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The Spirit of Service

The Spirit of Service

Isaiah 58:6-12Matthew 25:31-40

One hundred and three years ago on this day, a terrible war was at last grinding to a halt across much of the world. Those in charge of the perpetrating that war decided to declare an armistice on the feast day of the patron saint of soldiers (as well as conscientious objectors). So, on the Feast of St. Martin the Merciful of Tours, the trenches across Europe and Asia at long last grew silent, and the so-called “Great War” shuddered to a bloody halt. Today, here in America, we call today, Veteran’s Day. We must never forget this as a day of peace honoring first that one who had the strength to lay down his weapons and take up the shield of faith, clothing himself in a spirit of service to others.

The assigned readings in today’s lectionary valorize not war, but peace. The reading from Isaiah is a bold proclamation of abundance that leads to the celebration of the dream of God for our lives. The prophetic words insist not that might makes right, but that the greatest strength is demonstrated by standing in solidarity with the vulnerable and the oppressed. The gospel reading insists that the face of Christ is found in every person in need whom we encounter, just as Martin showed mercy on a beggar in Amiens and gave him half his cloak, the first step in his journey from soldier to servant of Christ. And so, may we take a moment to center our hearts in gratitude for those who have laid aside their own desires to embrace a life of service, humility, and compassion, and to seek to follow in that same path.

We praise You,
O Compassionate One,
and lift our hearts
to be filled by your light.

May we embrace your call to sacrifice

that we may seek to serve others

as Blessed Martin did,

seeking not our own will but yours.

May we devote our lives and resources to peace

and the good of others:
setting the oppressed free,
feeding the hungry,
clothing those who are naked,
housing the homeless and the refugee.

Clothe us, O Lord,
in a spirit of compassion and generosity,

draped in a mantle of honor and integrity:
give us the imagination
to see ourselves
in the place of our suffering kindred.

May we see the face of our Savior,
in the one shivering in the cold,
and in the refugee fleeing the ravages of war.

May we put down our swords
in the name of your love, Blessed Jesus,
and work for true peace in the world.

Grant your peace and healing, O Great Physician,

to all in recovery from the shock and horror of war,

that they may lay down their arms in safety and gratitude

Pour out your spirit upon us,
O God of Grace,
and grant your blessing to all who seek You.

Amen.

The Rev. Leslie Scoopmire is a writer, musician, and a priest in the Diocese of Missouri. She is rector of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville, MO.  She posts daily prayers, meditations, and sermons at her blog Abiding In Hope, and collects spiritual writings and images at Poems, Psalms, and Prayers.

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Harold Parkey

If I might express another view as a Vietnam Veteran (US Army 69-71 Vietnam 70-71). I believe our Church has done a grave disservice to our youth and veterans by holding up military service as something to be honored. In 1969 at 19 years old I was taught that rather than viewing them as another Child of God the person in my rifle sights was a “gook” (many other epithets can be applied) and unworthy of life. They were the enemy and I should kill them. Enlistment in the military is still celebrated and as veterans we are asked to stand and be recognized for our “service”. The National Flag is even displayed and paraded through the Church sanctuary in honor of such “service”. I was in the military not the “service”. Service has the connotation of being beneficial. Nothing I did while in the military was of “service” because it promoted destruction and death. To pierce the heart of one’s enemy the sword must first go through your own. I hope that our faith communities will at some point stop celebrating such endeavors. We would do better to realize that military service is something regrettable requiring confession, forgiveness and to seek amendment of life before the altar of God. War represents sin and hatred and separation from God. The world will not be saved by the smooth steel of the gun but by the rude wood of the cross.

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