Notes from Jan

A Uniform Language

July 20, 2021

They chose wrong, if style, social status or salaries determine one’s worth. Some skirt around them and their red kettles when Christmas rolls around. We may pause to listen to Christmas carols, played by a group of brass players. Or sometimes out of guilt or seasonal generosity, we hunt a buck or spare change to drop in the bucket. But why choose to wear those uniforms and be identified with The Salvation Army? And why do I care?

Well, I care about The Church and the Salvation Army’s part of Christ’s Church. And I like that their identity’s mostly in serving meals, wearing a uniform, showing up when disaster strikes, and not about politics. In a world of skeptics, “sermongate”, scandals and schisms, the Salvation Army simply serves, whoever, however and wherever.

Last week, I watched on-line a commissioning service in England for Salvation Army cadets. They represented different ages, genders and races, along with various degrees and life experiences. But each also attended William Booth College, where for two years they trained, learned, grew and confirmed their calling.

And a sense of calling matters, especially when life shows up in unexpected ways or through difficult people. Frederick Buechner wrote on vocation, or calling. “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.“(Listening to Your Life, pages, 185-186) And long ago, Jesus reminded his disciples that “whoever wants to be great must become a servant.”(Matthew 20, The Message)

Well, that’s a hard sell! And yet, since then, the world’s dotted with great men and women in all spheres of life. They serve Christ by serving others through the gifts and abilities entrusted to them. They, like these Salvation Army officers, are “Messengers of Grace.

And so, to all you great men and women out there, you matter. God knows and calls you by name. Thank you for dispensing grace by serving the soup, singing another verse, stopping to listen, stooping to heal through a tender touch in a harsh world. More than you know, you deliver sermons without words. Often, the uniform, towel or apron says all that needs saying. They speak a universal language of love and grace. And a curious, listening world hangs onto every word.


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  • Reply Roger J. Green July 22, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Dear Jan,

    You are so gracious to speak of the Army in this way, and Karen and I, as Salvationists, feel that you are supporting us as well as the ministry of The Salvation Army.
    Bless you,

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 24, 2021 at 10:05 pm

      Well, I did think of you when I wrote, as well as the Raders, Hepburns,Van Brundts and so many others I’ve been privileged to know or work with over many years. Thank you, Roger, for telling the story and living the message.

  • Reply Stan Gaede July 23, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    I was thinking of Roger and Karen when I read this. Quite a testimony to the truth of what you said, Jan. Bless you!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg July 24, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      The Salvation Army’s everywhere. Thank God.

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