Last week, I attended a forty piece brass band Veteran's Day concert. My uncle, one of the founding members of the Old Crown Brass Band, was playing his new and very shiny tuba. During the Viet Nam War, he had played in the military band. He loves brass and marches and John Phillips Sousa.
One of the concert selections was a tribute to the armed forces during which veterans stood when their branch's theme was played. Just down the row from me, an older gentleman grasped the chair in front of him, supporting himself as he stood. As the band played, his bent back stretched to full height, straightening taller with each note. I caught a glimpse of the once strong and proud young officer. As tears streamed down his face, I found my eyes watering. I wondered what he had witnessed, how many of his friends had died and what memories were stored in his heart.
Witnessing this man's dedication changed how I read the passages assigned for today. I have known about the "Great Commission" most of my life...Go, make disciples, preach, teach, baptize. Suddenly, the word "commission" had new meaning.
I began to research the role and duty of a "commissioned officer." I found this definition:
Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position. Commissioned officers are typically the only persons, in a military environment, able to act as the commanding officer (according to the most technical definition of the word) of a military unit. [10 U.S.C. § 101, US Congress, 2009-01-05]
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are commissioned officers, deriving our authority from the one sovereign power who claims "all authority in heaven and on earth." We have our "marching orders" to spread the good news. Our commander in chief has promised to provide amazing demonstrations of his power through us; he also promises his presence as we execute the mission.
After talking with some military personnel, I realized when a command is given, obedience is expected, even if one is ordered into the fray of battle. When storming the beaches of Normandy, the soldiers did not have the option to stay on the boats. When patrolling the coasts of Korea, the PT inhabitants were not offered the luxury of sleeping in. When in the jungles of Viet Nam, the foot soldiers were not offered comfort, but told to move forward and gain ground. When flying over the Middle East, the pilots were not on a joy ride. Each person, each unit, each branch of the service. dependent on the others, worked together under the commander to fulfill the objective toward a successful mission.
As a child, I memorized the following nursery rhyme:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
If I am slack in my Christian calling, if I do not respond to the Great Commission of my LORD, what will be lost?
LORD, when you say "Go!" do not allow my fears or discomforts to paralyze me.
Do not allow my apathy to hold me prisoner of the spiritual war.
Teach me to respond immediately to your call, your command, your commission.