Psalm 91                                                                                                                                                 

Thank God For Veterans                                                                                                                 

November 13, 2016    

Veterans Celebration                                                                                                                                                     

This week has been an important one for us and for our country in many ways.  We went through the democratic process of electing our leaders on Tuesday, and while not everyone is pleased with the outcome, we can know that God is in charge and we can pray for God to bless us, our new President – Elect and all our leaders, and the process we have gone through. We have also celebrated Veteran’s Day this past Friday. That may be something we can agree on more than Tuesday’s election! Veteran’s Day is a time set apart for us to remember, celebrate and honor our veterans. Today’s Worship service is a special one, a special time for us to honor our veterans.   

The sign on the Woodland Avenue side of the Church says: “Thank God For Veterans”, and that is what we do on Veterans Day, what we are doing today, and what we should do every day,  Indeed, we thank God for veterans. The dictionary definition of “veteran” is: “Someone having extensive experience in some field” or, “Someone who has served in their nation’s military.” I think we can say that anyone who has served in the military has extensive experience in some field, most especially the field of serving and giving for others.

Sadly, some people do not honor veterans on Veteran’s Day.  It’s just another day for them. And then there are some who feel that honoring our veterans is tantamount to celebrating war itself. I strongly disagree with that.  As much as we hate war, we need to be forever grateful for those who are willing to go to bad places, be totally apart from their loved ones, and fight and even die if necessary for others. That is why we honor veterans on Veterans Day. That is why we are honoring our veterans in this service today. That is why we say “Thank God for Veterans”.  We want to tell them “thank you” for keeping us free. We want to say to them;  “Thank God you served to help protect us and our freedoms”.  

After the Civil War, General Sherman gave the commencement address at a military academy in Michigan. In that speech, he said that “war is hell”. Later, in a newspaper interview, he repeated that, but then added, “and thank God soldiers are from Heaven.” Even though we do not like, nor do we celebrate war in any way, we do know that God ordains the principles of sending soldiers into battle to defeat evil, even if it means fighting. Our veterans must leave home and go to terrible places, yet they are willing to do so. They spend their time remembering their loved ones. They suffer loneliness and homesickness. They are dedicated to their nation and they know they may be called upon to give the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others.     

What kind of people are willing to do this?    

Jesus said that there is no greater love than being willing to lay down one’s life others. I believe that this describes a veteran very well. They may not like the idea of doing so, and certainly they do not look forward to it, but they are willing to lay their own life down to save another if the situation demands that they do so.

As we celebrate and honor our veterans, we should give them what they need and what they deserve.  We should give them our remembrance and thanks for what they have done, and   our respect and encouragement. Our veterans have gone into battle to keep us free and give us the freedoms of worship, speech, and even our freedom to elect those who will lead us as we vote, as we did this week.     

Yes, our veterans have given us so very much, but I think the most precious gift of all is that they have given us is a part of themselves. How can we not honor and appreciate them for doing that? When our Founding Fathers grew tired of the tyranny they faced in Europe, they set out for this new land in which they could start over. They then had to make a hard decision. Would they accept the tyranny of England ruling over them, or would they stand up and fight to be free, knowing that many would lose their lives? They chose to fight for freedom. And almost every generation since has fought their own wars for the very same reason, to remain free from tyrants and evil men. Their thoughts were not on themselves but on the citizens of America. They were not concerned so much for their safety as they were for the safety of those back home.  And they need to be remembered. They need to be thanked. They need to be honored, and they need to be supported. We need to thank God for them. I am very proud to be an American citizen, living in the land of the free, provided by the men and women who are brave. 

One way that we can honor our veterans is to work together to ensure that the freedoms they have fought for are not taken lightly, but are protected.  I don’t have to tell you that our country is very divided right now.  Americans seem to be divided into different groups and the people in each of these groups seem to not want to work with or even listen to the people in other groups. Friends, this is wrong, and it goes against the freedoms that our veterans fought for. We don’t have to agree with each other, but we can agree to protect each person’s right to their opinions and their perspectives. This is part of the freedom our veterans fought for, and we need to protect that and respect that. The freedoms that our veterans fought for, and many died for, cannot be taken for granted.  We need to do what we can to protect these freedoms for all people.  In that way we honor our veterans and their sacrifices.  

So, to our veterans, we say “thank you”.  Thank you for giving of yourselves so that our freedoms can be protected.  Thank you for giving of yourselves for us, and for so many others. We do not take your sacrifices lightly, but commit ourselves to protecting and using  the freedoms you have fought to protect. We do not take these freedoms lightly, and will not take them or your sacrifices for granted. May God bless you and be with you as you continue to serve in every way.  Indeed, Thank God For Veterans. Amen.