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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

April 20, 2012

THIS I DO KNOW

I don’t profess to understand the underpinnings of war and what makes men and women serve. But I see their selfless service and their bravery: a call to something greater.

Nor do I understand why some die and some are left behind to wonder.

Neither do I fully understand the roots of some of our religious and military rituals offered at the loss of a good man or woman.

But my calling deals in rituals, some ancient, and some which have coalesced in the years of my ministry. These rituals need not be sanctified by great church councils nor officially approved by the leaders of august militaries.

Rituals which are heartfelt and carefully considered are always appreciated and necessary no matter how many or few have given them their meaning. These rituals are sanctified by their mere offering.

A slow procession of black cars led by motorcycles which have American flags on the back. They wind slowly towards the church. The curious stand quietly. A robed priest steps out. Uniformed military. Men in suits. Women in black dresses. Each is dressed for the moment.

The pallbearers, possibly unrehearsed, seem to sense their rhythm as if directed by greater forces. Salutes. A welcoming wave by a few to bring the mourners into the pews. The scriptures read, the prayers intoned, the songs sung with precision.  A bell and an organ note; incense wafting through the sanctuary.

The next day the cars, almost beyond counting, snake through the city as if the more cars in this procession the more we might storm the gates of heaven and somehow reverse the sad outcome. Citizens line the way with flags, hands over hearts. School children with quiet eyes and High Schoolers who walk the halls where the fallen once walked.

Police escorts, motorcycle escorts, helicopter escorts. Each plays its part.  A church bell chimes and chimes as if to alert the saints as the procession enters the sacred grounds. Mourners stand by as the bell peels through the trees and new mown grass.

A casket. An honor guard. The gentle words of the priest. The shrill call of the bagpipes and crack of the 21 guns. Silence for a moment as flowers are extracted and embraced. A flag is draped, then folded, then clutched.

A grateful nation. A city in mourning. A family held tightly by these simple rituals, which have power in the midst of the sorrow and are perhaps all that we have to offer in light of the moment.

And, in the readings and the prayers is the hope that our children will not witness the same for their friends a generation hence, but for now we will remember those who have given their all.

Rest in peace.
Memory abides.

Rev. Robert Tussing

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