The Christian can walk a very dangerous pilgrim road, riddled with doubt, fear, complacency, and temptation that can easily lead a defenseless sheep astray. Our Lord did not desire that His sheep would be without defenders of their souls, so He gave to His church pastors who would feed His sheep His very body and blood, comfort and admonish them with His Word, direct them on the correct path, and defend them from Evil One with the keys to the Kingdom. Indeed, though the road seems perilous, Christ Himself intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father. He cares about our protection, and the security of our souls.
It would be easy to stop here, to become functional gnostics, and say that Christ cares only for the protection of our souls, that the protection of our bodies, our possessions, our livelihoods are little concern to Him, since, it is supposed, these temporal things will pass away, and are of little benefit to His Kingdom. Yet, we read in the explanation of the First Article that He has given us all that we possess. He uses our neighbor’s vocations to provide us with clothing, shoes, house, and home. Furthermore, we are told by the apostle Paul that governments are given the authority of the sword to maintain order here on earth, because wolves do not seek to devour just our souls, but also our lives.
Though gifts to our bodies are a different sort of gift than those eternal gifts for our souls, they are, indeed, still gifts given to us by our Creator, though they may be mediated by our neighbor serving in his vocation, whether he be Christian, Pagan, Agnostic, or Atheist. The bread that feeds our families baked by a Jewish baker is as much a gift of Christ as a loaf baked by our Christian sister. Similarly, the figurative sword that protects our homes, our families, and our country, is granted its authority from God, despite who may wield it.
Veterans Day is not a day marked by the Church, but rather a day on our secular calendars, where our country is invited to stop and acknowledge the men and women in all branches of the military who have served in various capacities to protect their neighbors’ interests throughout the world. These men and women are not perfect, they are not sinless. Their eternal righteousness is found in Christ, yet they have served in their vocations to protect their neighbors from all enemies, foreign or domestic.
This is a profoundly honorable service, as it is one that presents little earthly gain and potentially tremendous loss of life, limb, family, and home. Even in peacetime, our service men and women leave families and home, venture out into the world, and bear the sword so we can sleep more securely at night, in our comfortable beds, under the assurance that we are protected from those who would destroy our bodies and our lives.
Some of us had the honor of growing up in military households, constantly surrounded by military personnel, and the demands of military life. Others have no friends or relatives who have served. But all of us share in the benefits granted by those who have served and continue to do so.
We may be critical of governmental policies, various military interventions, but we live today without immediate threat of tyranny, oppression, and persecution largely because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. Today may be a secular holiday, but it is still an opportunity to thank God for those who have borne the sword in pursuit of peace, to pray for our military, and, not least of all, to thank a veteran.