Memorial Day is well over 100 years old. What began as a time of decorating the graves of those in military service who died during the Civil War has become a tradition that is identified with all wars.
We live in the eternal quest for the day when all swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. My fantasy for that day is of tanks rolling into one end of a factory and tractors rolling out the other. Unfortunately, the world in which we live is one where plowshares are often beaten into swords. Fields that should be producing food are fallow because of landmines.
We have men and women in the military who find themselves in many dangerous places worldwide. Having set aside their lives with family and community, they face danger on a daily basis as they serve their country. The constant anxiety and the destruction they witness are attacks on their souls and minds.
Among the military personnel are our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) chaplains — some very dedicated women and men who continue the ministry of molding swords of war into plowshares of life. Like those with whom they serve, they spend long months away from their families and witness the destructiveness of war. Each day they risk their own lives to bring care and compassion in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of the ugliness of war is the beauty of a chaplain bringing the balm of Gilead to a troubled soul. Among the roar of jets overhead and guns blasting away is the whisper of a shared prayer. While a television displays images of a war-torn landscape, a chaplain conveys the image of a God whose eye is on not only the sparrow, but on loved ones serving in harm’s way.
A sword can be changed into a plowshare in many ways. Our PC(USA) chaplains are a vital way that God brings peace and hope where there appears to be neither. I invite you to say a prayer of gratitude for them this Memorial Day.