Grace and peace to you from the Garden Spot of the Middle East!

Fr Dean
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Letter home from Fr. Dean Van Brunt in Kuwait

First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of our Lord

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 89:20-29; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17

Grace and peace to you from the Garden Spot of the Middle East!

The past 24 hours have been very busy in the world and especially here in Kuwait. If you have been watching world events: 1. you know more than you want to about the strategies of various political candidates, 2. Presidents Bush’s trip to the Middle East, 3. the challenge to our Navy by Iranian gunboats (lock and load!) and of course, 4. all of the seasonal, and un-seasonal, weather issues in the states. Wow, there is a lot going on at the beginning of our New Year.

The MSgt and I have been jumping through hoops with the arrival of 14 angels to this base within the last 24 hours. At the writing of this note we are behind on our reports, it is 1000 in the morning, and I still have not showered or shaved yet today. Having said all of this, I do believe that all of you that are providing prayer support for this team need to have an update.

The weather is a bit cooler now and we have been wearing military issue sweatshirts etc. Many are wearing watch-caps and gloves. This is not cold by Midwestern standards but it does cool off in the desert especially at night on the flightline.

With all of these ‘angels’ that we have been processing lately I am struck by the seeming lack of religious commitment by many in uniform. While back on Okinawa I occasionally would brief the New Arrivals (Sailors and Marines). Every-time I spoke to the new arrivals I would take an unofficial poll and ask about the spiritual backgrounds of those in the class. Usually 50 to 75 Percent of those in the class had received some type of religious instruction in their lifetime. This could mean anything from new member’s classes to Sunday School, VBS, instruction before baptism or catechism training. My next question is also enlightening. Of those in the class, how many are currently practicing any type of religious practice? This could be study, worship, prayer, fellowship, fasting. Usually only about 10 percent of the class expressed that they were living out their faith.

When the MSgt and I view the remains of the angels I search for any type of indication of whether the deceased had a commitment to faith. Often this is with dog tags, entries into the service-record, or religious items (Bibles, Prayer Books, Crosses, Rosaries, Holy Cards etc.). To be sure, these symbols of faith do not constitute salvation or right relationship to the Lord. I do think that they do represent a testimony to the faith of the deceased.

Please know that prayer is offered for all regardless. But should we not leave some evidence that our faith is important to us?

In the readings for Sunday we consider the Baptism of our Lord. The one…Man without sin…submitted to baptism. The one person in the world that had not committed any sin submitted to the washing waters of baptism. Talk about symbolic. Because of Jesus the waters of baptism are indeed more than mere waters. Because of Jesus the bread and the wine become more than mere symbols of faith. Baptism actually becomes more than a mere bath because of Jesus’ example. Holy Communion, forever, will represent the death and resurrection of Jesus because of the Lord. Mere bread and wine become more than just tools of the flesh.

Let me submit to you that an American Flag is more than just material because so many that have died for our nation. Let me submit to you that Veterans will fight for freedom of speech but will never stomp a flag into the dirt. A flag is venerated, not worshiped, for what it represents.

In like manner, symbols of faith, although they do not provide salvation, are venerated, not worshiped, and do represent the faith and relationship to God of those carrying them.

While growing up I did not carry a cross. I had been taught that anything could become an idol. While we know that anything can become an idol, I do not see any of you worshiping symbols of faith. While I do not see any of you actually worshiping a bible, prayer book, rosary, or prayer cards perhaps it is not wrong to carry a symbol of our faith. Perhaps this will encourage those that survive us. Perhaps symbols of faith, even for us (religious) frozen chosen, can represent spiritual renewal this year!

Many Orthodox, Catholics and Anglicans make the sign of the cross upon entering the Church. This does not mean that all of them will go to heaven. They dip a finger into the font at the entry of the church and remember the promises made at baptism. Perhaps this sign of the Cross is a bit more than just an empty symbol. Perhaps we will throw an extra Bible into the car. Maybe someone on our travels will need it! Perhaps we will need it on our journey! Perhaps symbols of faith are bigger than we ever considered before. Food for thought.

Blessings and we continue to covet your prayers!

Fr. Dean

Chaplain Dean R. Van Brunt, LT, USN
MSgt James Fogg, USMC
Patient Administration Tracking Team
MCE – KUWAIT

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