June 1, 2018

Chaplain’s thoughts …No “Sirs” allowed: Observation from the Table

There is something altogether refreshing about our military culture where the words “sir” and “ma’am” are firmly ingrained in our vocabulary.

I’m a bit old school, and I was born and raised in the South where these terms were drilled into my speech pattern from an early age; so these words are comfortable and pleasant to me. I love addressing others as sir or ma’am, even those whose rank, age and position are lower than my own; the teenager filling my order at Burger King or the service staff that ensure the cleanliness of our facility. My own team members are not surprised to hear me calling them “sir” or “ma’am.” It just feels right.

Yet, I bumped into the awkward side of this tradition recently as I received communion at chapel. When I went forward to receive the bread and wine I was addressed as, sir. Being called sir in that place and time created dissonance in my mind; it just felt weird (for lack of a better term). Certainly I understood the ethos that is a part of every military member, including the chaplain administering the sacrament. Indeed no harm was intended, no malice was present, only military decorum and respect for my rank and position. But part of me recoiled from being called, sir.

My faith teaches that all people of any rank or position stand on level ground before God; we are all equal at the foot of the cross. When receiving communion the believer understands that they are a sinner rejoicing in the redemption that is extended, remembered and celebrated in this sacrament. I am just Larry at the table of the Lord. I bring neither title or position, pomp nor pride to the Table. I bring only my brokenness, and faltering faith mingled with a belief in a gracious Lord.

In that moment, in that place, I join with other seekers who humbly come in faith believing. Someone wrote, “Nothing in my hand I bring, only to thy cross I cling.” Or, as another poet wrote, “I need no other argument, I need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me.” In the Christian tradition the Table of the Lord, acknowledges the penitent’s lowly and equal position before the Almighty. It is a place of humility, confession and recognition of one’s need for Divine aid. No “Sirs” allowed.

Thanks for your service and sacrifice.

On a final note: This is my last contribution to the Thunderbolt. It has been a joy to be a part of the Thunderbolt team. In July Luke Community Chapel will welcome Chaplain Maj. Randal “John” Boyer as the new wing chaplain.

Courtesy of Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Larry Fowler,
56th Fighter Wing Chapel

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