February 5, 2023
Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life —
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:7–8
The Four Chaplains stood on the deck of the USAT Dorchester on Feb. 3, 1943. Linked arm in arm, chaplains George Fox (Methodist), Alexander Goode (Jewish), Clark Poling (Reformed) and John Washington (Roman Catholic) sang hymns and offered prayers as the ship sank beneath the turbulent waves of the North Atlantic. Perhaps these courageous servants of God were comforted, even as we read in our Psalm, by knowing the faithful love of our Lord endures forever.
The commitment the Four Chaplains showed to their calling has inspired today’s chaplains for 80 years. Though only a few have given the ultimate sacrifice, all are committed to ministry when those they serve have need.
One of our reserve chaplains who also pastors a congregation related such commitment recently. He spent time back-filling at an installation while an assigned chaplain was overseas supporting women and men serving abroad. Like all our reserve chaplains, on arrival he immediately joined in the ministry and began to visit and support specific units. During his nearly three months on site, he made many contacts and developed trust relationships with numerous uniformed members.
One Saturday morning, a few months after completing the assignment, the chaplain received a text at 5 a.m. The text simply said, “Hey Chaplain, I have a friend going through a rough time. Can we talk?” Through more texts and conversations, the member received help and guidance. Today the friend is doing well.
The chaplain related on remembering the incident, “for me it is especially affirming because I had met this individual maybe three times total. And yet, a few months later, after no contact, when he was in need, he reached out to me.”
The chaplains sent forward by our church make a difference every day. Our congregations may not be able to reach those who serve, but through their support, prayers, and the chaplains we send to federal institutions are able to connect and respond where there is need – on military installations, in prisons, and at VA hospitals.
The Four Chaplains voluntarily surrendered their lives on that horrendous night in the North Atlantic. Their sacrifice was not in vain. Prior to their descent beneath the waves, they gave away their life jackets and other critical gear, saving many of the crew. But even more noteworthy was the witness they delivered to the faithful love of our God. Jehovah does not abandon us, even when we pass through the grave to the glory of his presence.
Lyman M. Smith, Captain, CHC, USN, Retired, Executive Director of Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies
For more information on chaplaincy or to give to support our important ministry, please visit presfedchap.org.
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, February 5, 2023, the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Today’s Focus: Remember Our Chaplains – Presbyterian Federal Chaplaincies
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Kerry Rice, Deputy Stated Clerk, Office of the Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly
Meg Rift, Associate for Curriculum Development, Presbyterian Publishing Corporation
Let us pray
Jehovah Jireh, we give you thanks for your faithful love that endures forever. Today remind us of your protection, even in troubled times. Help us act with assurance of your love in all the circumstances of our lives.
We pray today for the ones who put their lives on the line to help us live in safety and with purpose. We remember especially our chaplains. Whether they serve in the military, in health care, in prisons, in industry or in so many other settings, they go into the world each day to be your presence, O God, amid your people. Encourage them, enable them, and provide them the sure and certain knowledge of your faithful love that others may encounter the peace that only you provide.