Respect for Our Nation

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Debates are going on in America about whether kneeling on an athletic field during the national anthem is a proper expression of constitutional freedom or a sign of disrespect of our nation’s honor and history. I believe the point of a statement of conscience about any manifestation of injustice, real or perceived, would more effectively be made if done so without creating doubt about the protesters’ respect for the country that affords them that opportunity.

Respect for our nation and those who serve in our military was powerfully demonstrated a decade ago in the true story of 25-year-old Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor. On September 29, 2006, Monsoor was killed in enemy-held territory at Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He threw himself on top of a grenade to save the lives of his fellow SEALS.

Monsoor was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in another incident on May 9, 2006, when he and a fellow SEAL pulled a wounded team member to safety amidst gunfire. In April 2008, he was also awarded the Medal of Honor for the heroic action that took his life.

His funeral, attended (in the words of President George W. Bush by “nearly every SEAL on the West Coast,” was held on October 12, 2006, at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

During Monsoor’s funeral service, as the casket was taken from the hearse to the gravesite, fellow SEALs lined up in two columns to slap and embed the gold Trident (a pin awarded for successful completion of SEAL Qualification Training) from each of their uniforms onto the top of Monsoor’s coffin. By the time the coffin arrived at the grave site, it looked as though it had a gold inlay from all the Tridents pinned to it.

As President George W. Bush said of the event during the April 2008 Medal of Honor ceremony, “The procession went on nearly half an hour, and when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.”

What a moving demonstration of respect for our nation and those who serve to protect our freedoms! Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

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The Heart of a Hero

Hurrican Harvey Response

The following words include some content from an anonymously authored article I read this week. Other portions are purely mine. It’s about the heart of a hero.

After Hurricane Harvey struck, hundreds of pickups, 18-wheelers, and SUVs from across the country headed for Houston and other parts of southeast Texas, driven by men and women with the heart of a hero. They used their own vehicles, sacrificed their own time, spent their own money, and risked their own lives for one reason: to help total strangers in desperate need.

Many came alone, some in groups from service organizations, neighborhoods, or churches. Most wore tattered gimme-hats, t-shirts, and jeans. Some just brought stuff needed by people whose homes were flooded. Others came to help any way they could, including providing a hugely helpful service described by the highly technical term of “mucking” out flooded homes.

For days they waded in cold, dirty water, dodging gators, water moccasins, and fire ants. They ate whatever meager rations were available and slept wherever they could in dirty, damp clothes.

Their reward was in the tears, hugs, and smiles from the terrified people they helped rescue from rooftops, and the saddened people who saw decades of furniture and personal possessions taken from their homes and stacked on the curb along the street on which they lived.

When disaster strikes, that’s what real, heroic, selfless people do. Day after day they got up before dawn, to do it again, until the helpless were rescued. Many will continue to do so in the months ahead until the recovery process is completed and the restoration work is accomplished.

Most of them will not be paid for their labors or reimbursed for their expenses. They won’t receive any medals. They don’t care about accolades. They simply have a heart for people in need. They’re heroes. And doing what this article describes is what heroes do

Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40). There’s nothing stronger than the heart of a hero!

Harvey

Hurricane Harvey

Growing up I never knew a person named Harvey. I only knew that name as the title of a 1950 movie. Harvey was Jimmy Stewart’s invisible friend, a 6′ 3″ rabbit.

As a result of the past several days, the name Harvey will go down in American history not as an imaginary four-legged friend but as a horrible hurricane that left in its wake untold destruction and devastation. It first came ashore Saturday, August 26, in Rockport, Texas as a category four hurricane, lost wind velocity, and was re-designated category one, then tropical storm.

Winds gusting up to 130 mph wreaked huge damage on several coastal cities. Homes, hotels, buildings, businesses, vehicles and boats were damaged and destroyed.

Harvey eventually moved north and east along the Gulf Coast. It impacted 350 miles of coastline from Corpus Christi to Louisiana, including Galveston, Houston, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and many smaller outlying communities, leaving up to 60″ of torrential flood-producing rainfall in its path.

