November 12, 2017
Veteran’s Day Service
Many of our veterans participated in the service today, giving announcements, leading prayers, and recounting their individual stories. James Toczko recognized everyone present who had served in any branch of the U.S. Military. He also recognized the families of servicemen, calling them an integral but little-recognized branch of the service. (I have to admit, I liked that, being the daughter of a Navy vet.) There was even a 92 year old WWII veteran in the congregation. It was heart-warming to honor these very special people.
After Pastor Alex York interviewed two of our own beloved Gateway veterans, Tim Walker and Dennis Fisher, we watched a video about the experience of Lt. Colonel Brian Birdwell, a high school buddy of Pastor Alex and his wife, Jill.
Currently serving as a Texas state Senator, Colonel Birdwell was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. He was burned so badly from the crash of a hijacked jet into the heart of the Pentagon that he was not expected to survive. On top of his grave injuries, all Med-Evac helicopters were grounded that day along with all air traffic across the country, slowing down emergency treatment he desperately needed.
Brian Birdwell said the hardest thing he had to do that day, after the Hospital Chaplain helped him to understand that he was dying and led him in a final prayer, was to say goodbye to his young son. Later, when he had miraculously recovered, he saw that impossibly difficult moment as a glimpse into what it must have been like for the Father to say goodbye to His Son, Jesus, when Jesus was sent to Earth to die on the cross. “I earned my Purple Heart stepping out of the men’s rest room in the Pentagon on 9-11,” Colonel Birdwell said. “Jesus Christ earned His Purple Heart by stepping out of the perfection of heaven.”
After the video, Pastor Ed said that we recognize our military on Veteran’s Day because they represent the right way to serve our country. He went on to explain: God is not a Republican, nor is He a Democrat. God is not an American. So how should we, as Christians, as Christ-followers, view America?
Psalm 137: 1-4 is a lament by the Israelites during the time around 597 B.C. when they were taken as captives to Babylon. They had to live in a foreign land far from their beloved home and it was breaking their hearts. In Jeremiah 29:4-14, Jeremiah’s word from God to the exiles is recorded. Here, God commands the Israelites to settle down, plant gardens, marry and have children. He urges them to pursue peace and prosperity in the land to which they had been transplanted. He promises them they will someday be returned to their true home.
We as Christians are like these exiles. This is not our true home. We live in a culture that is sometimes hostile to our faith and worship. This culture is not our own.
We sometimes lose sight of this truth in our comfortable northern Virginia setting. Twenty years ago, Pastor Ed surveyed the residents of this area. Knocking on doors, he asked questions. What he learned was that people around here generally like their lives; they just want something a little better. But for the most part, they are comfortable. We are also comfortable—perhaps too comfortable for exiles!
So how should we view America? We need to remember we live in the “in-between” times. We are between the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the end of the Earth. In Jeremiah the word of the Lord remains true today. We need to work for the peace and prosperity of our country, pray for all those in our sphere of influence and for our leaders, and look forward to one day returning to our true home.
We celebrate the veterans and military service people among us because they are fulfilling this charge. They seek peace and prosperity on behalf of all of us. America is a free country, perhaps freer than any other country on this Earth now and throughout history. This is largely due to the service and sacrifice of our military. Their sacrifices represent the right way to serve a culture.
Let us re-dedicate ourselves to being fully alive in serving today’s culture. And let’s honor our veterans who are a shining example of such service. We serve our country to bring as much goodness and glory to those around us until the time when we are called to our true home.