Our Dear Siloa Church Community,
Nearly every Sunday morning, it is the tradition at Siloa to begin each service with confession. We acknowledge that we need God's forgiveness and help. Every week, we pray the Lord's Prayer, and we ask, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." So, we ask God to forgive us and we ask God to help us as we try to learn how to forgive each other.
For the past two weeks, I have been watching the Ken Burns documentary film of the history of the Vietnam War. Those of us who lived through those times are especially interested to try to understand what happened and why in the course of that long, divisive war. That war killed and wounded so many, and it had a strong and enduring impact on the United States as our leaders and veterans and citizens argued and tried to figure out what was the right thing to do.
One of the things we have today that we did not have while the conflict was unfolding is access to recordings and documents that show what our leaders knew and thought as they struggled to make decisions about the conduct of the war. We now know about their fears and doubts and the lies they often told.
For many reasons, our leaders came to believe that they could not admit that they had made mistakes or that there were limits to what could be accomplished by American wealth and power in a small country halfway around the world. As the cost in lives and material and dollars began to rise and rise, it became more and more impossible for our leaders to confess or face their sins and their failures and their mistakes. They were hopeful and idealistic and tenacious, and they held our for the small possibility that their plans just might work out for the "good" in the end.
In the end, the president and the congress and the American people decided to abandon their South Vietnamese allies, but, even then, they did not have the honesty or the courage to simply tell, or confess, that truth. The South Vietnamese held out, hoping that America would keep its' earlier promises to defend them. The South Vietnamese leaders were flawed and corrupt. They failed the people who elected them to office to serve and protect.
The Vietnam War illustrates how complex and unclear war and the other great problems of life and the world can be. The Soviet Union and China were the other massive, powerful supporters of that long, long, sad conflict. But, we could all benefit from the teaching of our Christian tradition that reminds us that we are mortal, that we have limits, that we sin, that we make mistakes, and that we need to confess our wrong doings to God and to each other. We do this trusting that God can help us. God can heal and bring life where there is death.
If we all could accept our need for God's forgiveness and help, could our presidents and our leaders admit and confess to us that they had made mistakes and could we move forward, together as a country, accepting human frailty, working to forgive and resolving to do better together? That is one example of confession and forgiveness in action. The Gospel message we hear in church just might contain good news for the whole world. That is something to pray and to think about.
Interim Pastor Dan Olson