Veterans Day 2016
Today is Veterans Day. The day we remember those who engaged in battle on our behalf across the globe. Veterans of named wars, WWII, Viet Nam, and the Gulf Wars, are among those we remember. We honor those who died and those who are still alive, because of their great sacrifices of spirit, livelihood and innocence.
We also have veterans of faith; those who have tirelessly engaged in the strain of civil discourse in this country, sometimes on behalf of the church, called to follow Jesus into the public square and have endured times of struggle, disappointment, disagreement, loss of hope or aspirations, yet they hold onto their commitments and strongly held beliefs. For many, this week has been a trial, even for veterans of faith.
I have been listening inwardly and outwardly during these last several days since the US Presidential election. My heart and mind has remembered past disappointments, particularly experienced in the public or political sector, where my most favored candidates failed to be elected. I also remembered past feelings of panic or paranoia, by realizing that there are so many others who believe differently than I and felt motivated to make other political or public policy choices.
There are enduring truths though that are comforting when remembered or realized. These truths are not the same as platitudes that may find to be unhelpful and sometimes evoke anger in times of distress. Well-meaning people who say things like, “God is still on the throne” and “God is in charge” are surprised when these words seem thin or useless. I’ve heard anger expressed, by disappointed or demoralized persons, toward persons they truly love, because they are frustrated by the use of clichés in complex situations.
In times like this, many of us, are drawn to the Bible to find encouraging and sustaining truths for guidance and hope. I feel helped by the following:
The beautiful admonition found in Ephesians 4 instructs us to be angry, but to not sin.
II Timothy 1:7 tells us, God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind.
I Peter 2: 9f reminds us who we are: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
I also recalled the dramatic and often only partially remembered story in the book of Esther of the deposed Queen, Vashti. I somehow see the unsuccessfully elected Democratic nominee as a kind of Vashti who was dethroned and banished by a vapid bully. In the Esther narrative though, we come to know that the story does not end there. Another emerges: one with a different temperament, style and calling, who is able to face a demeaning and demoralizing force with power and grace.
The challenge in this time, especially for us, is to remember who we are. The Aramaic plain English version of 2 Corinthians 4:9f tells us, we are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we are not defeated.
These words are unexpiring and true. Our forebearers knew (some of them on the other side, some of them still remain here with us) that our faith is reliable and will sustain us even when doubts threaten to undo us. Doubt your doubts, and have faith in your faith!
Not only are we called to remember who we are, but we are called to be conscious of the experiences of others who have reportedly been targeted with violence, harassment; some have even been stripped of sacred wraps by so-called disciples of the elected leader, who in their actions and words have declared that there is no longer a place in our country for those of different religious and life expressions. Brothers and sisters, we must resist this evil.
Beloved, when the time of grieving (or time of celebration for some) wanes, we must remember we have work to do. Our newly adopted ABCMNY mission vision statement says in part: we seek to regularly and actively recognize God’s presence and call in our lives, to live faithfully, grow in discipleship, joyfully serve God, to do justice with kindness, and to have our and others’ experiences of the world transformed… (and) through the strength of the Holy Spirit, (to) engage in compassionate and prophetic witness in the world.
Let’s gather our wits and do this work together.
Your Servant in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Dudley, Regional Executive Minister