February 4, 2024
Matthew 25: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me. … I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
On Feb. 3, 1943, four U.S. Army chaplains from different faith traditions selflessly gave up their life jackets to others on the USAT Dorchester as it sank from a strike by an enemy torpedo. Survivors recall seeing four chaplains, arms linked together, praying as the ship slipped beneath the waves. Since that date, Feb. 3 has become an observance called the Four Chaplains Day and serves to bring together people of diverse backgrounds to recognize our common humanity.
Our Book of Order states: “God sends the Church to join the mission of Jesus Christ in service to the world.” Just as those four chaplains were called to serve their military community during World War II, today dedicated chaplains are ministering in various federal, state and local ministries as they seek to remain faithful to that call.
The Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies endorses PC(USA) chaplains serving in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Affairs hospitals and the branches of our military. As highlighted in Matthew 25, these chaplains are called to bring hope and transform their respective communities through acts of love and compassion: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting prisoners, freeing captives, sheltering the homeless, welcoming strangers, comforting those who mourn and being present with all who are in need. These times include:
A VA chaplain called to sit with an elderly veteran in his hospital room during his last few moments of life. The chaplain conveyed words of love and reassurance and offered prayers while waiting for the family to arrive. They were grateful knowing their loved one was never alone.
A military chaplain who conducted a funeral service for a soldier whose remains were identified 73 years after he was declared Missing in Action. The chaplain said it was an honor and privilege to help bring closure to the family that waited so long for their loved one to be returned.
A Federal Bureau of Prisons chaplain advocating for incarcerated adults and daily proclaiming God’s grace as they deal with shame, guilt, anger and the belief that no one, not even God, can ever love them. This chaplain firmly believes these spiritual and emotional chains can be broken and chaplains can help release them from their control.
Whether it’s 1943 or 2024, PC(USA) chaplains seek to engage with people when life brings about cause for celebration, sorrow, accomplishment, doubt, renewal and despair. Pray for our chaplains who selflessly give of themselves so that the voice of the voiceless can be heard, the needs of those in need can be met, and the gift of hope and life itself can be given in the darkest moments in unexpected ways.
For more information on serving as a Veterans Affairs, federal prison or military chaplain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Dennis E. Hysom, Executive Director, Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies, and retired Army Chaplain
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, February 4, 2024, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
Today’s Focus: Remember Our Chaplains – Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Dwayne Batcho, Production Clerk II, Presbyterian Distribution Center, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
Doug Batezel, Vice President, Information Technology, Board of Pensions
Let us pray
Loving God, you know how deep wounds go. You know that many in our communities suffer, and you feel that pain in their lives. You know the memories that haunt them and the scars that many of them continue to carry. O merciful Savior, bring healing to those who are still hurting. Please grant patience and wisdom to those around them who cannot understand but can sometimes help. Permit both physical and spiritual healing to wounds that remain. For this, we pray in your most holy name. Amen.
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