Harvey’s economic impact is huge. Hundreds of thousands have widespread damage to homes and possessions, many with no flood insurance. They are left to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Relatively few people appear to have lost their life in this historic storm. That’s miraculous, considering the fact that millions of people live in Harvey’s path of thousands of square miles.

Ironically, this past Tuesday marked the 12th anniversary of hurricane Katrina, which in 2005 affected the Gulf Coast from central Florida to eastern Texas, especially devastating New Orleans and Mississippi coastal towns. For many, Harvey is a reminder of past tragedy and trauma.

There are many ways to provide relief for people in need, including contributing through the Texas District LCMS: https://secure.accessacs.com/access/oglogin.aspx?sn=147381&f=4.

As the Spirit moves and as you are able, consider a significant gift. Every dollar you contribute through this website will be used to assist those in greatest need.

If you are moved to contribute appreciated securities or portions of an IRA, 401(k), 403(b), or any other non-cash asset, please contact us for assistance: info@legacydeo.org or 800-880-3733.

Although devastating natural disasters like Harvey raise lots of questions in my mind about the will of God, here are a few thoughts and observations, some original, some borrowed, some inspired:

  • People from across the country came to Texas to help, bringing together, face-to-face, women and men of differing race, nationality, and religious preference.
  • Individuals and corporations pitched in, offering financial and in-kind resources where needed.
  • Providing such care and life-saving assistance makes me believe that America is not what happened in Charlottesville. America is what is happening in Houston and beyond.
  • Following the Old Testament flood, God provided a rainbow as a promise that never again would he send a flood to destroy the earth or all living creatures. Gen. 9:11
  • In Old Testament prophet Elijah’s presence the Lord was not in a wind, not in an earthquake, not in a fire, but in a still, small voice, a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-12
  • Jesus calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee with a word of rebuke. Matt. 8:26
  • God’s promise: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you … For I am the LORD your God, your Savior.” Is. 43:1-3

Whose Sin is the Greatest?

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Recent events in Charlottesville and other scenes of destruction and death have produced in our country conflict and division about the rightness or wrongness of harmful actions and of any response thereto. No rational person I know approves of willfully hurting or harming a human being. Yet there are some on both sides who justify their side’s violent behavior in Charlottesville.

Can anyone in his or her right mind condone extreme ideology that leads to violence, whether in the form of vicious demonstration, vitriolic protest, or, even worse, suicide bombing or driving a vehicle into a crowd, in Charlottesville or Barcelona, that results in injury or death of innocent bystanders?

The actions of racists, Neo-Nazis, anti-Semitists, white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan, ISIS, and similar groups should be unequivocally condemned. The same condemnation is due any person or group who behaves violently for any reason other than genuine self-defense.

One related and causative issue that has developed into a highly emotional one is the endeavor to remove statues of Confederate heroes from the American landscape. The presenting reason is that these heroes condoned, endorsed, and practiced slavery and therefore their statues should be demolished or at least moved to a museum, out of sight of the majority of residents and tourists.

That begs a question. Where does one draw the line when determining whose statue to remove from public view, whose name to remove from a school building or street sign, and whose reputation to downgrade from hero to scoundrel on the basis of positions held or decisions implemented that now taint their historic heroic actions?

Is condoning and practicing the sin of racism in the form of slavery the only offense worthy of statue removal, school or street name change? What about other sins? Some United States presidents have had numerous extramarital affairs and children sired out of wedlock. Some were also involved in bribery, kickbacks, tax evasion, espionage, and gun-running scandals, to name a few less than godly activities.

So, whose sin is the greatest? The man who made his living on the backs of the slaves he owned or the man who found his pleasure in the bodies of the women he seduced?

Question: If statues of heroes are removed because they were racist, why we would not also remove any form of adulation of U.S. presidents who have committed adultery or any other grievous sin? Do we rename our nation’s capital because George Washington owned 317 slaves at the time of his death, even though he freed them through his will upon Martha’s death?

Whose sin is the greatest? Rom. 3:23 says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Jesus says: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7.

