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“In Memorium”

Isaiah 2:3-4
Colossians 3:12-17
Text Psalm 33:17 “The war horse is a vain hope for victory,
by its great might it cannot save.”

 
Memorial Day
May 27, 2018 Old Stone

THERE’S AN OLD ED MCCURDY, PET SEEGER SONG THAT GOES; …“LAST NIGHT I HAD THE STRANGEST DREAM I NEVER HAD BEFORE …I DREAMED THAT ALL THE WORLD AGREED TO PUT AN END TO WAR. …AND WHEN THE PAPERS ALL WERE SIGNED AND A MILLION COPIES MADE …THEY ALL JOINED HANDS AND BOWED THEIR HEADS …AND TO THEIR GOD THEY PRAYED. THE PEOPLE IN THE STREETS BELOW WERE DANCING ROUND AND ROUND AND GUNS AND SWORDS AND UNIFORMS WERE SCATTERED ON ..THE GROUND.”

A SONG FROM THE 60’S, A PIPE DREAM AT BEST. …ABOUT AS NAIVE AS THE PROPHETS WORDS …“THE LORD …SHALL DECIDE …AND NATIONS WILL BEAT THEIR SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES AND THEIR SPEARS INTO PRUNING HOOKS …AND STUDY WAR NO MORE.” …IF NOT PRUNING HOOKS AND PLOWS HOW ABOUT MELTING DOWN F-86s INTO PINS LIKE ONE I WARE …OR BLISTIC MISSELS AND BILLION DOLLAR DEFENSE BUDGETS INTO FOOD FOR THE WORLD, EDUCATION FOR EVERY CHILD, …CLEARLY SOMETHING THAT COULD PUT AN END TO TERRIOUST’s FURTEL GROUND.

AND …FOR WE CHRISTIANS THE WORDS TUMBLE DOWN EVEN HARDER; …“UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN AND HIS NAME IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE.”

BUT “WE STILL KNOW MORE ABOUT WAR IN OUR TIMES THAN ABOUT PEACE, MORE ABOUT KILLING THAN ABOUT LIVING.”(1) (SO SAID GENERAL DOUGLESS HEGG).

WHEN ARE WE GOING TO LEARN THAT LIFE IS CONSEQUENTIAL, …NOT ONLY FOR INDIVIDUALS BUT EVEN MORE SO …FOR NATIONS; …THAT WE ARE PUNISHED NOT SO MUCH BECAUSE WE BREAK GOD’S COMMANDMENTS BUT RATHER THAT WE ARE BROKEN ON THEM.

IN MEMORIUM, …LATIN MEANING IN MEMORY, …AS A MEMORIAL TO; …USED IN OBITUARIES, EPITAPHS, …A REMEMBERING OF POPPIES WITH THOUGHTS OF FLANDERS FIELD.

“MEMORIAL,” …A WORD ATTACHED TO A HOLIDAY WEEKEND FILLED WITH THE AROMAS OF HOTDOGS AND HAMBURGERS AND BY THE TIME FESTIVITIES ARE FINISHED PERHAPS A BIT OF STALE BEER.

TENNYSON WHO NEVER SAW BATTLE WROTE A POEM “IN MEMORIUM” AND THEN SAID:

“INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH
RODE THE SIX HUNDRED:
FORWARD, THE LIGHT BRIGADE!
CHARGE FOR THE GUNS(2)”

EACH YEAR OUR NATION PLACES A WREATH ON THE GRAVE OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIERS. ALL THOUGH …WITH MODERN FORENSICS AND D.N.A. …WE COULD NOW NAME THOSE PERSONS.

THE EVENT ALWAYS BRINGS TO MIND A SCENE FROM MY SEMINARY DAYS. …A CLASSMATE DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE VIETNAM WAR MADE A MOVIE OF HIS THREE YEAR OLD SON WHOM HE HAD TAKEN TO A HILL AMONG THOSE HALLOWED STONE CROSSES OF ARLINGTON. …HE THEN DROVE TO THE BOTTOM AND HAD THE YOUNGSTER RUN PELL-MELL TO DADDY. …THERE HE CAME LIKE A SLALOM SKIER WEAVING HIS WAY, INNOCENT …TO WHAT WAS CRADLED BENEATH.

