Pearl Harbor and Hacksaw Ridge

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As you’ve no doubt gathered by now, the decision was made earlier this week to continue with another volume of Perspectives articles. Thank you for the encouragement expressed by so many of you for me to keep writing. It’s not a simple chore, so I do appreciate your appreciation!

This past weekend Terry and I watched two movies at home. Pearl Harbor was produced in 2001 with Ben Affleck as Capt. Rafe McCawley, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who bravely responded to the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson and released in 2016 with Andrew Garfield as Pfc. Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist who was ostracized by fellow soldiers for refusing to bear arms. In the Battle of Okinawa Doss risked his life, unarmed, to save 75 men.

Both films graphically and gruesomely show horrific realities of war. One such reality, in real life and also in cinematic portrayal, is the traumatic injury and death inflicted upon young men. Many are still teenagers anxious to serve their country yet unprepared for the powerful persistence of the enemy.

In that context, a quote originally attributed to Greek historian Herodotus was repeated by a soldier in Hacksaw Ridge: “In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.”

Though I am a son who has buried his father, I have not borne the pain of burying a son or a daughter or a grandchild. I have great empathy for parents or grandparents who have, including some of you.

As a Christian I’ve often marveled at God the Father’s experience of seeing his son buried. The song writer says it well:

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure… that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.

Behold the man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

Memorial Day Legacy

Enduring FreedomThis past Monday our nation celebrated Memorial Day. It’s a day to remember and to give thanks to God for the women and men who gave their lives while serving in our country’s armed forces and those who are still living today. If you are a veteran or are related to a veteran, especially one who died while in the armed services, please accept my sincere appreciation and that of a grateful nation for your or your loved one’s faithful and self-sacrificing service.

Last Friday’s USA Today in a table titled “The Toll of War” listed the number of U.S. deaths in major wars of the past 250 years. Information came from Congressional Research Service and U.S. Defense Department. Here’s the list:

Revolutionary War                          4,435
War of 1812                                        2,260
Mexican War                                    13,283
Civil War                                        625,000
Spanish-American War                 2,446
World War I                                     116,516
World War II                                  405,399
Korean War                                       36,574
Vietnam War                                    58,220
Persian Gulf War                                   383
Afghanistan War                               2,349
Iraq War                                               4,424
Total                                               1,271,289

Those who have served in the military, whether or not that service required the ultimate sacrifice of life itself, have created a legacy. That’s a word that means gift, bequest, inheritance, heritage, contribution. The gift given by those we honor each Memorial Day is that of defending and protecting our country’s freedoms and the safety of its citizens. Beyond that is the gift to their living family members of the godly example of honor, valor, courage, humility and commitment.

1 Pet. 4:10-11 reminds us: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Jesus said: “Greater love has no one than that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Thank God for those who have served and continue to serve in our nation’s armed forces!

The Gaza Strip

Credit: Ariel Schalit

Credit: Ariel Schalit

What used to be a relatively rarely known term in America has recently, at least to a somewhat larger degree, become a household term: The Gaza Strip. Although Terry and I have been to the Holy Land on multiple occasions, we have not yet visited Gaza. And unless things change significantly for the better, we most likely never will.

You’ve no doubt read and heard about current hostilities between Israel and Palestine. This conflict goes back many years and basically boils down to the age old questions of land ownership and independent self-governance. More details are available from numerous sources, including http://www.globalissues.org/article/119/the-middle-east-conflict-a-brief-background.

For centuries what is now called the Holy Land has been the venue of seemingly endless battles and wars. Biblical stories of the Old Testament relate victories that made warriors into kings and defeats that destroyed property, enslaved people and devastated families. And, except for the Jordan River Valley, a fertile region irrigated by the waters of the Jordan River, the land itself is mostly barren. Compared with many other parts of the world, it’s hardly worth fighting for.

Yet the fighting continues, with mortar fire from Hamas militants in Palestine’s Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon coming within one mile of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, the most populous city in Israel. Israeli retaliation has taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with a population of 1.8 million in a space half the size of the city of Austin, Texas. Victims are both military personnel and innocent civilians.

So far, Palestinians in the West Bank, principally Bethlehem, the city of our Savior’s birth, are being spared the direct violence. Yet our friends at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, including Pastor Mitri Raheb, are understandably concerned about future prospects of a peaceful settlement of the hostilities.

In my prior life as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod I met with Rev. Dr. Raheb and Right Rev. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation. Both are Palestinians I find to be reasonable, honorable men who pray and work for what seems to be the elusive dream—a negotiated settlement resulting in two states and lasting peace.

If you haven’t already done so, please join me in praying for peace between Israel and Palestine, and for the safety of people in the Holy Land, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip.

God bless you and have a wonderful week!