I am the pastor of a memorial church, built on veteran land on the outskirts of Ottawa. Before that I was a pastor in a small town with a memorial school that had strong ties to my church.In both churches, Remembrance Day is a major event – more important than Christmas almost. And in many ways in our society today, Remembrance Day can be more sacred than Christmas, I find. What do I mean by that?
Certainly in the tight knit communities of traditional Carleton Heights and Cowansville, Quebec, the bond between people who served transcends what they share together. If we let it, that is to say get past romanticizing military service and instead confront the depth of what it means, we can rise above what divides us for no good reason.
What divides us for no good reason…. I can’t help but feel that bigger than the tragedy of lives lost through military service (and that is very tragic for sure)is the tragedy of the quickness with which people persist in their prejudices in the wake of the peace that has been purchased with those lives. It’s like when things are quiet it’s easier to get away with it – like so much false bravery.
(Bonhoeffer and “Cheap Grace” comes to mind)
It sounds trite, I know, but it is no less true.
I mentioned earlier that in my current church and former church, Remembrance Day is as important as Christmas. So then, just as we say that Christmas should be something we live out 365 days a year, couldn’t it follow that we should live with the gratitude of Remembrance Day 365 days a year also?
I say Remembrance Day is sacred – because nobody that I have ever known in the service ended up there without some kind of “higher calling” regardless of religious belief or non-belief.
And so what might that look like – to live out that gratitude in a concrete way?
Here are some insights inspired by the reflections of modern day veteran Master Corporal Rob Wright (retired) – a communications technician who during his career was deployed to Afghanistan, Haiti, Sierra Leone and the Congo. He is the son of a serviceman and the grandson of serviceman, his grandfather having been a POW in the Korean war. I interviewed Rob for our Remembrance Day service at Carleton Memorial.
Here is a sampling of what he had to say. (My comments are the statements in bold capital letters and I’ve also added something for you to think about.)
Service has no value whatsoever if we take our freedom and quality of life for granted. You can only ever know its true value if you offer the opportunity to someone who is not exactly like you to participate and build a better society based on the peace that service has purchased.
TO UNDERSTAND WHAT PEACE IS WORTH, LEARN FROM A CHILD – “The biggest thing I had found, that regardless of what was happening, the children were always the most appreciative of the help.”
QUESTION ON PRIDE: When was the last time you took time to seek the advice of child?
BE AWARE OF HOW GREED BLINDS YOU TO THE VALUE OF PEACE – “I saw major diversity from my deployments and sometimes this was exploited to keep people down. I could see the rich and well fed to the people that no food. In Sierra Leone, for example, people had no home, but had cell phones. The cell companies could or would not talk to each other. The networks were built without speaking to one another, and the companies didn’t want to try to integrate.”
QUESTION ON GREED: When have you caught yourself trying to “get ahead” without inviting someone to “join you”, particularly someone who was not quite like you?
CONTRARY TO WHAT SOME SAY, DIVERSITY BREEDS PEACE IF WE LET IT – “Another example (of how and where to find peace) is how the poorest of Sierra Leone used religion to build peace. In Sierra Leone, the people were confused, it was rampant with lack of any education, the place was very war torn, and the issues at hand were a plenty. They had limited food, HIV ran rampant. Corruption was at every corner of the government. (In reaction) the people would mix religions to make what worked for them. They would find their faith where they wanted. We’d see Jesus Loves Allah or We Are the Wanderers of the Desert next to a big Islamic Crescent. They may have been a confused people, but it worked for them.”
QUESTION ON PREJUDICE: Where are your prejudice and “fear of the other” getting in your way of being a positive force for progress in your family, community or place of work or service?
If you see someone selling poppies this week, say “thank you”. Let your gratitude lead you to what your heart truly knows is important and right and just. Be mindful Saturday. Be filled with peace, courage and confidence. Let that propel you to live out the value of Remembrance Day. There is lots to pray about for sure…
Be blessed. Be a blessing.
Rev. Eric Lukacs