Archbishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church said that Jesus came to begin a movement not an institution. “God came among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to show us the Way. He came to show us the Way to life, the Way to love. He came to show us the Way beyond what often can be the nightmares of our own devisings and into the dream of God’s intending. That’s why Jesus called his first followers with the simple words ‘Follow me.’ Follow me and love will show you how to become more than you ever dreamed you could be. Follow me and I will help you change the world from the nightmare it often is into the dream that God intends.”
Jesus’ movement is about a radical transformation of the world, from the world as it is into the world as it should be. We’re asked to view the present world from the perspective of God’s future world as it should be, and to work with God to transform the unjust structures and systems that exist today. Living today as if that future world governed by justice, mercy and peace: where the rule of love is supreme, was complete. Seeking and serving Christ in all people, respecting the dignity of every human being, where there is no more war, violence, or tears.
But we’ve lost our way, have become a comfortable institution instead of a movement. We’ve allowed our culture to relegate us to certain certain times and places, as a personal and private religion instead of an active public faith of transformation. Whenever we fail to live into the dream of God, we allow injustice, violence and fear to reign.
I believe Remembrance Day is part of Jesus’ movement to transform the world into the world as it should be...a world without war and violence. It began as a way to remember those in the armed forces who died in the line of duty and to recall the armistice of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month called Armistice Day. [An armistice being a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting while attempting to negotiate a lasting peace.]
Thus Remembrance Day can be a part of God’s dream of realizing the world as it should be. It requires us to remember those soldiers who have died in the line of duty, AND to be actively working with God to create a lasting peace AND to care for those who have served. “They shall beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; ” “God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” In it we are called to both remembrance and action!
So how are we doing? Are we fully committed to this process in thought, word and deed? Because if we celebrate Remembrance Day by putting on a poppy on November 1 and then coming to a service on the 11th and then going on with the rest of our lives not thinking about it until next year, then we are not living out Jesus’ movement. If we don’t build for peace, then the systems and structures that make it necessary for the these men and women to offer their service, their lives and well-being will continue. If we don’t care for those whom we’ve asked to put themselves in situation that cause them trauma them we are immoral to say the least. Let’s not be mistaken, the world as it is creates the altar of war and violence upon which we sacrifice our troops unless we engage with God to build something better. When we aren’t actively working for justice and peace in all aspects of our lives, war and violence will continue to give us names to remember. Men and women like these will be called to step into the breach again, and again so that we don’t have to. They are deployed, bloodied, broken and wounded so that we can be safe. We cannot continue to ask them to fight for us, if we aren’t willing to fight to change the systems and structures of this world that perpetuate injustice, violence and war. Unless we work with God to transform this world, we will continue remembering more and more of these fine people.
We also can’t ask them to serve for us, if we cannot serve them when they return. Linda Duncan former NDP MP from AB, actually the only one told me once that she would never vote to deploy the troops but once we deployed them she would vote for everything that was meant to care for them when they returned. She said it was our moral obligation. Unless we offer them pastoral care and assistance and care for them when they return we have failed them and relegated them to suffer the trauma they received in our service.
Remembrance Day means remembering those who have died in service and who serve today: we do that by thanking them for their service (Thank you for your service), by taking care of them when they come home, no matter the cost, AND by doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t have to send them out again. This is a task we are called to in every moment and every place of our lives. Working to eradicate inequality and promote the justice and reconciliation that will transform the world as it is into the world as it should be.
Father Michael Lapsley of the South African Centre for the Healing of Memories is a pacifist who told me that we have a moral obligation to care for our soldiers, to at the very least listen to their stories in a way that allows them to heal for what we are asking them to do in service to us is something that goes against human nature. We ask them to kill another human being and to put their own lives in danger and when we do they are suffering moral and spiritual harm. It’s easy not to think of that part and I don’t say this in an effort to evoke guilt but to remind us of OUR duty to these men and women who willingly give of themselves in service...something more than we can ask or imagine.
In the words of Archbishop Curry “Now is our time to go. To go into the world to share the good news of God and Jesus Christ. To go into the world and be agents and instruments of God’s peace and reconciliation. To go into the world, letting the world know that there is a God who loves us, a God who will not let us go, and that that love can set us all free.”
We owe these troops here and all who have served a debt that most of us simply cannot pay. I wonder, can we live up to the price that has been paid for us through our own good works and actions our own efforts to
For as long as the world requires their service we should be prepared to offer them our service in return.