In the United States, Veterans Day fell on a Sunday this year. As they do every year, the citizens of the United States honored Veterans with parades and ceremonies and concerts and pats on the back. Restaurants offered free meals and stores offered discounts to those who have worn the nation’s uniform. “Thank you for your service.” I heard the words more than once today. Americans consistently (and rightfully) rank the military as one of the most trusted and respected institutions in the country. It’s easy to get a big head. Everyone (well, most everyone) loves a man or woman in uniform.
But Veterans Day fell on a Sunday this year, and those who belong to the people of God gather on this day to remember the one who died for their sins in accordance with the scriptures, who on the third day rose again from the dead and who will come again to judge the living and the dead. Even if you are surrounded (as we are in military chapels) with patriotic emblems and banners, you know there is only one thing symbolized in this place of worship that matters. You see it in the image of the crucified one hanging on the wall. Even if the church joins the rest of society in heaping praise on you, you know there is only one person here worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing, and it isn’t you. You know your own broken humanity all too well, and you’ve seen military service from the inside. The nation rightly honors its military veterans for their service, but the cross of Christ destroys all of our pretensions. The story of Jesus puts me in my place and saves me from my idolatry.
This Sunday, like every Sunday, we come to see our selves more clearly in the shadow of the cross, and that’s OK. In the shadow of the cross, it is safe to be honest with yourself and with the God who made you.The same cross that knocks you off your pedestal will lift you up again. Listen to the gospel. “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed out for you.”
Veterans Day fell on a Sunday this year, and thank God it did.