Today (23 September 2013) I had the honor of being part of the Memorial Tribute Ceremony hosted by the U.S. Army Military Police Corps Regiment and supported by the Military Police Regimental Association, at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri as part of the MP Regimental Anniversary Week events. Among those attending the ceremony held at the MP Memorial Grove were family members and friends of the MP Soldiers who have been killed in combat over the past year.
As the chaplain, my part in the ceremony included the Invocation and Benediction (as always!) and also the Memorial Message. If you’re interested in viewing the entire ceremony, it can be found here, but I wanted to post the text of my message as a way to continue to honor the fallen MPs and also as a possible source of hope and encouragement to anyone who may stumble across this post who is feeling weak or weary and in need of an infusion of strength and power.
Help for the Weak and Weary
Last week I walked around the Memorial Grove, taking note of the many plaques and benches which honor the fallen MPs from Military Police units around the world. Especially significant to me were the many bricks representing specific MP Soldiers who have died in combat.
We often, and rightfully, remember the fallen as a whole, but while we do that, we also need to remember that each Soldier who has given his or her life is an individual. This is a fact that the loved ones of those individual Soldiers know all too well. We also need to remember that behind each of these fallen Soldiers are numerous additional individuals who have supported them and who now miss them.
The Scripture passage which I read from Isaiah seems to speak to the individual. While it begins with an address to a larger nation, it moves into offering what God makes available to the individual– to you and to me, and even to those MPs who have fallen.
God offers strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Whether in combat or surviving a loss from combat, Soldiers and loved ones need this strength and power to endure, to continue the fight, to survive … sometimes alone.
I think that the strength that God gives, helps us to do what we must do. For the MP Soldier, that means having the strength for multiple deployments. Having the strength to successfully and effectively do his or her job. It means having the strength to get up each day, put on the uniform and a smile and come to work, patrol the post, guard detainees, defend the FOB, protect the force, and sometimes, face death.
For those left at home, that strength is what is needed to carry on from day-to-day. It’s the strength to deal with car problems and the kids’ discipline problems. It is strength to be the father and the mother, or the parent whose child is far away- in harm’s way. The strength that God gives us is also the strength to face life after our loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice, the strength to go on tomorrow and the next day.
Beyond strength, Isaiah tells us that God can also give us power. While strength is given to the weary, power is given to the weak. This may be the same person. I know many times in my life I have felt both weary and weak and was standing in need of God’s strength and power.
I believe this power goes beyond the strength that God provides. While strength is something we possess, power comes from a source outside of us. Power hints at being victorious over what we face. It suggests being able to overcome obstacles and hurdles which mere strength alone cannot overcome.
Have you ever been there, completely weary and weak? Unable to stand, much less move forward? This need for something beyond us, something outside of us, is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember, Isaiah told us that “even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall.” When we have trouble facing the trials of today and the sorrows of tomorrow, we are not the first and we are not alone. It is the plight of humankind to grow weary, even in our well-doing. We are, after all, only human so our power many times is drained by the daily grind and especially the exceptional circumstance.
Thankfully, we have a greater hope than just what we can muster within ourselves. We don’t have to rely solely on our own strength to face whatever may come. We do not have to somehow dig deeper for power that we just can’t find inside of us, for those moments that no one should have to face alone . . . or at all.
When we put our hope in the Lord, we have in our reach renewed strength, to be able to not grow weary or faint. When we put our hope in the Lord, we can tap into the strength and power of “the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”
God knows us, He knows our weakness and our powerlessness. He knows what we face and what we can handle. He knows, He cares and He provides.
This is a promise for we who remain. When we grow weary, when we lack power, when it seems we can’t go on, our strength can be renewed, we can be given power. When we face tasks that seem to be beyond us, we can face them knowing that we receive strength and power from above. For you who continue to mourn, this strength and power can help you in the days, even in the years, ahead.
This is also a promise to those who have fallen, those who have left this temporary existence of life. Their hope and ours is that they no longer have to experience weakness. No longer do they need to lack power. But finally shedding this earthly shell they can truly, fully and eternally experience what Isaiah speaks of:
…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Closing Prayer & Benediction
Our most Gracious God and Father,
We thank you for your presence and love which helps us to endure through difficult times. We thank you for moments like these when we don’t have to be alone but can gather among others who know, at least to an extent, what we face. We thank you for the peace that you give us, your peace—that can exist within us even when all around us there is no peace.
As much as you comfort us who have gathered here today, we pray that in an even greater measure you will comfort the families and loved ones of those who have fallen. Be for them all that they need you to be just now and continue to provide for them in every way in the days, weeks, months and years ahead as they face life without their wife, husband, father, mother or child.
Finally Lord, we pray that you will bring real peace to our land, so that we can rest in safety and comfort and not have to send our sons and daughters into harm’s way. Bring to us, we humbly ask you, the time when parents don’t have to grieve the loss of their children killed in war; hasten the day when spouses don’t have to say goodbye to their loved ones because they serve their country; provide for us, dear Father, a world whose children do not have to grow up without a father or a mother because of the evil that envelopes us.
Go with us now, Lord we pray, as we reluctantly return to the world out there. Please don’t let us soon forget our comrades, friends and family who have fallen, but help us to honor their sacrifice through our lives lived for your glory.
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:22)
Photo credits: Memorial Grove- Mr. Michael Curtis (Leonard Wood) from www.army.mil; American Military Cemetery-Bjarki Sigursveinsson, public domain; Flying Eagle- Ryan McFarland from www.commons.wikimedia.org.