“THAT THESE HONORED DEAD SHALL NOT HAVE DIED IN VAIN,” SAID LINCOLN, …YET HOW SOON FORGOTTEN? …WHY IS IT POLITICIANS, …MOST OF WHOM THESE DAYS, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF HERO’S LIKE JOHN McCAIN, HAVE NEVER SEEN EVEN A SKIRMISH NOR HAVE THEIR CHILDREN, …HOW IS IT …WE LET THEM BEAT THE DRUMS OF WAR AND PATRIOTISM AS IF THE ONLY WAY TO STAND TALL IS TO DEFEAT ANOTHER. …ALL THE WHILE WE BECOME A LESS NOBLE LAND. …WAR TOO OFTEN BEING THE COWARDS ANSWER TO NEGOTIATIONS!

HOW MANY …OF OUR HONORED MEN AND WOMEN DECAY IN V.A. HOSPITALS OUT OF SIGHT AND MIND …AND HOW MANY MORE HAVE HAD THE MIRACLES OF MODERN MEDICINE PATCH THEIR BODIES BUT NOT THEIR MINDS? …HOW BETTER MIGHT WE OFFER RECTITUDE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN SO MUCH?

“THE RULER IS NOT SAVED BY A MIGHTY ARMY. …THE WARRIOR IS NOT DELIVERED BY STRENGTH. THE WAR HORSE IS A FALSE HOPE IN VICTORY.” …MAYBE IT’S AS I’VE GROWN OLDER I’VE SEEN WHAT AWFUL THINGS WAR CAN DO AND HOW LITTLE IS ACCOMPLISHED BY SACRIFICING OUR YOUNG ON ITS ALTERS.

MAYBE THAT’S WHY I’M MORE THAN EVER MOVED TO SIDE WITH HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK OF RIVERSIDE CHURCH AND A PACIFIST …WHO …FOLLOWING WORLD WAR 1 OFFERED THESE WORDS BEFORE THE GRAVE OF THE FIRST UNKNOWN,

“IT WAS AN INTERESTING IDEA” HE SAID, “TO DEPOSIT THE BODY OF AN UNRECOGNIZABLE (WARRIOR) AND YET HOW STRANGE. …THE MOST STIRRING PAGEANTRY,

THIS …IS THE OUTCOME OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION WHICH FOR (MORE THAN) TWO THOUSAND YEARS HAS WORSHIPED CHRIST AND IN WHICH DEMOCRACY AND SCIENCE HAVE HAD THEIR WIDEST OPPORTUNITIES?

THAT THE WHOLE NATION SHOULD PAUSE, …IT’S PATRIOTIC ORATORY FLOURISH AROUND THE BODY OF A SOLDIER BLOWN TO BITS ON A BATTLE FIELD.”

“IT’S THE WARLORDS WHO PICKED HIM …YET IS HE SO UTTERLY UNKNOWN? OF ONE THING WE CAN BE SURE, HE WAS OF SOUND MIND AND BODY. …ALL PRIMITIVE GOD’S WHO DEMAND A SACRIFICE INSIST THE ANIMALS BE THE BEST. …CAN YOU THINK OF ANYTHING MADDER THAN TO PICK A NATION’S FINEST AND PUT THEM ON THE BATTLEFIELDS OF WAR?”

ALONG WITH FOSDICK I DARE SAY THIS DAY, ”WE ALL HAVE A SCORE TO SETTLE

I HEAR (THEM) ASKING; …‘WHERE IS THIS GREAT NEW ERA THE WAR WAS TO CREATE?

THEY BLEW OUR EYES OUT, …IS THAT WHY I STRAIN TO SEE THE PROSPERITY, PLENTY AND PEACE OF OUR CHILDREN FOR WHICH OUR MANGLED BODIES WHERE LAY DOWN?(3)

IT WAS NOT …A PACIFIST BUT A FIELD MARSHAL WHO SAID. “IT IS THE BUSINESS OF THE CHURCHES, (THE BUSINESS OF ALL PEOPLES OF FAITH …WHO WORSHIP THE CREATOR OF OUR FAMILY OF HUMAN KIND) IT IS THEIR (OUR) JOB TO MAKE THE BUSINESS OF WAR IMPOSSIBLE!”(4) …ARE WE NOT ALL GUILTY OF SOME DARALICTION IN SETTELING THAT SCORE?

A MOST TELLING SCENE COMES IN A FILM OF HERMON WALK’S “WINDS OF WAR” WHEN ROBERT MITCHAM, …AS NAVAL COMMANDER PUG HENRY, …STANDS ON A BLUFF OVERLOOKING A DEVASTATED PEARL HARBOR WHILE HIS SON SAILS OFF TO BATTLE.

