Pastoral Reflections Rev. Robert P. Doner, pastor, Peace United Church of Christ Gladbrook, Iowa
February 10, 2012
“No Greater Love” I am an individual who enjoys reading about and researching, the American Civil War. Our nation is celebrating the 150th anniversary of that conflict which occurred from 1861-1865. Iowans take a great deal of pride in their role in helping preserve the Union and bringing about emancipation. I’ve read many of the recent articles in the newspapers to that effect. I have also read “Soldier Boy”, a book containing the letters of Charles O. Musser of the 29th Iowa. I am currently reading “This Republic of Suffering” written by Drew Gilpin Faust. This Civil War book is quite different from what I normally read on the subject; as Faust subtitles the book, it is about “death and the American Civil War.” Not, I grant you, a very cheerful topic. However, I must admit the good Lord sometimes demands we look more closely at those things we prefer not to. Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us. We will not think about death and dying, suffering and societal issues. We will think about the people we love and enjoy the love we receive from them. For those whom we love that have gone before us, those whom we love that are suffering or dying-we will intentionally allow ourselves to remember the reasons we love them. None of this is bad or wrong; after all, the Church places a high regard on the word “love.” The point is, I suggest, summarized by Jesus: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this-to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12-14) Jesus’ greatest act of love for us, for all of God’s people, was to suffer and sacrifice his life for us. Faust, in her book, says that Americans now view suffering and death much differently; the violent, sudden, and mass deaths on the battlefields of the Civil War took away the comfortable way loved ones died with their loved ones around them. If we think about it-if we contrast how we deal with love and death-we remain “in limbo.” We now often provide our loved ones with the advantages of hospice care, guaranteeing the most loving, caring, and comfortable way of approaching the closure of their earthly days; at the same time we still are forced to live with the uncertainly of our loved ones in the armed forces and what they face. There is nothing we can do for them when they are so far away should something happen to them. I hope to conclude our journey into spiritual discernment by encouraging the full, heartfelt celebration of a Day to embrace those whom we love in a manner that brings joy and closeness. I also desire to offer this bit of advice: make all you days “Valentine’s Day.” The greatest sacrifice, Jesus said, was to lay down one’s life for the other. That daily effort to show your love and appreciation to those around you, family, friend, and stranger alike, will do more to make life better than you can ever imagine.
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