Memorial Day speech 2013 — K-M High School

27 May

Speech for Memorial Day Event, North Memorial Park, Kasson, MN
The Rev. Colin Snow Maltbie, Rector, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Kasson, MN

One of the most challenging parts of the bible is when Jesus tells us to “love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute [us]”… and also when Jesus says to “love one another as he loves [us]”…  I base much of my theological perspective on those two simple, but immensely complicated and challenging things…

I believe that we are called by God to be bearers of peace and love… and I do my best to model and encourage non-violence… and I try to foster such behavior within my family, and faith community, and with all whom I encounter.  I believe that God’s mission is one of love and compassion… of healing and reconciliation… and that part of our challenge in life is to come to know that we are all knit together by the same Holy Spirit… all of humanity, no exceptions… we are all sisters and brothers… beloved children of God… and we need one another… we need God… we need the love which God has revealed through his son our savior, Jesus Christ.

However, despite my commitment to non-violence, I am also eternally and immensely grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve, or who have served, in the armed forces — our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who have put their lives on the line in the name of freedom and liberty for all…

Nancy’s story about the death of her little brother John Tobiason is heartbreaking… I am grateful that she has shared it with us… every day family members and friends are putting their lives on the line somewhere, and every day hearts are broken back home… About 6700 US servicemen and women have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan alone…

I was moved by an article on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times entitled, “Last Inspection: The Precise Ritual of Dressing the Nation’s War Dead”… according to the article most of those who have died at war are brought through Dover Port Mortuary, at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware… the article describes the process of dressing the soldiers for burial… the personnel who are assigned there “labor meticulously, almost lovingly over every crease and fold, every ribbon and badge of the dress uniform [of the fallen soldiers],” and they prepare the body with the same care, so that they may be presented to the family with dignity… even if the family will not see the body, the same care is given to each soldier… it has to be difficult and emotionally taxing work, but Staff Sargent Miguel Deynes, who serves there, says, “it is more than an honor, it is a blessing to dress each soldier for the last time”… what a blessing Staff Sargent Deynes is to those fallen soldiers and to their families who deserve the utmost honor and respect.

We live in a broken world… a world that is in great need of healing, of reconciliation and restoration… and while I believe there is much we can do to further God’s Kingdom of love and peace, here on earth as it is heaven – in the meantime, before that glorious day when all of Creation is renewed and restored, we struggle and we grieve…

I am generally opposed to war, but war happens… I know that there are times when we come under attack, when we are forced to defend ourselves, and to defend our sense of what is morally and ethically right and good…

It disturbs and angers me when anti-war protestors attack public policy but do not consider the human side of war… that right now there are soldiers in harm’s way… that right now soldiers are coming home – wounded warriors with injuries of body, mind, and spirit… right now men and women are dying in service of our country…

I hope we can all stand together behind a vision of peace throughout the world, someday… an end to violent death.  But in the meantime I hope we can keep one another in our thoughts and prayers, and support one another…  I hope that we can encourage and honor our sisters and brothers who have committed themselves in service to our country, in service to each one of us.  We are deeply indebted to those women and men, to those faithful, courageous people like John Tobiason, and all those whom we know and love in military service.

For them I am grateful, and by them I am deeply inspired.  Can I say that I have made a sacrifice as great as those in the military? As those emergency personnel in our towns and cities?  No.  I cannot.

On this Memorial Day, let us give thanks for, and hold in our prayers all who have died in service of our country.  And let us pray for our enemies, and for those who persecute us, that one day we might be reconciled and restored in Him who was, and is, and is to come, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

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