Grace and peace to you and yours as we remember those who have served this nation and are now at peace in the Lord.
A few months ago I had the privilege of conducting a graveside service at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery. In almost forty years of pastoral ministry, I have seen and presided over a great many graveside services with military rights. Each one was special because, in every case, many veteran volunteers came together out of respect for the one who had served the nation. These volunteers from the area were there to honor their comrade in arms and participate in the final volley salute. There were the sounds of taps, sometimes recorded and sometimes performed live, but always with dignity. All of this was culminated with the presentation of the flag to the family. Yet, as special as all these were, this one I participated in at Fort Sam was extra special because it was a cut above any I had seen before.
From the beginning to the end, these active military personal, men and women, moved with a solemn dignity and precision that was awesome to witness. For me, the folding of the flag, with as much care and respect as any one is capable of showing, and then the slow salute as the flag was presented to the family struck a cord. I was truly moved. It was indeed a special moment I felt privilege to be a part of that day. Why do I mention it in this week’s blog? Simple, for two distinct, important reasons.
First, this weekend is Memorial weekend. A great many people will take getaways headed to the beach or just out of town. They will enjoy and celebrate a day off from work or school, a long weekend, and the beginning of summer. There’ll be BBQ’s, picnics and parties to relax and unwind. All of these things are nice, certainly welcomed by all; but, they are NOT what Memorial Day is about.
Memorial Day is a reminder to a people of a nation, these United States, to keep in their thoughts those men and women who, over the years of this great republic, have protected her sovereignty, fought for her liberty, and sacrificed for her honor. We remember those who gave their lives in battlefields around the world, even on our own hallowed ground right here at home. We remember those who survived the battles and wars, bearing the scars, often in silence the rest of their days, who also have died and gone on to the peace that only God can provide.
Oh, and I truly believe this land, this republic, is indeed hallowed ground, a blessing from God to be used and treasured for the sake of all people. Like Israel of old, I see this country also as a land flowing with milk and honey. And like Israel of old, God can just as easily bring down His wrath upon us, as He did on Israel in its history, when we forget who it is has blessed us with its abundance. That brings me to my second reason for writing and recording this blog.
I am appalled by those who desecrate the flag by spitting on it, burning it, and generally treating it with anything less than the respect and honor it deserves. In the process, they are also doing the same to those who serve our nation under that symbol in its armed forces. Look, I get it. This country has done terrible things over its history for which we should be ashamed. Surprise! What else can one expect? As I periodically remind the congregation I serve, we are by nature sinful and unclean. We’re human beings are not perfect. However, our flag doesn’t symbolize the wrongs and evils we have done, but the heights of greatness to which we aspire. In the same way, we as Christians are guilty of sin, too much sin; but, our sinful state is not what God intended or created us to be. He made us to be better than we are by living up to our potential. We do not condone our sin nor wallow in it. Instead, we aspire to live in the example of our Lord Jesus Christ by rising to the greatness God desires from us.
Our founders, imperfect men and women, who established this nation as a beacon for liberty and freedom for the world, saw what it could be and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to strive toward that goal. They became the first generation of soldiers to sacrifice in the service of the nation and its people. There have been countless numbers of such courageous people since. They believed in the greatness that this nation can be.
I understand. One can indeed protest and acknowledge the shortcomings of a nation, the wrongs that have been done without maligning the symbol that defines us or condemning those who have served and are serving in our armed forces by their sacrifices and dedication to that flag and what it represents. It is the service of these men and women throughout our nation’s history that makes it possible for those who are dissatisfied to protest and selfishly behave as if no other opinion or position has validity if it differs with theirs.
I’m old fashioned in the likes of some old lyrics by Jim Croce that go “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger. And you don’t mess around with Jim.” Well, I don’t know about Jim, but I firmly believe “You don’t mess around with our flag or her troops.” Protest? Sure. You have the right, but we have that right because of what that flag symbolizes and the men and women who gave their blood, sweat and tears to make it so. We all need to remember that the blessings that God has given today can be quickly taken away tomorrow.
This Memorial Day have some fun, relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, but take a moment or more to remember those who have served this nation and its people. You might even pray a prayer of thanksgiving. Give thanks to God that He blessed us with such people and thank them for all they have done.
And those are my thoughts.
Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, THE only source of salvation.
I am convinced. The world is turning upside down. I’m already struggling with ways to reach out to our youth of confirmation age (usually middle school youth in the Lutheran faith) to provide some contact with the basics of what we believe as Christians and why we believe it. Our young people have so much crammed into their schedules it’s tough for our fundamental faith understandings to get much of a hearing, especially in an educational system that seems bent on excluding God talk from everything. The way I look at it is if they can’t come to church for worship and study so I can spend some real time with them on a regular basis, then I’ll use the internet or whatever to make face time with them any way I can. As sad as that is, it’s getting worse. Now, according to some child care experts (I’m always dubious of anyone claiming to be an expert in dealing with children, having raised three of my own.) they now say I am to ask consent of an infant before I can change a wet diaper. (I thought that’s why they were crying in the first place.) Really? Where has sanity gone?
It’s bad enough we have some millennials telling us that socialism and communism is good for our nation who have no life experience or knowledge beyond the academic brainwashing currently passing for education. Now, we have teenagers, who in accusatory tone, point their fingers at those of us who own and shoot guns and call us evil, demonic or worse. By their definition, we are hateful with no regard for the life of any child. However, when they inform me that my time with God is wasted because He doesn’t exist and they claim to be smarter than me, even when incapable of speaking or writing the king’s English themselves, I have reached my limit.
