Summary: Our Christian Response to war
The Winds of War
Three young men. They would tell you that they could not remember a time when they didn’t know one another. Their families could not have been any different one poor, another affluent, and the third from a military family. On the night of their High School graduation, while others were out celebrating, these three went to bed early. The next morning they were to catch a bus and would be on their way to San Diego to begin Marine Boot Camp. They had joined under the Buddy plan. They were after all three buddies.
After they had completed Boot Camp and Advance Infantry Training they were stationed together. In November of 1965 they shipped out together for Viet Nam. They would serve together there. In the next year they each be wounded. Each would recover and rejoin his friends. When their 13 months were up, they extended their tours so that they could remain together again. In their next year they would each be wounded again and each would be decorated for bravery.
In January of 1968, they were near the end of their second tour. Literally they were days away from returning to the world. They planned to go home together. They knew that soon they would not be stationed together any longer. They had had time to talk because they were assured the worst was over. In the coming days the Vietnamese would be celebrating their new year and war took a break during the Tet celebration.
Their Recon Platoon was actually in a compound that morning when mortars started raining down. The three had been through mortars attacks before. They knew what to do. Each went to his assigned place. Each took up the battle that would ensure. On that day, and on the next they saw more North Vietnamese massed for a fight than at any time since their arrival some 25 months before. One tells the story that he actually went through four different barrels on his machine gun during those two days. Another tells of running out of ammunition but he wasn’t concerned because he could reach out and take the rifle of Vietnamese soldiers who had died within his reach.
At the end of the second day it stopped. At the end of the second day helicopters arrived and evacuated the three friends. Two of them carried their life long fried to the helicopter with them. He would tell no stories of the last two days. Others would. They told so many stories that all three were awarded the Navy Cross.
A week later the three returned home. Two of them sat with the coffin of their friend. They were met by their families and all shed tears and as you might imagine, not all the tears were of joy.
Later that week, they stood in the cemetery and one of these proud Marines tells of the strangeness of that day. He says that on that day there was stillness like none other he had ever known. After two years of the noise of battle there was a quietness that overwhelmed him. It was in that still quiet place that he felt the Winds of War.
Today, our nation is again at war. Many members of this church know what that means in the particular rather than in the abstract. They do not need CNN or any other news organization to bring them the graphic pictures of war because they have smelled the smoke of the battlefield. They know first hand what it means to bury friends. They know what it means to move forward in the face of fear because to do otherwise would cause them to be in place frozen by that fear. They understand better than anyone that the terms just war and popular war have no meaning whatsoever. It is still war. And so it is for many young men and women today. They are not concerned with whom protests or who supports. What concerns them is the welfare of those who stand beside them as the winds of war blow across the sights of their rifles.
The Lord tells us that there will be a time for war. As a matter of fact, from our scripture, we read that there is a time when both good and evil will occur in this life and the question for us is how should we respond to both? In life’s totality, what should be our Christian response?
We heard also this morning the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mound and each of us is perplexed by the blessings that Christ offers. Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek and those who hunger after righteousness, blessed are those who are merciful and blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are those who are persecuted. Those are both individually and collectively difficult but the one that weights heavy on us this morning is blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. How do we reconcile war and peacemaking? Isn’t war after all the antitheses of peace?