A Prayer For Veterans Day: "For Heroic Service" BCP (1979), page 839. O judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our wearing of a poppy and attending a Remembrance Day service is in order to remember the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918. That is when PEACE was declared, not WAR. WWI was supposed to be “the war to end all wars”. 20 years later, the world was back at it. And other wars have followed, each with their tragic list of casualties. All those everyday people who lost their lives or were irrevocably damaged by their war experiences didn’t sign up because they liked war. They fought for peace. They prayed for peace. That war came to an end. And yet it was only a temporary fix; the world still just can’t seem to go a day without there being war somewhere...
It seems hopeless.
But we can’t give up, just like the Jews rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. In our first reading today from the short book of the prophet Haggai, who lived in the 4th century BC, the Jews were still scattered far and wide and the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed – but God says to them
Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,
And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’
In the canticle we recited together this promise is repeated, that if we just walk in God’s paths,
They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, * their spears into pruning-knives;
nation shall not lift sword against nation; * they shall never train for war again.
In our New Testament reading, the Thessalonian Christians are apparently worried by reports of the end times coming, and Paul has to reassure them:
15 So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope,
17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.
And then we come to the advice Jesus is giving his disciples in the last week of his earthly life. To quote a Bible commentator from an online website,
“I have to imagine that every once in a while the disciples got incredibly frustrated with Jesus. Like during today’s reading. After all, at this point in John’s story it’s Thursday night, on the eve of the crucifixion, and Jesus has just told the disciples a) that he’s leaving and b) they can’t follow him. Then he says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” And I’m guessing their reaction was the first century equivalent of, “Gimme a break! Do not let our hearts be troubled? Are you kidding? Look around! ...”
This is what makes Jesus’ promise of peace difficult to take. Peace is exactly what we’re missing right now. Peace, after all, would mean the cease-fire of all this conflict, the end of all this turmoil, the conclusion of all our waiting and wanting and worrying. Right?
We usually think of peace as the absence of something negative — the absence of war, or strife, or fear, or anger. And the first definition in the dictionary is: “peace: freedom from disturbance.” But - Maybe peace isn’t an absence of something, but instead, is its own presence. Maybe peace is something, all on is own. Maybe it creates something positive, makes something wonderful possible, not just gets rid of something negative. Maybe this is what Jesus means by saying, “My peace I give to you. I do not give it as the world gives.”
So you’ve probably heard the idea that our human problem is that we have within us a need, a restlessness, a hole. And God fills that hole, meets that need, fills in what we lack.
But I‘m not sure that means that once we come to faith everything is suddenly hunky-dory, that we’re no longer aware of our need or lack or hurt or brokenness.
Faith should be understood not as some divine plug for the hole we each carry around inside of us, but rather as a summons to be more, to live and love more, to share more because there is so much more that God desires, and designed, for us.
I suspect, on the whole, that there are probably two views of the religious life. Both acknowledge that this world we share is full of tumults and challenges, of sometimes drastic ups and downs. One view of the life of faith assumes that when you become a Christian, things settle down, stop shaking, and suddenly make sense. The other view of faith, however, doesn’t promise an end to the earthquakes, but enables you to keep your footing in the middle of them.
I think that’s the one Jesus is talking about.
After all, the Spirit he promises comes as the Advocate — the one who comes to our defence when we’re accused — and the Comforter — the one who will not leave our side during trouble. Understood that way, there is nothing about Jesus’ words that would suggest either that he’s promising us an end to problems - or that he’s inviting us to ignore them. Rather, he promises peace— not merely the ceasing of disturbance but instead a confident expectation and hope about the future.
When asked what he would do if he thought the world would end tomorrow, Luther replied, “I would plant a tree today.” That’s not optimism, but hope; not simply a lack of fear, but courage; not only the absence of disturbance, but peace — Jesus’ peace, a peace the world cannot give.
So first, we pray. Max Lucado said: Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.
And when you’re done praying, put the hope into action- I’m sure anyone who’s been on FaceBook has seen this one:
"As the world fights to figure everything out, I'll be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying good morning, keeping babies entertained in grocery lines, stopping to talk to someone who is lonely, being patient with sales clerks, smiling at passers-by.
Because I will not stand idly by in a world where love is invisible. Join me in showing kindness and understanding, and judging less. Be kind to a stranger, give grace to friends who are having a bad day, be forgiving of yourself - today and every day.
Be the change, be the light, start today and NEVER STOP."