Bishop Lull: With Gratitude for Veterans

Date posted: Monday 12 November 2018

Yesterday, many of us paused to acknowledge the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice at the close of World War I. I know that some congregations stood in silence at 11 am to hear the tolling of the bells, a sound which a century ago announced the joyous news that a peace agreement had been reached. I had the privilege of preaching at the Service of Evening Prayer at St. Paul–Reformation Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, where liturgy, music, poetry and prayers shaped a common witness to God’s power in the midst of global strife.


I want to extend thanks to all women and men currently serving in the armed services and to all veterans within this synod. Your service does matter to all of us and helps us work for the common good within this country and around the globe. Beyond this synod, I am grateful for the ministry of those who serve as chaplains with National Guard and Reserve units, as well as with all branches of the armed service. As Christians we are called to provide spiritual comfort and guidance through congregations and institutions and at training grounds and battle fields. ELCA Chaplains do that so well.


During this week of Veterans Day, may our prayers join those through the ages, who have turned to God as their source of enduring safety and refuge. With the Psalmist we cry – “My eyes are turned toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenseless.” (Psalm 141:8).


Sermon on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice

Sunday, November 11

St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church


Grace and peace to you from God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.


One of the truisms about history is that it is much easier to gauge the impact of events looking back than it is to assess any event as it unfolds. We gather now 100 years after the signing of the Armistice, marking the end of World War I. As we learned as children … the 11th hour, the 11th day, the 11th month … the close of the Great War, the war to end all wars.


What we didn’t learn as children is that millions – military and civilian – died on the battlefronts in the years 1914 to 1918. And on the heels of that many more became displaced persons and refugees. Alongside World War I there were also conflicts and uprisings from Ireland to Russia to the Middle East; back home in America women took on new roles in the economy while the troops were away. By the end of the war, America had emerged as a global power.


One hundred years is more than a lifetime, so much of what happened is lost to memory. Yet, as nationalism grows around the globe and local tensions roil into international conflicts, we are wise to glean whatever lessons we can from this century-old history.


A first lesson. The men, who served in the Great War, were all someone’s son or brother, husband or neighbor. A colleague sent me the names of those in the army from Ramsey County, who died in the war. For the past few days I have been reading their names aloud, as perhaps you have remembered the service of someone in your family tree. Pvt. Louis Ackerman … Cpl. Dean C. Clark … Pvt. William F. Connelly … Pvt. Thomas Gaughn … Pvt. Nathan Goldstein … Pvt. Frederick Klanska … Pvt. Oscar Moline … Pvt. Axil Julius Peterson … Pvt. Stanley B. Zabroki …


These are only a few of the names on the longer list for this county, in this state; nine names among the millions on both sides who went to war and did not return home alive. We know that about one third of the American troops were immigrants or sons of immigrants. African Americans also served and though the honor came decades too late, Cpl. Freddie Stowers was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage in the midst of battle. As we remember them all we glimpse what America has long meant as a place where the children of many nations and identities and races work and serve, side-by-side.


I don’t know how one prays in the midst of battle, especially one fought in the trenches, as battles were still fought in that war, but I suspect that words like those of Psalm 141 might have been on the tongues of soldiers all around. “My eyes are turned toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; do not leave me defenseless.” (Psalm 141:8)


And a second lesson on this centennial anniversary of Armistice Day. The war to end all wars did not do so. Like so many nations, we find ourselves in the midst of conflicts, great and small. By God’s mercy, we pray that the number will decrease as our diplomacy and commitment to global, economic justice increases. Is there anyone here without a relative in military service today? The young we love and honor and pray for every single day? Along with veterans of every decade, they carry something close to their hearts that we are also wise to remember today.


It is possible in this world to live only for one’s self. To dedicate mind and strength and all we have to work toward gain only for one’s self and one’s own family. But the verdict of history – as well as Biblical theology – does not bode well for those who fail to see others as their neighbors; neighbors deserving the basic things of life. It is why the doughboys and others went off to war a hundred years ago. I suspect it is why we are here tonight.


By God’s grace may we yearn and work for a world where neighbors live with neighbors in peace. Thanks be to God. AMEN.


Yours in God’s service,

Bishop Patricia Lull