Today is the Marine Corps Birthday. 243 years for the few and the proud. Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day honoring our American Veterans. At 11am tomorrow it will be the 100th anniversary of what used to be known as Armistice Day. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
I am a Marine and a Veteran. Weird fact, I always seem to notice when it’s 11 minutes after the hour and my number in bootcamp was 11 meaning that I was the 11th recruit in alphabetical order for platoon 1001 at Parris Island in SC.
I also have a passion to share God’s Word. This comes from the Holy Spirit working through His word. God’s love has moved me with a burning desire to bring His truth to all people, young and old. I once had an experience, in of all places, the desert, that was a key moment with which God used to further my spiritual growth. Over 33 years ago, a weak, incomplete Marine was made whole by a further act of divine intervention.
The desert is the wilderness. Wilderness is mentioned hundreds of times in the bible. In the bible this is the pace where one can encounter God, the enemy or both. A place of spiritual renewal or desolation. God created me and, in the desert, He reminded me how He makes my ALL and without Him I am nothing.
There is a verse in a little book in the Old Testament that now make sense of the experience I had where God taught me about tithing.
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need”
This verse points to God’s own people failing to trust in Him. I did the same. God was there for me, but I struggled to trust in that knowledge. I was focused on my own personal problems instead of trusting in my creator. Christ gave His ALL to fulfill the law and this knowledge may leave one feeling adrift in terms of our personal responsibility. And if we fall short in our trust for God, we cannot blame God for our own shortcomings. He did not create those. He made us perfect for His plan which struggle wrapping our heads around that.
Can we commit our everything to a relationship? That is what God is asking for. If we generously, freely and joyously demaonstrate our love to God in a committed full-time 24/7 relationship only then are we on the right track for our Christian journey.
In an extreme moment of despair, I dared to test God. God knew that it was ALL or nothing and planned for it, well in advance. He actually proved Himself to Me in a sign of His holy word. He knew me better than I knew me and better than I’ll ever know me.
Despite the verses I read previously where God says to test Him. Jesus says it is written that you shall not test God. And in Deuteronomy it is written. The Israelites were given signs and proof of His love, yet they still doubted God and tested Him in what can be summed up as intentional provocation. They lost sight of themselves. That’s our problem. We lose ourselves. We lose our identity. We lose faith in ourselves. We disconnect from our mind, our spirit and our hearts. We let this world poison our very beings to their core.
The point is DO NOT TEST GOD because we cannot comprehend the depth of the eternal test results. Don’t even consider it unless you truly, truly know yourself and how can you? Only God truly knows YOU! We may think we have a clue but we never see the big picture or our place in the plan. We are sinners and we ALL have doubts in our own faith. So if we test God it would be with sinful intent. How dare we even think of approaching God and demanding anything. BUT we do. We often forget to bring our LOVE to the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer. OUR FATHER. We want to skip ahead to our daily bread. Our Father wants us to understand the concept of ALL or nothing. If you need to test God then do it with TRUST! TRUST IN GOD!
I was a man controlled by his own emotions, so I shut down my heart and brain and my faith suffered until God intervened. As Jesus intervened for ALL of us. I now feel that faith isn’t a strong enough word for how I feel about God. That same God who opened the windows of heaven to fill the void of nothingness with His creation. Everything we perceive and so much more that we can’t perceive.
The Lord continues to convict me with His saving love and forgiveness through the Bible which I study and teach. I have learned that He will always fulfill His promises and guide me no matter what future “deserts” or “wildernesses” that I am in. No matter how deaf, dumb and blind I may be His eternal work going on daily in my own life. Jesus died for my sins. Jesus died for ALL of our sins. His will was done. His plan has and always will come to its fruition.
In our Gospel, Jesus watches the people tithing. God knows your tithes. Jesus then explains about the widow’s mite. The equivalent of one cent. Yet her tithe was everything. And Jesus isn’t just speaking about her money. The widow’s living expenses and needs were handled by the Jewish temple community. She happened to come in possession of a mite and what did she do? She gave it to God. Sacrifice before abundance. Complete faith and trust from a broken sinner.
