Our Pilgrim Center has been called to offer a "Living Reconciliation" Retreat for veterans. It is to be in our little New Hampshire town of Center Ossipee.
What will we face? What do we hold out of help, and hope to them? We sense they are seeking restoration. Some are honored and proud to have given years of their life to the defense of their country. Others are consumed with the ravages done to their own lives - in physical wounds, but more deeply, psychic, spiritual wounds. From being sent out to kill "enemies."
It meant learning hatred. It thrust them into a world of enemies, of dangers. Sent by America's own leaders, politicians these young people trusted, and dared to follow.
I think their own experience may well have led them to see and ponder upon the fallibilities of those who are leaders. To realize that the assessments those people made, of this nation's enemies, were often not fair or right.
Could differences have been discussed, negotiated? Could there have been tables of peace? These men and women, young and old, may have debated these questions a thousand times in their own minds, and/or with other people. And perhaps the great question is, "How do I live with myself?" It may be the question of the 18-year-old Uganda school girl, a "child of war" in Joseph Kony's demonic army operating in northern Uganda, and Southern Sudan, and eastern Congo, "Can I be forgiven for the thirty people I killed?"
I'm guessing there are deep questions about those who led them into war and about their own country's failure to understand the dynamics of what war really is, and does to people.
Over against this stand the words of the hymn, "Faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dangers, foe, and sword!" A very different kind of issue, as the Church looks back to its "fathers" who have "kept the faith" in the face of persecution, imprisonment, and torture - punishments heaped upon them because they were people of faith, people who were living their lives for Jesus, proclaiming His love for a loveless world.
To stand strong, and be resolute, to dare to speak and act in the face of the threats of those who hated them because they were loyal to an unseen Lord and leader.
That is the challenge to every one of us, every day: will we be true to the highest we know? Will we be God's people in the world?
My friend the Oiler, on the SS Alice Fortier, on that strangely-loaded boat of 375 bred mares I shared in shepherding across the Atlantic as an act of peace following WWII, is still the great question. He had made many bad choices, but in his heart was the great question, "What is life really about? What does it really mean? What part are we to play?
His question drove me into the ministry, and the question is still one of mystery, with the one answer - of JESUS. He is the meaning.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES