For most of us our lives are marked by a variety of responsibilities, unwelcome crises, and competing commitments which make it difficult to know what day of the week it is, not to mention what each day might hold. At such a pace, moments of prayerful reflection or remembrance are often displaced by deadlines and drop-offs. This dynamic is why shared holidays, religious or national, are deeply important, earmarking certain days of our busy lives for remembrance. These days of national observance draw our attention (if only briefly) away from our own priorities to the histories and realities which are fundamental to our life together.
This week we approach one of the few national holidays we share: Veteran’s Day. Originally ratified to celebrate the end of WWII, November 11th is now an annual observation honoring women and men who have served in the United States Armed Forces. For those whose loved ones have served or are serving, the resonance of this day is self-evidently significant. But surely November 11th is a day worthy of the attention of us all, as it calls us to prayerfully remember those we know and those we will never know who have borne the responsibility for our national life in their very bodies, relationships and lives.
As those who follow the God who creates and sustains the world, we confess that there is nothing outside of His sight, so before Him we pray today for Veterans and their families:
Almighty God, we come before you humbled by the gift of the life we share in this nation. We thank you for the precious gifts of freedom from tyranny, persecution, and violation of human dignity.
We know these blessings are maintained by the women and men, both at home and abroad, who love their neighbors by their service in the Armed Forces. Defend them, we pray, from whatever afflicts them whether despair, isolation, disease, or any other manifestation of this world’s brokenness. Bless them with your gracious care, and ensure them of your abiding presence wherever they may be.
Forgive those of us, merciful Lord, who too quickly turn from the realities which they face on our behalf and respond with presumption rather than gratitude and compassion. Have mercy on us for acquitting ourselves of the duties owed to those who return from service, and for turning a blind eye to their suffering.
We thank you for their humble service and sacrifice, and pray that you would teach us how to love and serve them. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, may your Church be a place of welcome and gratitude for our sisters and brothers who have served, and a place where their minds, bodies and spirits may be met by your gracious care.
We pray for the families of those who have served, especially those whose loved ones have sustained injury or death. Be ever present to them, O God, comfort them with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon them and give them peace.
May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Hasten your coming, at which every knee will bow to Christ as Lord, and after which war, violence despair, loss, and death will be no more.
As we await your return, give your people hope, especially those who follow you as they serve our country. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.