Monday, November 8, 2010

Veterans & the "Armor of God"

“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

If you are reading this on November 11th, then you’re reading it on “Veteran’s Day” – the day we honor and remember the sacrifice and selflessness of those who serve and defend our country in our armed services. It was originally celebrated as “Armistice Day” -- November 11, 1918, the day that ended what was once called “war to end all wars” (World War I) – and its purpose was to remember those who had died in that conflict. In 1954, Congress changed the focus and scope of the day, and renamed it “Veterans Day.” Since that time, it’s purpose has been three-fold: remembering those who fought and died in all wars; celebrating all veterans; and promoting an enduring peace for all time.

In the Bible, the apostle Paul described the Christian life in military terms: in Ephesians 6, he says we should “put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

While Paul’s words here are meant to be understood metaphorically (rather than literally), it’s worth noting that Paul chose military language at all to describe a life of faith. His point is that life is very much a “battle” against the harmful spiritual forces of our world (things like fear and hopelessness), and that the disciplines of our faith are very much like the hard discipline and training of military personnel.

We have many veterans in our own congregation who we want to honor. So, as we celebrate and remember them, let’s also remember that we’re all called to be “veterans” of faith by “fighting the good fight” (1 Timothy 1:18). Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

I invite you to pray this prayer for our Veterans: “Righteous God, you rule the nations. Guard brave men and women in military service. Give them compassion for those who confront them as enemies. Keep our children from hate that hardens, or from scorekeeping with human lives. Though for a season they must be people of war, let them live for peace, as eager for agreement as for victory. Encourage them as they encourage one another, and never let hard duty separate them from loyalty to your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

[-"Prayer for Those In Military Service” found in the United Methodist Book of Worship #542]

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