spouses and grandparents of those that are currently serving.

All: O God, we praise you for those that are willing to serve.
Let all Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen serve with honor, pride, and compassion. Do not let their hearts be hardened by the actions they must take. Strengthen their families. Keep them surrounded in your love and peace.

Please Rise as you are able and remain standing:
Those that are in our presence that have served in the military in the past.

All: God, we praise you for those that have served in the military. 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 needed protection.

Please Rise as you are able and remain standing:
Those that are in our presence who have lost a loved one in war.

All: God, we praise you for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We ask that you comfort those that still feel the pain of their loss.
Keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn.

Please Rise as you are able and remain standing:
Those who have gathered in your name in safety because of the sacrifices of others.

All: God, we praise you for granting us these freedoms. Let us honor those who have served by working for peace. Let us never forget those that have served, and let us never let go of your promise of peace.  We give thanks, Gracious God, that you remain with us as we celebrate the service of all who dared to go forth in our name. Remind us that such service is not a movie, an adventure, nor something to be glorified. Remind us that war is a failure by us to overcome hatred with love, injustice with righteousness, violence with peace. We give thanks for those who protect us from such failures. May we truly be Your people and be makers of peace. AMEN.

Remain standing as the colors are now be presented by the East Jackson High JROTC.

And now cubs scouts from troop _35__ who meet here at the church will lead us in the pledge of allegiance followed by us singing together the national anthem.

Meditation on Galatians 5:13-26
Freedom is something we all cherish.  
Freedom is something we all struggle for in different ways,
Freedom from debt.
Freedom to choose.
Freedom from fear.
Freedom to live in the way we feel suits us best.

It’s a tricky concept, defined in many ways by different people.  
How do you know you are free?
Are you free because you can walk down an endless aisle of cereal choices in the grocery store?  
Are you free because you can, in theory, worship in the place of your choice and not be persecuted?
We say we are a free country,
we say veterans defend our freedom.
How do you know you are free?

The Apostle Paul has something to say about freedom.
Part of the lure I think for many Americans to the Christian form of religion is that it is a religion that espouses freedom.  
Paul says followers of Christ were called to freedom!
That sounds pretty good!
I’m free, so I can do whatever I want--within the law of course?!
Of course, so often overlooked, is how Paul goes on to talk about freedom.  
Immediately after announcing our freedom in Christ, he uses a strong word that seems the exact opposite of what freedom means:
use your freedom to, through love, become slaves to one another.
Use your freedom to, through love, become slaves to one another.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Is this how you express your freedom?  
It’s not the first thing that comes to my mind or happens in my practice of freedom. But maybe it should.

Paul goes on to talk about --the Spirit--spiritual things;
he takes us from one level to another--
and lifts us up above the endless aisles of products,
beyond infinite channels on TV;
Transcending even the notion of a free society,
He lifts us to a freedom which he defines as liberation from self-indulgence,
self-indulgence, which really easily becomes the true master of us as we experience “freedom.”

freedom from self indulgence to a freedom lead by life in the spirit:
a life full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

What happens when we are free from the old master of self indulgence and free for life that is lived in a spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  

Oh, that we would be a free people!
For in Christ, we are truly made free.

in giving thanks for living in a “free” society,
let us remember to seek after these higher expressions of freedom each and every day.   

I’m going to ask that we pray again together, and during this prayer the names of those who have died in service will be spoken, followed by a few seconds of silence.

Let us pray (italics by Mark Roberts):
God of the ages, We thank You for all who have served in the armed forces of this country.
We thank You for the freedom their sacrifice has earned and guarded for us.
Help us to prize this freedom and use it well.
Strengthen those who bear physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds.
Stand with those who provide care to them.
Move us to reach out to sisters and brothers who are veterans, or relatives of veterans, or who currently serve in the military.
Comfort those who grieve for those who gave the last full measure of devotion.

You know the names of your children.
We speak their names now, those who have died in military service this year (from militarytimes.com):

Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, 39, of Roland, Okla

Air Force Master Sgt. Gregory T. Kuhse, 38, of Kalamazoo, Mich

Air Force Maj. Phyllis J. Pelky, 45, of Rio Rancho, N.M

Air Force Capt. Jonathan J. Golden, 33, of Camarillo, Calif

Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan D. Hammond, 26, of Moundsville, W. Va

Air Force Senior Airman Quinn L. Johnson-Harris, 21, of Milwaukee, Wis

Air Force Capt. Jordan P. Pierson, 28, of Abilene, Texas

Air Force Airman 1st Kcey E. Ruiz, 21, of McDonough, Georgia

Air Force Senior Airman Nathan C. Sartain, 29, of Pensacola, Fl

Navy Seaman Philip Frazier Manes, 21, of Fairfax, Va

Army Spc. Kyle E. Gilbert, 24, of Buford, Ga

Air Force Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, of Lexington, Ky

Air Force Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, of Pensacola, Fla

Army Master Sgt. Peter A. McKenna Jr., 35, of Bristol, R.I.,

Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason P. May, 38, of Chesterfield, Mich.

Army Pfc. Monterrious T. Daniel, 19, of Griffin, Ga

Army Sgt. 1st Class Pablo A. Ruiz, 37, of Melbourne, Florida,

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan D. Burris, 24, of Lisle, Illinois,

Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Devon J. Doyle, 21, of Alamosa, Colorado

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony E. Salazar, 40, of Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Army Spc. John M. Dawson, 22, of Whitinsville, Mass.

We remember those who have fallen by taking their own lives or who have fallen at the hands of another.  

We pray for the day when no one needs to serve in the military.
Help us to live now in anticipation of that day, as people who long for peace, who pray for peace, and who seek to be peacemakers in this world.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen

Hymn 564 - O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.

the Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord’s face shine upon you
And give you peace,

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