The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'Go in peace' during war

The body of Christ broken for your sins,” one chaplain said. “The blood of Christ shed for you,” said the other. The formula was repeated for the long line of worshipers, each with weapons slung over their shoulder or safely strapped into their shoulder holster. They came to the packing-crate altar in a makeshift Army chapel in Kuwait’s desert—to taste God’s presence and grace.

None of the soldiers in the generator-lit tent seemed to care that a Baptist and Lutheran were offering them the Lord’s Supper. Theological and liturgical correctness took a back seat that night to something that was far more important to them. They came to taste the promise and presence of God, not to argue over the meaning of the sacrament. They came to dip the bread into the wine so they could by faith taste a connectedness rather than a correctness, a connectedness to the Savior, his presence, his gift of love and life.

This was no theoretical exercise for these troops in desert camouflage. The war has been rumbling on for several weeks now. Most of these soldiers would never hear a shot fired in anger, though perhaps a Patriot missile fired at an incoming SCUD. But love and life are no longer taken for granted. The self-confidence in their soldiering, their cause and their country was still there, but it has been tempered by the causalities, the Missing in Action, the POWs that combat brings. War that was always remote and “a training exercise” has become less clinical and more real. They now realize that it’s not some other generation that must go into battle. It is them, here, now.

So faith is no longer an academic exercise. It must be real and palpable now or it will never be of value. Yet they are not unique in this hunger for a real and present God.

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