So, as it was mentioned earlier, this Wednesday will be Veteran’s Day, a time when we as a nation are encouraged to extend our heartfelt appreciation to those who served our country in the armed forces. Unfortunately setting aside a day for it often leads to nothing more than that: a day to say, “Thank you.” A day for businesses, including restaurants and barbershops, to offer discounts for veterans, as if that’s enough for the sacrifice that was made for us and an entire nation.
After November 11, we’ll go on about our usual taking them for granted, forgetting that many of our veterans continue to suffer from the most brutal effects of war, including loss of entire limbs, not to mention reliving a nightmare that refuses to stop playing in their minds night after night. It becomes a political issue every election cycle as to how much should be given in order to better support the organizations and agencies that care for our brave men and women; but it’s always someone else’s problem, placing those very men and women willing to put the entirety of their life on the line on the very same level as the woman in the Gospel story this morning.
Jesus says her two copper coins worth next to nothing were still all she had to live on. She gave everything she had! How fitting for the veterans of our nation, who were willing to give everything they had: willing to risk their life, their family, their friends, their home, their future, not to mention a sense of stability and calmness. They gave it all for their country. They gave it all for us.
Now the only personal experience I can go off of is my grandfather, who died over three years ago now, who served in the Pacific during World War II. He didn’t talk about his service much. Perhaps he just didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe it brought up bad memories. Perhaps it would make him miss the friends he grew close to over the years. But I have a feeling it was because, in his mind, that wasn’t what his service was for over a half-century ago. He didn’t want it be seen as showing off. He didn’t want to make people feel guilty that they didn’t serve the same way. He didn’t want others to feel sorry for him, that they should go an extra mile to give him appreciation or any kind of special treatment. He didn’t have any special bumper stickers or license plates to let people know a veteran was driving. That just wasn’t him.
But the thing I still remember is that he made sure the American flag, with absolutely no wear and tear, was flying from the front of his garage; and whenever we came to visit, we couldn’t park our car in the way of the light beaming onto the flag at night. Now I’m sure there were days in his life after he came back from Japan that he wasn’t proud of his country, or that people were taking what soldiers did for granted, the sacrifice they made, including his friends from the Army, but nevertheless that flag flew in front of his garage day after day after day. It just went to show what it was all for: not for glory, not for pride, not to show off, not to make people feel guilty; it’s just what he did for his country, including for his own family and people he would never meet.
After all, the woman in the Gospel passage this morning has no intention for Jesus to tell her story, for her story to be passed down for thousands of years now. She wasn’t in it for glory, for pride, to show off, to make people feel guilty for not giving everything they had to offer to God. It’s just what she did. It’s just what her soul drove her to do that day.
Maybe that’s why Jesus had to point her out. Perhaps Jesus saw Himself in her, this woman who gave everything she had, everything she had to live on. Maybe Jesus saw that’s exactly what He was about to do: give His very life for the world, give everything He had to offer to us. Now I’m most certainly sure there are days when He isn’t proud of us, His now-living disciples. I’m sure there are days He sees us take for granted what He did for us on the cross and out of the empty tomb. But then again, just like the woman with nothing more than copper coins, He didn’t do anything out of power-hungry glory, or self-serving pride, to show off His miraculous powers, or to make us feel guilty about our lives in comparison to the sacrifice He made.
It’s just what He did. His soul overwhelmed in love for the entire Creation, His compassion for all humanity, His relentless drive to make all things new, took Him all the way up a hill, and only He could bring Himself down. None of us can live up to that, but thanks be to God that we’re not even expected to, because Christ has already taken care of it, and taken care of us forever. But in the meantime, we most certainly give thanks to God for the ones who might just well be the closest ones to understanding the sacrifice of our Lord made, for the ones who served their country and all of us. For them, not only this Wednesday, but every day, we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon