As Americans give thanks this holiday weekend for those who have given their lives in the service of their country, Memorial Day can be a reminder that the thousands of servicemen and -women presently deployed to troubled parts of the world deserve our prayers, and so do their families.
Whatever our opinion of the politics involved may be, those serving in the military represent lives dedicated to bringing greater stability to the international community. In addition to the obvious dangers that war and terrorism pose, troops can experience the loneliness of being in an unfamiliar culture and environment, which may include an inhospitable climate and terrain. One thought that has comforted me has been the knowledge that no matter where they are, these troops cannot be cut off from God’s love and care, as Christ Jesus’ example and teaching show.
Despite the hostility and isolation that he and his followers faced, even in their own country, Jesus had a confident and consistent view that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17; 10:7). Rather than being a location or a future state of affairs, this kingdom, Jesus taught, is a way of thinking from the perspective of God, whose purpose for every one of His children is always good. Through his own life, Jesus showed that heaven can be experienced wherever we are, at any time, as a state of thought. Relating his spiritual conviction to daily life, his model for prayer (the Lord’s Prayer) includes the lines “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, gave a three-fold definition of the “kingdom of heaven” from which our prayers for those in war zones can flow. Based on different aspects of God’s nature, it reads, “Kingdom of Heaven. The reign of harmony in divine Science; the realm of unerring, eternal, and omnipotent Mind; the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme” (p. 590).
I’ve found that in practical terms, this means that first we can affirm in prayer that every soldier and citizen lives and works under “the reign of harmony,” not terror, because harmony is the natural condition of God’s creation. Moreover, there is a divine principle of harmony that directs men’s and women’s thoughts and actions. Acknowledging this law results in the cooperation, understanding, and trust that produce constructive working relationships – and it also has the potential to adjust circumstances to meet everyone’s daily needs for food, shelter, and safety.
Further, we can think of service personnel and local families as living in that “realm of unerring, eternal, and omnipotent Mind,” in which they are subject to and express the intelligence and wisdom of God. This is beneficent to all, and precludes mistake or malice, chance or confusion. It can also overturn intransigent opinions and policies and give impetus to fresh, progressive ideas and their implementation.
Accepting the reality of God’s kingdom, we can be reassured that, in “the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme,” every soldier and every citizen can be free from fear and oppressive conditions and can find himself or herself where God-derived motives and character predominate. Spirit gives us the ability to turn thought away from any frightening images to the realization that love, intelligence, and rationality belong to everyone, and can triumph over aggression.
Wherever we live, wherever we go, each one of us can keep our thoughts firmly rooted in the kingdom of heaven. Because it is a God-given state of mind, nobody can ever truly leave this kingdom or lose it. All have a right to the stability and protection it offers. Our prayers, based on this knowledge, will help give peace of mind to servicemen and -women and their families back home. They embrace local citizens as well and can act as a stimulus for progress and freedom for people everywhere.
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