_ 13/11/11 REMEMBERING WHAT?
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.
Ever-living God we remember those whom you have gathered from the storm of war into the peace of your presence; may that same peace calm our fears, bring justice to all peoples and establish harmony among the nations.
A NURSE'S STORY
The story of a nurse who served in a field hospital remembering a young soldier who came in with severe wounds:
The stretcher bearers brought the unconscious soldier into the field hospital and laid him in the waiting area. Then they were gone again. His right leg was shattered - part of it missing. There was a tourniquet on it. The first aid team had done their job well. I started to clean him up and look for any less obvious injuries. With a wet towel I began to clean some of the mud off of his face and neck. What I discovered was the most beautiful face. It was boyish and without blemish - like the face of an angel. I paused for a moment. As I was looking at him, his eyes flickered and opened. They were a clear, deep blue.
At first, he was confused and scared, still in shock. I told him who I was and where he was and that he was going to be okay. He said he was scared and could I stay with him. I looked around. He was the only one waiting for surgery. "Sure," I said. "I'll stay with you as long as you want." Then I took his hand and he squeezed mine tightly. We sat there like that for more than half an hour. He would drift in and out of consciousness and when he woke up, he was always scared. But when he looked up and saw me, he would relax, squeeze my hand and, once again, close his eyes to rest.
Finally, it was his turn for surgery. He squeezed my hand one last time and was gone o the O.R. That was the end of his soldiering days. It's tough to march on one leg. He was stabilized and, the next day, shipped further back behind the lines toward England. For the longest time, the image of his angelic face stayed in my mind. I wondered how he made out. Then, one day, I got a letter from him. In that letter, he told me what a comfort I had been to him during those very dark hours. "I still wake up frightened sometimes," he wrote," but when I do, I think of you there beside me, holding my hand, and I feel a lot better. You will never know what an encouragement you were to me. Thank you."
In 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 - 18, the Apostle Paul tells the young Christians another story. It is a story that is meant to encourage them in times of persecution that they were beginning to face. It was not a story about what had happened in the past. It was a story of what the future was going to hold for them.
"The day of the Lord is coming," he wrote, "when the heavens will open up and we will see Jesus Christ descending through the clouds to be with us once again, forevermore. He will come to gather us up to be together - the living and the dead - and to be in God's Kingdom. Until that time, take heart, have hope and never stop encouraging one another."
Paul doesn't take the time in this letter to describe the Kingdom of God in any detail but, in other places, it is spoken of a place of peace and justice. God's reign will be one in which there will be no war and no suffering. It will be a place where everyone has enough to eat and drink and a roof over their heads. No one will be a slave to another. There will be no subservience or subordination. No one will be oppressed, persecuted or marginalized.
That is the time toward which Paul and the early Christians were looking. In the face of pain, the coming Kingdom was the image that gave the people hope. Sharing that image encouraged the people of Thessalonica to carry on in the face of great suffering.
In an odd kind of way, I have come to believe that those young soldiers who went to war were working toward a vision of the Kingdom of God. For sure, God's Kingdom is not one of warfare, bloodshed and suffering. It is, however, one of self-sacrifice and one in which persecution and injustice cannot be tolerated. We all know that that Kingdom will not be completed until Christ returns at his Second Coming to finally defeat the forces of evil once and for all. In struggling against the human forces of evil, all of the people who contributed to the war effort sought to offer a glimmer of light to many for whom the world must have seemed a very dark and bitter place.
We need to remember them, their struggle and sacrifice. And we need to thank God for the encouragement that they give to us when we wonder where our world is going and sometimes are tempted to lose hope. The torch of justice and freedom must be passed on to each generation. May we hold it high and honour it as legacy to be cherished and continued.
Apologia pro Poemate Meo Wilfred Owen
I, too, saw God through mud --
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.
Merry it was to laugh there --
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.
I, too, have dropped off fear --
Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear
Past the entanglement where hopes lay strewn;
And witnessed exultation --
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour; though they were foul.
I have made fellowships --
Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,
By Joy, whose ribbon slips, --
But wound with war’s hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the welding of the rifle-thong.
I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.
Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but the trembling of a flare,
And heaven but as the highway for a shell,
You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment. November 1917
GLOBAL JUSTICE 20/11/11
From the very beginning, “Justice” has been a core value and driving force for Metropolitan Community Churches around the world. Salvation, Community, and Social Action were the “three-pronged gospel” that Troy Perry began preaching, and social (and political) activism in the cause of creating a more just and equitable world has always been a priority of MCC. In the past few years, MCC has increasingly been known around the world as “The Human Rights Church,” which we believe is an indication of our continued commitment to the pursuit of justice. But, what is justice? How do we most effectively work for justice in the world, in our communities, and within our churches? This session invites participants into a Holy Conversation about Global Justice, and the ways in which individuals and communities can best participate in the Divine imperative to do justice.
Cantering Quotes on Justice
“Oppression and liberation are the very substance of the entire historical context within which divine revelation unfolds, and only by reference to this central fact can we understand the meaning of faith, grace, love, peace, sin, and salvation.” (Elsa Tamez, Bible of the Oppressed)
“Black theology’s answer to the question of hermeneutics can be stated briefly: The hermeneutical principle for an exegesis of the scriptures is the revelation of God in Christ as the Liberator of the oppressed from social oppression and to political struggle, wherein the poor recognize that their fight against poverty and injustice is not only consistent with the gospel but is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (James Cone, God of the Oppressed)
“In the past thirty years, an explosion has taken place in Christianity. All around the world popular movements are rising up out of the culture of silence and finding their voices. In Latin America, Asia, North America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim, the spirit is moving and communities of the oppressed are forming, crying out against their suffering and the social, political, economic, and religious structures that give rise to that suffering. But that is only half of the story. These cries of protest are the signs not of a mass outpouring of hatred and revenge, but of a movement committed to working for liberation toward abundant life. Realizing that ‘only justice can stop a curse,’ these communities have begun a new practice of Christianity, experimenting with new ways of being the church, engaging in the practice of justice, and reflecting critically on the meaning of this practice. Theology done in these communities grows out of solidarity with those suffering and in need and is rooted in particular social justice contexts.”
(Mary Potter Engel and Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Lift Every Voice)
“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom ... They have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of is appointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail)
“I would like to highlight our understanding of the concept of peace. We need to have a deep understanding of peace-- that peace signifies salvation, especially in the African world-view—wholeness and integrity. It also signifies community, righteousness, justice and well-being. So, we have many ways, and one of the significant ways we highlight, especially in the South African context when we talk about peace, is that
justice creates peace. And I want to underline this ... One of the important ways we [talk] about peace, especially in the African context, is a word which is commonly known as ubuntu, a deep sense of humanity, of relatedness, that as people we are part of the corporate body of the people of God. The notion of corporate personality as we know it in the Old Testament is that you cannot exist as an individual, but we are a part of the larger community. So that concept continues to play an important role in our understanding of peace, shalom. Shalom is a very holistic concept in our own struggle within the African context.” (Bonganjalo Goba, Peace in Africa: a personal perspective)
“Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never did and it never will. Find out what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice which will be imposed on them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” (Frederick Douglas, c. 1857)
“… Love has its price. God wants to make us alive, and the wider we open our hearts to others or the more audibly we cry out against the injustice which rules over us, the more difficult our life in the rich society of injustice becomes. Even a small love of a few trees, of seals, or of schoolchildren who cry at night in torment … is costly. Many cannot afford even a small love for creatures and prefer not to have seen anything.”
(Dorothy Söelle, Theology for Sceptics: Reflections on God)