Candle Lighting Responsive Reading
We recognize those who are serving in active duty and in the reserves, and their families here in the U.S. and around the world – particularly in the Afghanistan War that began in 2001 and continues today. O God, we recognize those who served in the military. Do not let their hearts become hardened by their service. Surround them in your love and protect them from all harm.
We recognize all who have served in past military action and in times of conflict – the Iraq War of 2003-2011, Vietnam War 1959-1975, and Desert Storm-Gulf War 1990-1991. O God, we praise you for those who served our military forces in your name from days gone by. We thank you for those that put the welfare of others ahead of their own safety. We recognize their courage and bravery to be a light in dark places.
We recognize those who have died in battle and those who made it home safely – Korean War of 1950-1953, World War II of 1941-1945, and World War I of 1914-1918. God, we praise you for those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. We ask that you comfort those who still feel the pain of their loss. Keep us mindful that you have promised to comfort those that mourn.
We recognize those here in our midst who have served in the armed forces, and those families here who have been impacted by their giving – Spanish-American War of 1898, American Civil War of 1861-1865, Mexican American War of 1846-1848, the War of 1812-1815, the War in North Africa from 1801-1805, and the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783. God, we praise you for granting us the freedom to choose how we live. Let us honor those who have served in our military across all time. Let us never forget those that have served, and let us never let go of your promise of eternal peace and justice. Amen.
Moment of Remembrance [Naming Veterans]
Prayer for Peace. God of captives and pilgrims, you brought your people home from despair and gave them a land of freedom and plenty. Look merciful on us your servants, deliver us from the prison of selfishness and sin, and bring us home to justice, sharing, and compassion, the realm you promised all the world in Jesus Christ our Savior. You let us choose, O God, between you and the false gods of this world. In the midst of the night of sin and death, wake us from our slumber and call us forth to greet Christ, so that with eyes and hearts fixed on him, we may follow You to eternal life. Ever-living God, you inscribe our names in your book of life so that we may share in the first fruits of salvation. Grant that we may acknowledge Christ as our redeemer and, trusting in him, be confident that none of us will be lost or forgotten. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
Children’s Sermon. Veterans Day is an important day. It is an annual holiday in the United States, honoring our military veterans who fought for freedom on this earth. It was established on November 11th in 1918 at the end of WWI. According to history, it is a cease-fire treaty signed on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour when the Germans signed the Armistice. It is also known as Armistice Day. It was declared an official holiday in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. And in 1926 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed this day to be celebrated with appropriate activities and ceremonies. It was officially called Veterans Day in 1954.
Reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
History of Hymnody
Star Spangled Banner 1814 Hymn. The song is the official national anthem of the United States the lyrics came from the Defense of Fort McHenry, which was actually a poem written by Francis Scott Key who was a lawyer that personally witnessed the bombardment that took place in Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore, MD. This song was written during the War of 1812. …And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
My Country ‘Tis of Thee 1831 Hymn. An American patriotic song written by Samuel Francis Smith in 1831 while he was studying at Andover Theological Seminary. …Our father’s God, to thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing, long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light; protect us by they might great God, our King.
Battle Hymn of the Republic 1862. A woman named Julia Ward Howe wrote this song. It became popular in 1862 during the American Civil War. …All sorts of Jesus/God references
America the Beautiful 1893 Hymn. The words were penned by teacher and author Katharine Lee Bates. She wrote the poem in 1893, revised it in 1904 and 1913. It was first sang with a melody from Samuel Ward in 1910.
Reading of Psalm 78.6-8, Joshua 24.1-3, 14-25
Veterans Day Sermon
The greatest acts of salvation history come in pairs – the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant the great Exodus from Egypt was met with the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. And, in the New Covenant Christ’s death and resurrection were met with the coming of the Holy Spirit to prepare the people for an eternal home. God’s promise for us is freedom in the land of our inheritance – one is a physical freedom and the other a spiritual freedom. Physical freedom without the spiritual freedom leaves the promises of God’s salvation incomplete. In both salvation stories – the Old and the New Covenant – God promised his people freedom, and an inheritance of a homeland to call their own.
The story of Joshua describes in detail the events of crossing the Jordan River and taking the Promised Land, sometimes by force. Joshua describes the physical conquest of communities, city properties, and the redistribution of the land. Joshua describes the physical destruction of the many religious temples across the land.
Although we do not know who the author of this book is we do know that it is the story of Joshua’s leadership of the Israelite people shortly after Moses died. It was Joshua’s leadership that would help the people physically claim the land promised to them by God as their inheritance upon the earth. Joshua became the leader of a powerful Israelite military force that would soon conquer the peoples across the land of Canaan from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers to the Mediterranean Sea shore. According to the reported history in Deuteronomy, the cities were preserved for the Israelites to occupy (Deut. 6.10-11, 19.1-2).
The Isarelites displaced the communities of people from their cities, while burning three cities to the ground – Jericho, Ai, and Hazor (Joshua 6.24, 8.28, 10.1, 11.10-13). God required of the Israelites to drive the people out of the land, and burn their religious shrines (Ex. 23.23-30, Num. 33.50-56). God needed the land purged of foreign religious beliefs in order for the people to find spiritual freedom. God established only one religion in the Promised Land, and that was for the One True God alone, Yahweh. God desired for the people to find spiritual freedom.
