3/23/03, L3B

“May War Pass Over”
John 2: 13-22

 am sure that our military chaplains are struggling today with the theological concepts about a "Just War" as they are leading worship in burning sands of Iraq, or aboard ships at sea. My dear friend, Major Mitchell Lewis, is with his troops as they are nearing Baghdad. No matter how we feel about this war we all must pray for our men and women who are in peril. As you can see from today's newsletter cover, written last Monday morning, I mentioned Mitchell's presence in Kuwait at that time. Although he had not been able to access e-mail for a long time, he just happened to be at headquarters on Monday and received my "Messenger" lead. He returned my e-mail right away:

Bob - It's almost 11:00 pm, and I'm just finishing today's work. I'll start again tomorrow morning at 6:00. Got a few minutes to check the internet tonight and found your messenger lead. Thanks for the kind words, and for remembering my soldiers. We're all looking forward to going home when this is all over.

Alice Smith sent me some questions by email for the Advocate, and I hope I answered her in time to meet her deadline. I've never experienced anything else on earth like this, and I'd like the church to know about it.

The president speaks in a few hours: Ought to make our lives even more interesting. I'm proud of the folks with which I serve here. I really hope that this makes an overall positive impact in the way of justice and peace.

Thanks again for the good thoughts. As I tell my wife, trust me, trust the people around me, and trust God.

CH (MAJ) Mitchell I. Lewis
Staff Chaplain, Division Artillery
3d Infantry Division

You may have seen Mitchell's picture on the cover of your "Wesleyan Christian Advocate," which we received later in the week. He, along with other United Methodist chaplains from Georgia, was interviewed. All seemed to reflect a great loyalty to their sponsoring denomination, to their troops and to their Lord.

Most chaplains of all Christian denominations follow the Revised Common Lectionary; and thus, may choose the gospel lesson for this Sunday, as I did. As sometimes happens, the text that was assigned seems to be unusually relevant to things that are happening in our world and in our local church.

First, we find Jesus leading his Apostles back into Jerusalem to observe the main feast of the Jews, the Passover, which recalls how God took the lives of thousands of the oldest sons of the Egyptians, as a final warning to "Let my people go back to the homeland that I have given them." God was clearly seen as being Israel's national defender against its foes in peace and in wartime. Indeed, most of the time the Jews were outnumbered whenever they went into battle and God had to pull them through. The agreement made in Egypt was that the death angel would pass over the homes of the Jews if they had their door mantles marked with the sacrificial blood of the lamb.

In four weeks, following the lunar calendar, we will celebrate Maundy Thursday on the exact day as the Jews still observe Passover. Indeed, as a part of our Lenten preparation for Easter, we will be led in today's Evening Worship in a re-enactment of the Passover Meal by a Messianic Jew who will teach us how the events surrounding the Passover point to Jesus as the Messiah. We will conclude tonight's service with Holy Communion, and we will hopefully realize that we are observing the Seder Meal of our Judeo-Christian tradition.

Today's gospel reading is also about one of the few times that Jesus was faced with a situation that required conflict. The cleansing of the Temple of merchants trying to profit from the Holy House of God was something of a miniature war. Although Jesus taught us to "turn the other cheek when confronted," in some situations the believer is forced to take up an offensive posture.

I shared with our Thursday congregation how I learned on the elementary school playground to set my pacifism aside when faced with four bullies' intent on beating me up. Later in the principal's office, Mr. Phoenix understood my need to go into a miniature war mode, and he actually commended me for slugging the first one that attacked me. He also chuckled about the four boys turning around and running away.

A Just War can be a defensive war, or a war against a dictator who has already massacred innocent victims. Certainly, our nation's decision to enter into World War II to save Europe, and the world, from Nazi tyranny qualified as a just war. Our current wars against terrorism in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, both seem to fit the mold of a necessary war. However, as in WW II there will be individuals who will be against it. This is fine as long as their ideals are well thought out and if they obey civil laws regarding protests. Disagreements among our politicians have gone on in the days leading up to war, but it has been our American tradition that once the war begins that our leaders will support our troops, and war effort. There are always a few pacifists but they are typically thoughtful and respectful persons of high moral character. We respect pacifism but see it as oftentimes impractical in a world of suicide bombers, creeping terrorists and evil dictators.

Prayer should be our main contribution during wartime. Although terrorist groups have named every American a target, we are relatively safe at home and have time to concentrate on prayer. We need to let our soldiers know that we are praying for a quick resolution of warfare and that as few as possible lives will be lost on either side. Also, pray for our government and military leaders, and for the freedom of the people of Iraq.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

3/23/03, L3B