I come from a long line of military men. My grandfather fought in World War II, my uncle in Vietnam, and my brother in Iraq. And each one of them found, developed or deepened their understanding of God either through their military training or in their experiences. My grandfather was a torpedo man on the submarines in the Pacific theater of World War II. He passed away when I was quite young but what I do remember of him was his mannerisms. And the family stories that have been shared since his passing have helped me come to an understanding of his faith and the role it played in all of the battles and challenges that he faced in life. Battles that started with his separation from his home in Eli Nebraska, to his struggles on board the submarine, to the loss of dear friends, and finally to his battle with cancer.
He, like many men his age in the war, prayed often though he was not able to attend worship or church regularly. He prayed for support, care and guidance in his experiences and struggles. My grandfather was always a very quiet man, very contemplative. He never spoke much about his experiences to his family though they all knew how he struggled with the nightmares. He would answer questions when asked by curious teenagers. But he never voluntarily told stories of his days in the military. After the war, he did not attend church regularly though there was one right down the road. His faith and understanding of God was much deeper than most people’s and sustained him in his times of trial.
He was the one who help his sons through the loss of my grandmother in 1982. He was the one who tried to help them turn to God and prayer to give them the quiet strength they needed to make it through this time of testing in their lives. He didn’t believe that God would make him or his family invincible to the dangers around them or that God would protect him anymore than anyone else. But he believed that God would offer him strength in the midst of some very human struggles.
Our psalm for today also asks for strength, support and guidance for their King. It was written by the temple elite for King Solomon. They looked to God to guide their leader so that their country might be safe. They prayed that God might bring them safely through their struggles. They asked that God not forget them in their times of conflict and still to this day we ask the same thing. We ask that God not forget us in our struggles. I would take this further that as a congregation and as a nation we ask God to not forget our soldiers across seas and their families here in their challenges. We should still be asking God to grant strength, courage and guidance for those who fight and for those who come home and continue on with a new set of challenges as they try to readjust.
For those who ask the question, where is God in the midst of the turmoil of war, I would say God is in the strength and determination of these young men and women. God is in the sacrifices of those families and in the strength given to them to struggle against the worst in humanity. It was through faith that my grandfather found peace and courage amidst the turmoil of war. I believe we are all called upon to search for God and to call upon our faiths when we are in need of experiencing that peace and strength amidst the challenges that face us all in life.
There is much to be learned from the men and women who have dedicated their lives, their energy and their hearts to our country and for that we should all raise our voices in gratitude. I know there is much to learn about the depths of faith found in the experiences of these individuals that can teach us about prayer and God. Our scriptures from said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things”. We are reminded that through God anything is possible. Through God, we can find faith, peace, and courage in the battles we all fight in life. So this morning I ask that we keep the sacrifices of our soldiers at home and abroad in our prayers and in our minds. Let their experiences and determination help drive us as we work to find strength from our Creator in all of the challenges we face personally, as communities and as a nation. This morning I would like to leave you with a poem I read this week written by an anonymous World War II soldier:
No shell or bomb can on me burst,
Except my God permit it first.
Then let my heart be kept in peace;
His watchful care will never cease.
No bomb above, nor mine below
Need cause my heart one pang of woe
The lord of Hosts encircles me:
He is the Lord of earth and sea. 
May God encircle all people in their struggles inspiring strength, courage, and faith. May he bless our soldiers, their families, their units and may God guide our decision makers and leaders so one day we will no longer need to place human life in harm’s way. Amen.
 Psalm 72: 18, NRSV.
 Glasser, Arthur F. And Some Believed: A Chaplain’s Experiences with the Marines in The South Pacific. Chicago: Moody, 1946. 109.
(based on Psalm 72)