The book of Joshua is laid out before us as a story of physical conquest of the land that God had promised to Abraham hundreds of years beforehand. The conquest began at Jericho with a unique style of warrior worship that caused the walls of the city to collapse, and Jericho was soon followed by the collapse of the city of Ai (Josh. 2-8). And, then finally Hazor was utterly destroyed. The three cities were burned under God’s guidance because of their evil dispositions, and particularly their worship of Baal.
Because the people began their conquest as an experience of obedience to their God, other communities would soon flee before them or be converted. Many of the peoples opted to stay and be converted to the Israelite beliefs. But their choice to convert to becoming a Yahweh follower often came with the price of bringing their own religious beliefs into Yahweh’s camp. Converts brought the temptation of following other gods, and the Israelites were easily persuaded to abandon their own beliefs to chase after foreign gods.
Joshua himself is a natural bridge builder between the wilderness physical and spiritual wonderings and the early struggles of settling the land of promise. The Promised Land was designed to be a place for the Israelites to experience both physical and spiritual freedom. Joshua proves to be a strong leader after Moses’ death.
Joshua was the divinely chosen successor to Moses. Joshua will lead them through victories and defeats, success followed by failure all the while God was on their side fighting to keep his promise to Abraham’s descendents. Joshua was chosen to lead Israel into their inheritance. Joshua serves in the role of military leader and spiritual guide.
After a time of war, the land is won and the people settled the land. Joshua brings this season of the Israelite history to a close with an act of worship, and the verbal agreement of a covenant between the people and their God. As the great leader of his people Joshua successfully settles the people into the inherited land, and then creates space for them to worship their God. Joshua invites the people to choose whom they will worship. Joshua invites them to decide for themselves – will they serve the One True God?
Early Americans understood themselves as having a similar destiny as Joshua and the Israelite community. Early Americans saw America as the land of promise. They desired for the land to be a place of political and spiritual freedom. Freedom came with the price of war for America. As the colonists were quick to establish the Constitution, they were also quick to make Amendments to establish religious freedom. The very first Amendment guarantees citizens the right to freedom of belief. The first Amendment assures each of us the right to practice our faith values.
History even records that our first Bishops – Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury – corresponded with President George Washington to encourage our support of the president with our prayers and good will toward him and the new government. Coke and Asbury even encouraged our first president to keep the faith. President Washington responds with an assurance that he intended to do just that – “to prove faithful and be an impartial patron of genuine vital religion” (MEA, Bishops Coke and Asbury Exchange Letters with President Washington 1789, 101-102).
Perhaps their letter provided some peace and understanding between the newly formed government and the Methodist-Episcopal Church at the time. Because the Methodists received their sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism along side the Church of England, Methodists were seen to be loyal to England. This drew the unwarranted conclusion that Methodists were unsympathetic toward the American dream of political and spiritual freedom. And, this misunderstanding caused hardship on many of the early American Methodist preachers.
Politics and religion are not easily separated. Our belief system influences us greatly in how we understand the world around us and the culture we live in. American Methodists were involved in allowing women to speak in public, fight for the freedom of slaves, fight for black rights, and the right of all people to vote.
A more recent example concerns Hilliary Clinton, who at the time in 1996, was the First Lady of our nation. Whether you agree with her current politics or not we can all appreciate the influence of her Methodist heritage. In an address to the Daily Christian Advocate she recalls the importance of her faith beliefs in her life. She grew up attending the Methodist Church. She attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School as a young child. She graduated to Methodist Youth Fellowship as a teenager. Each step along the journey she was undergirded in her spiritual formation by Methodist values.
In her address Hillary Clinton implies that she was inspired by her Methodist heritage to make a difference in the world around her and to call the people of this nation to care for the downtrodden and especially the children just as John and Charles Wesley. Clinton urges the people to welcome those in our midst like John and Charles Wesley – to open our doors to all the downtrodden peoples at all times – after school and on the weekends. To be present in our communities by living out the “Golden Rule” – by doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Through it all, the history of the world has been influenced by our faith traditions. From Joshua who calls for the Israelites to serve the One True God, Yahweh, to Bishops Coke and Asbury who call for President Washington to stay true to vital religion to modern day disciples like Hillary Clinton who call the nation to care for the downtrodden just as John and Charles Wesley did. No matter what side of politics you and I are on today… we Methodist are called to take up our crosses and follow Christ Jesus. As for me and my house… well, we have chosen to serve the Lord.
Today we have sang patriot songs and remembered the many people who have died for freedom, for land and for religion. But not all wars have been in the name of the One True God like Joshua’s battles for the Promised Land. And, today we have recited our pledge to serve our country – to serve our nation. But what about God? What does it mean for us to serve the One True God in our life today? Can we say together, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord whether it is on the battlefield or in our hometown or in our nation or around the globe?”
Today we give thanks for all those who have given us the right to choose our own beliefs. And, we remember those who gave their lives to give us freedom. Let us turn now to UMH881 to honor the One who gave the greatest sacrifice of all time for our freedom – Jesus Christ – by reciting the Apostle’s Creed.