GAZEING LONGINGLY TO THE HEAVENS HE SAYS, “O LORD, …IN A WORLD SO RICH AND LOVELY …WHY IS IT YOUR CHILDREN CAN FIND NOTHING BETTER TO DO BUT DIG IRON FROM THE GROUND AND WORK IT INTO VAST, GROTESQUE MACHINES TO BLOW EACH OTHER UP. …IS IT BECAUSE ABEL’S NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR WAS CAIN? …IS IT BECAUSE MY ENEMIES MAKE DEADLY ENGINES AND I MUST DO IT BETTER OR DIE? …MAYBE THE VICIOUS CIRCLE WILL END THIS TIME, MAYBE NOT.

MAYBE, IT WILL TAKE CHRIST’S SECOND COMING …AND MAYBE IT WILL NEVER END.”

A SAD COMMENTARY AND WE RIGHTLY SAY; WHAT CAN WE DO? …GIVEN THE WAYS OF THE WORLD AND THE EVIL OF OUR ENEMIES? WHAT CAN ANYONE DO?

AT THE VERY LEAST I WOULD SAY WITH FOSDICK; …ON THIS WEEKEND,…”IF THOSE AROUND YOU SEEM TO RELISH THE VALOR BEING SHOWN, REMIND THEM …THAT THIS AND EVERY MEMORIAL DAY IS THE SADDEST OF DAYS. …SADDEST BECAUSE …OF THE CONTINUED REPETITION OF EVIL THAT PERHAPS ONLY GOD CAN …DELIVER US FROM.

ALMOST EVERY DAY WE WALK OUR MASTIFF IN LAKEVIEW CEMITARY. …WE’VE GOTTEN TO KNOW THE INHABITENTS PRETTY WELL. …ON THE SIDE OF ONE LARGE STONE A MOTHER AND FATHER WHO DIED IN THEIR 70’S. THEN …ON THE OTHER THREE SIDES FIVE SONS. …1853 AGE 21 NEXT TO HIM 1854 AGE 29, MILITARY DEATHS SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD.

THEN ON THE OTHER SIDES, ONE SON WOUNDED AT GETTYSBURGH, DIED 1863, AGE 23, ON THE THIRD SIDE 1865, AGE 17 AND FINALY UNDER HIS NAME ONE MORE BROTHER…1864, AGE 19 DIED IN ANDERSONVILL PRISION. …ALL OFFERED BY TWO PARENTS TO THEIR NATION, ALL GONE IN THE SPRINGTIME OF THEIR LIVES.

ANOTHER STONE READS; ….ROYAL AIR FORCE, 1919, HE DIED FOR HIS COUNTRY. …HE WAS BUT 19. …EACH TIME I PASS THAT GRAVE MARKER I’M REMINDED OF THE BALED “GREEN FIELDS OF FRANCE.”

”I HOPE YOU DIED QUICK AND I HOPE YOU DIED CLEAN OR WILLIE MCBRIED WAS IT SLOW AND OBSENE?”

”DID THEY BEAT THE DRUMS SLOWLEY, DID THEY PLAY THE PIPES LOWLEY, DID THE RIFLES FIRE O’RE YOU …AS THEY LOWERD YOU DOWN?

THEN IT CONTINUES ITS TRUTH TELLING:


“Now the sun’s shining down on these green fields of France; 
The warm wind blows gently, and the red poppies dance. 
The trenches have vanished long under the plow. No gas, no barbed wire, no SHELLS RAINING down.

But …here in this graveyard that’s still No Man’s Land 
The countless white crosses in mute witness stand 
To man’s blind indifference to… his fellow man. A whole generation …who were butchered and damned.” 


WHAT CAN ANYONE DO?

I WAS MOVED RECENTLY BY THE WISDOM OF A YOUNG VET. …HE’S A CONGRESSMAN BORN IN ALABAMA.

BECAUSE I MISSED PART OF THE INTERVIEW AND DIDN’T CATCH HIS NAME I HAVEN’T DISCOVERED WHAT STATE HE NOW REPRESENTS. …AS HE SPOKE I WAS REMINDED OF SOMETHING TOM BROKAW WROTE IN “THE GREATEST GENERATION.”

BROKAW …POINTED OUT THAT THE REASON WE SEEMINGLY HAD MORE STATESMEN IN THE HALLS OF GOVERNMENT IN THE PAST WAS PERHAPS BECAUSE MANY HAD SERVED IN THE 2ed WORLD WAR, …WERE WOUNDED OR IMPRISONED …AND UPON RETURNING HOME RAN FOR OFFICE. …WHILE THEY HAD DIFFERING OPINIONS, BECAUSE OF THAT COMMON EXPERIENCE THEY TENDED TO BE MORE INCLINED TO PUT THEIR “COUNTRY FIRST.”

