Friday, November 28, 2008

233 Years of Pastors on the Sea

On November 28th, 1775 the Continental Congress adopted regulations that mirrored those previously specified for the Royal Navy regarding chaplains assigned to the sea services. This, in effect, marked the birth of the Chaplain Corp for the United States Navy. As a result, today is the 233rd anniversary of that great tradition. Few professions in America can boast such a heritage.

Therefore, it is fitting that I celebrate with those who remember today's anniversary. As a pastor, and a chaplain (albeit for the fire service), I think of those that we, the "brotherhood" of ministers are called to serve, love, guide and lead. My circles of ministry have entailed my church, my department and my community. These are the groups of people that occupy my daily concern and my time in prayer.

However, as a former sailor, and a continuing navy enthusiast, I also think of the ministry that must be performed for those in the military now. These thoughts are heightened by the fact that our nation remains at war at this very moment. Extended deployments and perilous theaters of operation reek havoc on service personnel and their families alike. The stresses of combat ops, distance from home and strange environments need to be mitigated by spiritual nurturing. It's pleasing to know that this country still values the spiritual needs of its sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen enough to send out chaplains to live amongst them, serving them in the manner that is needed.

In many respects, the progressive secularizing of our society is legitimately lamentable. However, as long as our nation still welcomes chaplains to extend the love of Christ in the military, those lamentations also will have a legitimate limit. God's grace is evident in how He pastor's those who serve in such extreme settings. War is hell, but heaven has the power to invade it.

I celebrate today's anniversary of the United States Navy Chaplain Corp because of how it's a picture of redemption. Sending a minister of Christ into the environment where God might seem far away reinforces to those who serve there that God is near. In fact, it's parallel to being a cross-cultural missionary, taking Christ to those whose environment doesn't expect Him. Chaplains reinforce to those who feel far away that God is near. Christ would say to those with such a job, "welcome to the club."

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