On Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies Sunday, we also remember the story of the Four Chaplains
February 2, 2020
Lord, you are my shepherd; I have all that I need. …
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. …
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
—Psalm 23 (NLT)
When faced with chaos and danger, four World War II U.S. Army chaplains on a critically damaged Army transport together chose to offer their shipmates the peace they could. When nothing more could be done, these same chaplains laid down their lives, giving a few of those around them a chance for life. (For more about the Four Chaplains, see fourchaplains.org/the-saga-of-the-four-chaplains.)
This story from more than 75 years ago lives on to both inspire and steady those who have answered the call to military service. Few chaplains find themselves giving their lives for their faith as literally as the Four Chaplains did, but all have raised their hands and taken the oath knowing that they might. All of our chaplains have made that choice.
Serving as the Deputy Force Chaplain at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006, PC(USA) Navy Chaplain Mark Smith didn’t travel frequently around Al Anbar province. When he did, it was usually a night flight on a Blackhawk helicopter. One rare daytime trip Chaplain Smith took as part of a vehicle convoy moving between Fallujah and Ramadi was a reminder of his call to serve no matter the cost.
After a successful mission and while nearing the fortified entrance back into Camp Fallujah and safety, an explosion sounded in the distance. Chaplain Smith breathed a quick prayer of thanks that the gate was in sight and they had reached safety. The Marines, however, did what Marines do — they turned and headed toward the explosion.
Soon a radio call came ordering a return to camp and all were spared. Chaplain Smith was stirred by the devotion of the Marines he served with that day, and knew he belonged among them. Chaplains are to be with those they serve, in every clime and place, regardless of the circumstances.
Our chaplains work with Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen and Coast Guard members — from the greenest recruits to the most senior officers — standing ready to live out their calls in ways large and small, private and public. Today we recognize and honor the Four Chaplains and pray for those who are now serving as military chaplains. May they choose each day the example set in 1943 that such love can live forever.
Lyman M. Smith, Captain, CHC, USN, retired; Director of the Presbyterian Counsel for Chaplains and Military Personnel
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, February 2, 2020, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Paul Seebeck, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray:
O Lord of all, we thank you for the unity and love that the Four Chaplains evidenced for each other and for those they served as they chose to give their lives so that others might continue theirs. May their example be remembered and followed today and always. Today we pray for our chaplains wherever they serve. Keep them safe, O Lord, if it be your will; but even more, keep our chaplains close to you as they go with their flocks in every clime and place. We pray also for our nation and your world, that we might choose your way and pursue peace amid turmoil and hatred. Even as the Four Chaplains embraced despite their differences, may we overcome our differences and love others even as you have loved us. This we pray in your holy name. Amen.