When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come (Mark 13:7).
They poked their heads out of the trenches, half-expecting to hear the rattle of machine guns. Only silence. They began to walk onto no-mans-land standing up. Still nothing. They saw enemy uniforms appear. No weapons threatened.
The report was true. On this 11th hour of the 11th day of this 11th month the Great War ended. Former enemies shook hands. Comrades hugged. America’s doughboys would soon be headed home. An armistice had been signed. Waves of relief flowed over hearts and minds. Millions wept with joy. The “war to end all wars” had come to an end. But it was only an armistice.
The terms of the agreement to stop fighting would sow the seeds of another round of fighting. This would be a worse war. The killings would triple. Then another round of war would come into the world. And another one. And still another. War does not end. It just pauses for a while. The best we can hope for is an armistice.
Those who have heard the words of Jesus are not surprised. He described our times. He warned that wars and rumors of wars would happen up to the day he would return.
We believe him.
That’s why we support those who train for war on behalf of our nation. That’s why we pray for those in harm’s way. That’s why we tend to the needs of those who have returned from war. We renamed Armistice Day to become Veterans Day. We learned that an armistice does not last. Veterans, however, we will always have. A veteran of WWI once said something about this special day that those who have not seen the face of war need to know. He wrote that for people like him, it is: “Not a day of solemn commemoration, but a day of agonized remembrance.”
Civilians may commemorate, they may show respect for those who waged war on their behalf. They should. Combat veterans do the same. But alongside the respect, lies the agony of remembrance.
What do we tell them? We point them to the One who knew agony beyond measure so that we might be free from it forever. Concerning wars, “Such things must happen.” Jesus assures us. He is still in control. But the day is coming when all painful remembrances and every other agony will stop in an awesome moment. Jesus tells us now, “The end is still to come.” It is not here yet. But it will come. All war will end. He will make it so.
And that ending will not be only an armistice.
We accept his benediction of peace:
“The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.”
We say: Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida: Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military