THAT YOUNG VETERAN AND CONGRESSMAN I MENTIONED SAID TO THE REPORTER: …“YOU KNOW …I WAS JUST 22 WHEN I LED A GROUP OF MEN AND WOMEN INTO BATTEL. …WE DIDN’T KNOW OR CARE …IF WE WERE JEW OR CHRISTIAN, MUSLIM, ATHIEST, GAY, STRAIGHT, REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT. …WE
CARED ABOUT THE JOB WE HAD TO DO FOR OUR COUNTRY. …WEATHER WE AGREED WITH IT OR NOT …COUNTRY FIRST …WAS OUR COMMITMENT. “

HAVING READ BROKAW AND THINKING ABOUT THOSE YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN, NOW 17 YEARS INTO THE LONGEST WAR IN THIS NATION’S HISTORY, …SOME JUST BEGINNING TO SERVE WHO WERE BORN WHEN IT ALL STARTED.

I THOUGHT, …PERHAPS OUR FUTURE ONCE AGAIN …MIGHT REST IN THE HANDS OF THOSE …BATTEL HARDENED YOUNG PEOPLE WHO REGARDLESS OF OPINIONS OR PARTY WILL CHOOSE TO PUT COUNTRY FIRST. …AND HAVING SEEN THE TRAGEDY OF WAR HAVE A GREATER DESIRE TO “STUDY IT NO MORE.”

PERHAPS THERE IS YET HOPE FOR MY GRAND CHILDREN’S WORLD.

AND WHAT MIGHT WE, …YOU AND I, DO? …ST. PAUL TELLS US, …“AS GOD’S PEOPLE CLOTH YOURSELVES IN COMPASSION, KINDNESS, GENTLENESS AND PATIENCE. …FORGIVE AS GOD HAS FORGIVEN YOU …AND MOST OF ALL PUT ON LOVE WHICH BINDS YOU TOGETHER.”

THE SUM OF THE GOSPEL IS RECONCILIATION. THE WHOLE ACTION OF GOD FROM THE BEGINNING OF TIME TO THE END OF DAYS …IS THE BRINGING TOGETHER OF THAT WHICH IS BROKEN, …SEPARATED, ALIENATED, …RENT ASUNDER!

FOR CHRISTIANS IT’S WHAT JESUS WAS ALL ABOUT, …GOD BECOMING ONE OF US THAT WE MIGHT BECOME ONE WITH GOD’S WAYS AS WE CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER.

THIS IS NOT ABOUT NAIVE SENTIMENTALITY, NOR …IS IT ABOUT DISRESPECT FOR ALL WHO HAVE SERVED IN CAUSES PERHAPS NOT OF OUR CHOOSING, BUT …THAT WE HAVE ENGAGED IN THE WORLD OVER.

THIS IS …ABOUT …A RIGHTFUL HONORING OF THOSE WHO HAVE SACRIFICED TO CREATE A BETTER, …KINDER, …MORE GRACIOUS AND ACCEPTING PLANET. …IT IS BECAUSE OF ALL OF THEM …THAT WE NEED TO CARRY ON A LOVER’S QUARREL WITH OUR WORLD …AND ESPECIALLY …WITH OUR …LEADERS.

A LOVER’S QUARREL THAT RESULTS IN THE GAINING OF A RIGHT VISION SO THAT WHEN WE DEPART THIS LIFE …THOSE WHO FOLLOW WILL AFFIRM THAT WE …HAVE LEFT BEHIND A LITTLE MORE TRUTH, …A LITTLE MORE JUSTICE, …A LITTLE MORE BEAUTY AND A LOT MORE …PEACE THAN WOULD HAVE BEEN THE CASE HAD WE NOT CARED SO DEEPLY ABOUT ALL OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF EVERY RACE AND GENDER, CREED AND NATION, CAUSING US …TO THINK PAST WHO WE ARE AND WHAT OUR WORLD IS LIKE TO A VISION OF WHAT TOGETHER …WE MIGHT YET BECOME.

ONLY THEN …WILL OUR KNOWLEDGE BE A LIGHT TO OTHER PATHS AND OUR FAITH …A LIVING THING IN THE HEARTS OF THOSE WHO FOLLOW. …ONLY THEN …WILL OUR MEMORIAL DAYS BE WORTHY …OF THOSE WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LAST FULL MEASURE OF DEVOTION.

1) General Douglas Haig
2) Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade
3) Harry Emerson Fosdick, A Tribute to the Unknown Soldier, Riverside Church, 1933
4) Field Marshal Omar Bradley

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