Inauguration Day

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Tomorrow, January 20, is Inauguration Day in America. Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. However, some may question that number.

Actually, Grover Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President. He was elected, then lost, then won again four years later. The factual way to count U.S. Presidents is to say Donald Trump will be the 45th President but only the 44th person ever to take the oath of office.

Nearly one million people are estimated to be in Washington D.C. to witness the event in person. Tens of millions will view the ceremony across the country and around the world.

Interestingly, crowd size estimators use aerial images from satellites, helicopters and balloons, plus basic math. Three pieces of information are needed: the total area of the space, the proportion of the area that is occupied, and the density of the crowd. But I digress.

More important than the number of people who witness the inauguration, whether in person or via electronic media, is the meaning of the event. In many countries around the world, leadership transitions are less than peaceful. Historically, nations of the world have experienced change in leadership following a decisive battle, a horrific insurrection, or a regal beheading.

Not so in America. Notwithstanding protests from individuals and groups regarding the legitimacy of this presidential election, the fact remains that tomorrow we will witness the non-universal phenomenon of a mostly peaceful transition of presidential power.

Of course we’ve been told to expect demonstrators. That’s nothing new. We’ve also seen news reports predicting thousands of motorcyclists known as “Bikers for Trump” who are expected to provide unofficial security at the event. That’s not quite as common.

Tomorrow will come. Tomorrow will go. Your life and mine might not be discernibly different, at least for now. But like it or not, change will occur. Some change will be good, some not. It’s not a simple task to lead what is arguably the most powerful country in the world.

Regardless of whether our new president views prayer the way most Christians do, the best suggestion I can offer today is that we hold our new leader and our country in our prayers. Here’s one suggestion from Lutheran Service Book’s Prayer for Responsible Citizenship:

“Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve you faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

 

One Local Event, One National Event

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This week I share with you reflections on two recent events, one local and one national:

Local: This past Monday night Zion Lutheran Church and School in Walburg, Texas held its 45th annual Wurstbraten, a German sausage dinner. Proceeds are used to support church and school projects. Hundreds of Zion members worked to feed over 4,000 people. Including sales of sausage by the pound, Wurstbraten workers produced and sold 13,500 pounds of pure pork sausage!

Terry and I are active members of Zion. Our church is known for more than simply a sausage supper. Yet this event brings together members of church and community who work side by side to prepare and conduct this historic dinner. In addition, it gives wide visibility to our congregation, most likely bearing fruit that won’t be known this side of eternity. To God alone be the glory!

National: Late this past Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, depending on what part of the country you’re in, the results of the national election for president of the United States of America were announced. It’s a reality that regardless of who had won the election to become our next president, roughly half our nation would not be happy with the results. Time will tell whether the choice of American voters through the electoral process proves to be wise or otherwise.

It’s important to remember that the God of the universe uses people and events, good or bad, to accomplish his purposes. Throughout history God has used some leaders to prosper his people and other leaders to punish them. While we would all prefer prosperity, punishment is sometimes necessary, not only for individuals but also for nations. America is no exception.

God told the Old Testament people of Israel: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14)

That’s my prayer for America, wistfully with help from the leadership of our new president but more likely under the influence of those of us who proclaim the Name of Christ and promote the biblical values we hold so near and dear.

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship

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One of the blessings of my nine years as president of our national church body is Lutheran Service Book, published January 1, 2005 by Concordia Publishing House. I’m thankful to the LCMS Commission on Worship for its excellent work in producing this highly valued hymnal.

A significant section of LSB is titled “Prayers, Intercessions, and Thanksgivings.” One prayer in that section seems particularly fitting for today, only five days before national Election Day:

A Prayer for Responsible Citizenship: Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve You faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

If you have not already done so, with that prayer on your lips and in your heart, exercise your privilege and responsibility as a citizen of our land to cast your vote on or before next Tuesday, September 8, for the next president and vice-president of the United States of America.

If you need a reminder of some important matters that may be helpful in your decision, I humbly offer my October 20, 2016 Perspectives article at https://jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com/.

God bless you and God bless America!