Sunday, May 27, 2012

Praying on Memorial Day

I am often asked to pray at public events. It is an occupational hazard. I am the official pray-er at community functions. Town meetings, school board meetings, graduations, baccalaureate services, public dinners, weddings, funerals - you name it. If the preacher is in attendance he is asked to pray.

Not that I mind it. It is a wonderful opportunity to usher people into the presence of God. I even get to do some disguised preaching. Those who would never sit in a pew and listen to a sermon will unintentionally hear a message in a prayer.

One of the most solemn occasions I am asked to pray is at Memorial Day ceremonies. There is a reverence surrounding these ceremonies that is absent at other times. It has to do with the atmosphere of sacrifice that permeates the service.

It is not too often that we can truthfully say that something is “a matter of life or death.” This is one of those times. Especially these days when we are in the midst of the longest war that America has ever fought.

I heard one young soldier say that when he came home from Afghanistan he tried to talk to his old school buddies about the war. Some of them were surprised to hear that our country was still fighting there. Afghanistan has become a forgotten war before it is even over. That is why I am honored to pray at Memorial Day services. It is my way of making sure their service is not forgotten.

It does not matter whether we think the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf or Vietnam were good foreign policy. All that matters is that these men and women put their lives on the line.  Many thousands gave their lives. Thousands more are continuing to give each day as they live with the physical and emotional wounds of war.

To pray is the least I can do. As my congregation knows, I do not pray for them only once a year on Memorial Day. I pray for soldiers  every Sunday morning in my pastoral prayer. I want to make sure that no one in my congregation ever forgets the great sacrifice given by so many.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meeting Myself

I met Marshall Davis last Saturday night. I am not kidding. I went to hear a speaker in Madison, New Hampshire. A young man and I both drove up to the wrong location looking for the same program. We eventually found the correct building, and were greeted by one of the organizers of the event. 

She asked my name and I replied, “Marshall.” The young man said his name was Marshall also. What a coincidence. I asked him his last name. He replied, “Davis.” “You are kidding me!” I said. He wasn’t. We were the first Marshall Davis that either of us had ever met. There were only 30 people at the event, and two were Marshall Davis. I was glad we were not asked to wear name tags. 

I felt like I was looking at myself forty years younger, like I was in some type of time travel movie. I wanted to tell him that when I was his age I had as much hair on my head as he does now, but I didn’t have the heart. I wanted to tell him to take care of his teeth or he will be missing a few by my age, and root canals and dental implants aren’t fun. But I didn’t want to scare him. 

I wonder what he thought of me? I doubt that he thought he was meeting an older version of himself. “No,” he would think, “I will never become that bald or heavy … or wrinkled!” You just wait, Marshall Davis! Time has a way of doing things that you would never imagine!

The really strange thing is that when the program began, the speaker talked about our sense of personal identity. His main point concerned the illusory nature of the self. It felt like God was hitting me over the head with a message. “Listen up, Marshall Davis! Get this lesson through your hard heart!”

I did not talk much more with my namesake. He was a college student, and soon some of his college friends showed up. He spent the next few minutes before the program began chatting with them. Perhaps he had enough of Marshall Davis. Sometimes I feel the same way.

It was fun to meet myself. I looked good. I seemed happy and healthy. I hope Marshall Davis has a good, long and blessed life. I hope he meets the love of his life, and has a long happy marriage, as I have. I hope his spiritual quest results in knowing Truth intimately, as mine has. I hope he has a fulfilling career, and children and grandchildren. And I hope that forty years from now he meets Marshall Davis  ... again.