Observing Veteran’s Day in Worship: Yes or No?

Earlier this week, Text this Week.com posed this question on their Facebook page: “I’m also thinking about “Veterans Day”/”Remembrance Day” this coming Sunday, and the many, sometimes strong and sometimes dismissive, thoughts and experiences people bring to this particular day in different countries and cultures. Any thoughts about what we do as communities of faith?”

The answers varied, and rightly so, on such a tricky subject – Do we or don’t we honor men and women who ultimately, participated in wars?  Wars….with violence and innocent deaths, started and carried on with political/religious powers and agendas behind them, highlighting the ugly side of humanity.  To recognize these people ultimately leads to a recognition of what they did, what they were participating in. 

Two choices are either don’t recognize them at all, or find some way to recognize them in a “love the sinner, but hate the sin” sort of way.  Both ways fall short, and honestly, avoid really addressing the issues at hand.

I think talking about Veteran’s Day, and talking about war and military service is a chance to be honest – honest about the world and how we live life in it.

I think vocation is the place we start.  Not vocation in the “calling” sense, but rather from the sense of participating in something, carrying out a role or job because at the time, you think it is the right thing to do, but, in a messy and unclear world.  We do so in less than ideal situations and environments.  But yet, we act, we act in faith and by faith.  We get it wrong at times, but the call of the person of faith is a call to vocation – to do something because at the time, you think it is the right thing to do and so you enter into it with good faith that it is. 

When I think about the military service, we are people who are serving and sacrificing because we believe what we are doing what is right – defending an ideal of freedom for all, and protecting and defending those who cannot stand for themselves. Those who choose military service do this even if the action they are called to has political agendas or questionable ethical undertones that are less than honorable.  We do the best we can despite how messy, unclear, or violent serving in that vocation may be.

So here’s the honesty: That is what all of us who serve in our vocations do – we do the best we can, trusting that God is calling us and we are listening faithfully.  We are called to live in this world, not separate ourselves from it.  That means engaging in its messiness, yet not accepting it.  We as people of God serve through vocation in this world of sin and brokenness, but do so even when it’s unclear what we’re doing is God’s Will.  We do so because we’re people acting confidently out of faith, but also crying, “Kyrie elision; Lord, have mercy.”

And another bit of honesty: If we who serve in ministry, or as Christians think our vocation more noble, more righteous, and more Christlike than other vocations – especially the more messy and complex ones like military service – than we all deceive ourselves. 

I hope for those of you in the pulpit or leading worship this weekend, you’ll find a way to be honest – honest about both the gift of service amid tragic realities in our world. Engage in it, just as God engages deeply in our world through the cross.



Filed under Leadership, Missional Thinking & The Church

4 responses to “Observing Veteran’s Day in Worship: Yes or No?

  1. Chris Mathiason

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Every year Veterans day is tricky for me, I honor the service of veterans, but am uncomfortable with Celebrating veterans like the Baptist church. God and Country get too mixed together. Most people in the pew don’t see the distinction. Thanks again for your thoughts as a veteran yourself!

    • Thanks Chris. I always wonder why it’s so difficult for pastors, especially from liberal traditions, to speak on war & military service. “Separation of Church & State” doesn’t mean we don’t talk about “civil issues” in the pulpit, and vice versa. If it’s wrong to honor and recognize veterans in churches, then is it also wrong to talk social reform or politics in the church as well. And I know a lot of pastors who will never shy away from advocating a social or political stance to their congregations.

      There have been more than a few instances during seminary by both students and pastors, when I’ve been “lectured” on my participation in the Armed Forces, experienced attempts to get me to renounce it, or pitied me because I was somehow duped or coerced into it.

      I agree with the “God & Country” sentiment, but pastors taking a hard line stance against recognizing service members because they identify as pacifist, etc. is troubling to me…..because they are supposedly dedicated to proclaiming an inclusive gospel.

  2. Reblogged this on wrestlinginspiredfaith and commented:

    Veteran’s Day is this Monday….and I will always take the time to honor military service while being honest about the realities of war…I hope you will too.

  3. Julie

    This is so well said!! I especially like your reference to any vocation, other than military, as being more noble. I am finding out how necessary it is for honorable and noble people to serve in a variety of vocations!!

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