This whole PC concept of treating children of all ages as if they are “little adults” is insane. As a child growing up in the 50’s or with my own kids and grandchildren, our home life did not exist in a democracy. It was an absolute dictatorship. Oh, discussion and diverse opinions were welcomed and encouraged, but in the end the parents made the decisions, not the kids. Going to church wasn’t open to discussion — we went. Following the rules laid down by parents for conduct were demanded — totally. Respect for elders and persons in authority was expected — without question.
Scripture tells us a whole lot about raising children and the relationship we are to have with them and they with us as parents. From Proverbs 4:1-2 — Listen, my children, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
Colossians 3:20 — Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Proverbs 22:6 — Train a child in the way he (or she) should go, and when one is old one will not turn from it.
These aren’t even scratching the surface of what God would have us as parents and as children learning to be adults need to know. Somehow, somewhere, we lost hold of what’s important and it isn’t our iPhone, iPad or social networking. It’s a relationship with God by His standards and relationships with one another based on REAL human contact.
And those are my thoughts for this week. God bless.
I’ve been encouraged to add a Facebook video blog. I will now be sharing some of my thoughts on topics of interest or concern to me, spiced with a little humor, a whole lot of life experience and a word or two from the manager taken right from the pages of His manual for living. Since God and I are not very PC, be ready for a bumpy ride. You’ll be able to find me on Facebook. If you want others to see it, you can certainly share it with your friends. Soon, we might even be adding these videos to You Tube. I hope you’ll check them out. Thanks.
May the joy of God’s creation lift you up in celebration of life.
Every Tuesday and Wednesday morning I have the joy of spending a few minutes with the children of our day school. I greet them as they process into the sanctuary with a “low” five (a “high” five adjusted to height) which some put a great deal of enthusiasm and power into accomplishing. They make their way to the front pews (not realizing that “good” Lutherans always fill from the back to the front) and after a little musical chairs (without music but plenty of discussion of who sits where) they await the lighting of the candles. Each day two are chosen and with a little help, light the altar candles. Then we begin with prayer after which I share with them stories from the Bible and how they touch our lives today.
Last week was my last week before summer break. On Wednesday, they gave me a potholder which said, “St. Paul CDS” on one side and bluebonnets painted on the other side with 66 blue petals (fingerprints) labeled 2018. I’m going to miss them this summer until their return to chapel time with pastor in the fall. I’m going to miss them a lot.
There are many ways in which a pastor or any believer shares their faith and love of Jesus with others. However, having the chance to do it with little kids has no equal. Some days can get a bit stressful, even for pastors, but when I see those kids the stress and other concerns melt away. Oh, they’ll be back, rest assured. But for those precious minutes with the kids of day school, I am filled with only joy.
I was asked recently if when our new children’s minister arrives, Donna Zipp, will I have her take over this responsibility. My response was swift and emphatic -- NO! Oh, I might share (a little) with Andy and Donna, but only a little. This is one perk (a genuine blessing) of my job that I will not surrender. I would miss the kids too much.
I write this because if you have the chance, no opportunity, NO blessing to share your faith and love for Jesus with a child of any age, don’t pass it up. It will bring a joy that is tough to beat. What can be better than sharing Jesus with another?
Grace and peace to you in the name of our risen Savior.
This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. My mother has been gone many years now, but I still think of her and miss her. No surprise there for children often think of their mothers. Even our Lord was thinking of His earthly mother as He was dying on the cross. He made sure that she would be provided for and taken care of as He gave the responsibility of her care and safe keeping to John. God gave us something special with the gift of mothers.
It seems, in our modern competitive society, as if mothers don’t fit in today’s culture like they used to years ago. I don’t remember when being a wife and mother, providing a home, became less than the noble calling it always had been. I suppose it had something to do with the feminist movement of making women equal to men, especially in the work place, as if providing and caring for a home and family isn’t work in the extreme.
In my world I still operate under the old adage “women and children first”. I still open the door for women and I hold them in the highest regard. To be a mother, wife, homemaker, bookkeeper, referee, cook and more only scratches the surface of what a mother does in the home. If you add to that the women who somehow manage to work outside the home as well, it staggers the imagination. Women equal to men? That’s absurd. I’ve always held them to be superior. At the end of a day, when I go and sit in my recliner, Karen (the mother of my children) is still hard at it. In all honesty, I’ve seen her job and I don’t want it.
This Sunday show your mother your love and how much she means to you. If she has gone home to be with the Lord, remember her and all that she did for you. I know, I will. Our mothers don’t want the world, but a card, some flowers, a call will let them know they are ever in our thoughts. I’ll celebrate Mother’s Day with Karen with a special gift, card and her favorite meal to let her know how much I love her, need her, appreciate her and all she does to make me the person I am.
Happy Mother’s Day and God bless them all!
May the peace of our Lord keep you in His merciful care.
I’m getting ready for our confirmation celebration at St. Paul this coming Sunday. We’ve got six young men and women who will affirm their baptismal promises. It’s a special time because they are adding their voice of promise to God with the promises of their parents and sponsors, pastor and congregation at the time of their baptism.
I wonder if everyone realizes how huge this day is in our lives. Naturally these confirmands have some idea, but do they recognize the full weight of the commitment they are making? The same holds true for the congregation. Confirmation is truly a celebration for the whole community of believers. I wonder if our community of St. Paul, or any community of believers in today’s church, really know how special the day is for all who are disciples of Christ.
These young men and women and others like them are the future of the church, any church, every church, our church. But it’s more than that. These are the ones who will become the next generation of witnesses to proclaim the salvation that is Jesus Christ.
It’s a big day and I am focused with that level of excitement clearly in mind. I hope I can share my love of Christ and commitment to serve Him to them — for their sake and for the sake of all those they will touch by sharing their faith. Let’s get them started out right with our prayers and, if possible, our very presence.
God bless and keep them strong in their faith, and yours too.
Pastor Lee R. Harder