I struggle with these sorts of things quite a bit. In small Midwestern communities the State is a favorite idol - and a most sacred one. I can't help but feel that when the clergy are invited to such events they are there for the purpose of proclaiming with their presence God's blessings on whatever the State is doing, has done, or will do.
And yet, especially Memorial Day is a day when a word of Gospel comfort is appropriately spoken to those who mourn. And the Church has a long history of praying for the State and her officials when asked.
So here's what I wrote up to be delivered Monday. Any comments and suggestions will be received with thanks.
On this day when we remember the service and sacrifice of those who have served their country, and pray for comfort for those they have left behind, let us not also forget, that as the Scripture says, “our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, even our Lord Jesus Christ.”
With that in mind, I want to encourage all Christians to pray first and foremost as citizens of heaven.
To pray as a citizen of heaven means to prayer for Peace, for our Savior is Christ Jesus, the Prince of Prince – who laid down his life upon the cross that peace might be made between God and man, and between all men.
To pray as a citizen of heaven means to pray for our enemies as our Lord Jesus taught us, that the Lord would bless them, for he is the Lord who causes the rains to fall on the just and the unjust, the Savior who at just the right time, while we were still the enemies of God, died for us, and who would have all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
To pray as a citizen of heaven means to pray that our own hearts would be full of humility and repentance – for we worship the One who emptied himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, the one who calls all men to repent of cruelty and hatred and take up the ways of peace and love.
So all of you who claim the name of Christian – let us pray for comfort for all the bereaved of war; let us, who began as the enemies of God and who have been made his friends and children, let us pray for our enemies; let us who live in a world that runs by cruelty and power, let us pray for the wisdom to govern our lives by the humility, peace, and love of the Crucified one.
Dear Christians, let us pray.
Heavenly Father, God of peace and harmony, you would have your children on earth live together in peace and quietness. We implore you to frustrate the plans of men who would stir up violence and strife; spoil the weapons of those who delight in war and bloodshed; and according to your will, end all wars in the world. Teach us to examine our own hearts so that we may realize their natural depravity and inclination toward envy, malice, hatred, and enmity. Lead us to confess the truth of your Word that from the lusts of our own hearts come wars and fightings among us. Help us by your Word and Spirit to crucify our flesh, and to root out the evil that would lead to strife and discord, so that, to the best of our ability, we may be at peace with all men. Comfort all who mourn the loses of the violence of war. Above all, we ask you to fill our hearts with zeal for the work of your Church and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which alone can give to sinful men that peace which is far beyond understanding, and which can make them love peace and harmony. Help us ever to remember the Word of our Savior: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Through the same Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (LW collect #229, slightly revised)