As a veteran committed to developing a robustly martial hermeneutic, I am frequently asked where to find resources for pastors, families, and friends trying to understand and connect with veterans in their congregations. Suppressing the impulse to pull my hair out, alarm bells go off in my mind; “THE CHURCH!” The Body of Christ in the world is itself a resource for precisely these questions. Besides liturgical, scriptural, and theological resources at our disposal, the saints testify with their very lives that war and death do not have the last word.
The stories of Christian soldiers are the stories of the Church
On All Saints day, the Church remembers those who have died, a group called “the Church Triumphant.” We tell the stories of their lives in the hopes that they will refine our faith. Ten days later, on Veterans Day, the world remembers those who have survived war and lived to tell its tales. Far from being an antithesis, war and the Church have been intimately intertwined, though rarely in complementary fashion. We have a commitment as Christ’s body to those dismembered bodies left by combat, to re-member those souls wandering the spiritual wasteland left in war’s wake.
It is no coincidence that there are ten days between the ecclesial holy day of All Saints and the national holiday known as Veterans Day. The number ten is significant in the Bible, implying completion, like the Ten Commandments or the ten clauses of the Lords Prayer. But soldiers do not always feel complete or whole; besides combat, the leading cause of death on active duty is suicide. Reflecting a tragic persistence after discharge, a veteran will take his or her own life every 65 minutes. Acts of desperation like these come only after a long, lonely road of moral, emotional, and spiritual despair against which the Church is called to stand. God’s shalom, the wholeness and completion offered by Christ, must be passed to those souls who have seen the hell of war. What better time than now?
During the ten days between All Saints and Veterans Day, I will be re-blogging a series I authored last year for Centurions Guild. “TenSaintsTenDays” will bring you ten soldier saints whose lives help the modern Church rediscover gifts that soldiers bring to the Church, this timeless body reflecting the glory of God. Stand with veterans of the Church this next Ten Days, with these Ten Saints. Their lives remind us that the stories of Christian soldiers are the stories of the Church, that death and war do not have the last word. I hope learning about these brave souls and the formative effect their military service had on them will encourage the Church to think deeply about the witness of her soldier saints, both dead and alive, in the days leading to Veterans Day. All saints are our saints, and all veterans are our concern.
To God be the glory and, to us, peace on earth.
Spread the word! Follow the #10saints10days countdown to #VeteransDay here (links will be updated as posts go live);