God wants a loving relationship with you. A loving relationship is reciprocal. God gives you everything so what do you think you should give in return just to be fair? Well, everything. And everything given in true thankfulness and loving generosity. God will accept a tenth though. Why? Because the number ten is symbolic or everything you think you possess. By giving a tenth it represents you giving all you have because God gave you ALL you have. God’s love is not symbolic. The cross was and is still real today.
God deserves ALL your love. ALL of our love. God is not looking for sheep or blind faith. God wants YOU. Your mind, your body, your heart and soul. ALL of YOU and ALL of your love. The widow knew this. She loved God and trusts in God. She understood sacrifice. A sacrifice is an action which allows you to come as close to God as you can. Totally giving and totally vulnerable to God. Trusting in God’s will.
You’ll find many bible verses showing God’s love for widows. I’m training to become a deacon and one of the main reasons for that position in the church is to help the widows of our community.
In the bible, widows are portrayed as vulnerable but brave and very faithful. They place no limit on what God can do. They trust in God and commit to the actions that puts them into a free-fall right into God’s saving arms. Are we willing to make that leap of faith? How do we see others around us? Do they understand their sacrifices? Do we even understand what true sacrifice means?
A Marine funeral is a ceremony conducted with disciplined precision, patience and compassion. Taps is played using a bugle or a trumpet indicating that the soldiers work is done. There is also a 21-gun salute, final salute or the firing of three volleys. A long-standing military tradition to honor the dead by showing the soldiers weapons were no longer hostile. The firing of three volleys would indicate a ceasefire in order to retrieve the bodies of the fallen. Another firing of three volleys would then indicate that the dead have been properly cared for and cleared from the field of battle. The folding of the flag is another part of the ritual that cannot be rushed. Each step requires care, time and careful observance. The flag is folded 13 times and each fold is symbolic.
OPTIONAL – 1. Life, 2. Eternal Life, 3. The Veteran departing from the ranks to attain peace, 4. Trusting in God’s divine guidance, 5. Acknowledges our country, 6. Our heart, 7. The armed forces, 8. Tribute to one who entered the valley of death so that we may see the light of day and honor our mother, 9. Honors womanhood, ALL women devoted to others, 10. A tribute to Fathers, 11. For the Hebrew citizens glorifying the God of Abraham, 12. For the Christian glorifying the Holy Trinity, 13. The last fold with the stars up symbolizing “In God We Trust.” – OPTIONAL. Only if anyone asks.
Side note – many people will tell you about the importance of the number 12 in the bible. 12 apostles, 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, heavens 12 gates guarded by 12 angels. All of these are actually 13 when you include our one true God.
Once folded the flag is presented to the officer in charge for final inspection before it is presented to the widow.
There are a lot of interesting bible verses involving windows but I’m not going to get into any of those however, regarding the verse from Malachi I read before God opened the windows of heaven and gave us HIS ALL in the form of HIS ONLY SON.
The structure of our Liturgy and the process of our church service is very important. There is a reason that we tithe before Holy Communion. Tithing is the symbolism of the Ultimate Sacrifice. Jesus was God’s sacrifice for us. The perfect sacrifice. A son orphaned from His Heavenly Father giving everything before the eyes of His earthy mother. A widow because Joseph was no longer among the living. Jesus fulfilled ALL tithes. Jesus is our example. We give not to receive. We need to give to be blessed. We need to understand that our tithes no matter how significant they seem to us cannot compare the eternal tither of the living Christ.
Our fallen heroes and the veterans deserve our love, honor and respect. They have mine. BUT even those who we perceive as giving everything can’t compare to what Jesus gave. The resurrection of the dead is what Jesus gave us so we can partake of His eternal salvation. Jesus gave so we would be blessed. He gave us ALL of Himself. Our Holy Sacrament is a divine funeral ceremony. Jesus died as a sacrifice for ALL of us. God gave and eternally gives His ALL for us. Jesus the perfect dutiful soldier completed His Holy mission. The ultimate hero and Veteran for all of us.
Father, thank You for the care of the weak and the vulnerable, hearing their cries and always acting on their and OUR behalf. Strengthen all of us who remain to act in Your eternal love because without it we are nothing.