Reverend Scott Rainey, lead pastor at the Living Word Church of Nazarene was invited, by the National Cemetery Council of Greater Houston, to give the Memorial Day invocation at the Houston National Cemetery, to honor U. S. soldiers who have fought and died. The cemetery caretakers in Houston instructed Rev. Rainey to submit his prayer for review. After the review, the director of Cemetery, and the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs, requested Rainey to drop the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ from the prayer. The reason they said, “The tone of all messages must be inclusive of all beliefs, need to be general and its fundamental purpose should be specific to those we are honoring, and non-denominational in nature.” “Our national cemeteries are places for all veterans, of all beliefs. We cannot be exclusive at a ceremony meant to be inclusive for all our nation’s veterans.”
Rev. Rainey and his attorneys asked the federal court to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent Veteran Affairs from censoring the prayer. Fortunately District Judge Lynn Hughes’ decision was in favor of Rainey and his attorneys. The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs cannot stop the pastor from using the words “Jesus Christ” in his Memorial Day invocation at Houston National Cemetery (Houston Chronicle, Friday May 27, 2011).
Some people have said that they feel offended by mentioning the name of Jesus Christ in the prayer. They have the right to feel that way. But it doesn’t mean that we Christians should compromise our expression of faith due to some others feeling offended. We are here not to please them. We are here to please God. We don’t want to offend anybody, but we also do not want to offend God because of them either. We are here not in order to compromise our faith but to proclaim the truth. We love them and love everyone, but this love must come from our love, faith and beliefs in Jesus Christ and in God first. Jesus speaks clearly in the Gospel this Sunday, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” God has made his will known, “I am the Lord your God, and there is no others” (Deut 6:4-5). When we pray, we pray to the One True God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! This religious commitment requires us to have a clear understanding and maturity of faith in God and in Jesus Christ.
It was the first day of school and the kindergarten teacher asked the children what they wanted to be when they grow up.
One little boy spoke up importantly: “When I grow up, I am going to be a lion tamer. I will have a lot of fierce lions and tigers. And I will walk in the case. . .” he hesitated, and then continued, “but, of course, I’ll have my mother with me.”
I don’t know what power mothers have, but when we are in pain, or having difficulty, most of us feel safe or safer if we have our mothers with us. A priest friend of mine was sick with cancer. He had to go into the hospital for surgery, and he wanted his mother to be there with him.
Up to a certain age, our parents take us to school, and then they would decide we should be able to go on our own. I remember being brought to school, and after a few times my mother said, “You are big now; I cannot bring you to school my whole life. From now on you go on your own.”
The next day, my mother let me go to school alone, but she also followed me from a distance behind. I was proud of what I was able to do, but at the same time, I was nervous and scared. And I guessed that my mother was also proud and nervous, glad and afraid to let me go alone. But we need to grow up, my mother as well as myself.
Jesus also wants us to grow up in our faith. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is trying to tell his disciples that he is going to leave them. “I am leaving you. In a little while the world will no longer see me.” But you have to continue. Hearing this they are sad and scared.
He has been with them for three years. He has done so much for them. When they are hungry and not having enough food, he makes miracle to multiply the bread and the fish to feed them. When they run out of wine, he turns water into wine. When they are sick, he heals them. When they are challenged by the authorities, he is there to defend them. When they are afraid, he comforts them. When they have questions, he answers them. When they are in doubt, he is there to strengthen their faith. He is there for them every day. He is their pride. He is their strength. He is their future. He is the reason for them to leave everything behind: Family, parents, wives, children, house, fishing boat, careers in order to follow him in hoping to have a future. Now He is leaving them. They are sad, scared, disappointed and feeling betrayed. It seems that they have left everything to follow Him for nothing. He is leaving them.
Seeing his disciples’ frightened faces and the growing despair in their eyes, Jesus says,
“I am not leaving you alone. I am not quitting. I am not abandoning you. I will come to you.” “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” So Jesus is not quitting, not giving up. He wants his disciples to grow up and be responsible to take care of themselves and of the Kingdom.
Our parents want us to grow up. Jesus wants his disciples to grow up. He also wants us to grow up in our faith. Growing up means to take the responsibility for our life and for what we do or are supposed to do; be responsible to ourselves, to God, to our Church, to our family, our community, our friends, and to others.
What Jesus wants from his disciples and from us as his followers is to show our love for Him by obeying his commandments. The primary sign that we are responsible and loving God is to keep his commandments. If we really love him, we will try to do what he commands us to do. What has he commanded?
1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the day of the Lord.
4. Honor your father and mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Keeping God’s commandments is the sign of our love for God and for Jesus!