- On November 7, 2021
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Today is our Remembrance Day service of Worship. On this day we take time to remember those who have died in armed conflict, and the sacrifices that they have made. We remember as well the teachings of Jesus, and take time to reflect upon who we are as peacekeepers and peace makers. The title of our reflection today is For Our Part.
The Music for this week’s worship service focuses on our role as peace makers in our World. As part of the reflection, I made reference to a song entitled Waltzing Matilda: I have included a link to a video that features this song that has accompanying images from the war experience that is referenced in the song.
You will also notice in the announcements a number of items that relate to Christmas. Yes Christmas … the season of Advent is almost upon us and we have begun to make preparation for this very important time in the church year. Please notice that there are a number of places where we will need your help to make this a meaningful and memorable Christmas.
Christmas Poinsettias: As in previous years we will decorate the Sanctuary for the Advent and Christmas season and deliver Christmas flowers to our members who are unable to join us for worship on a regular basis. If you would like to contribute to these purchases please speak to Brenda, place a donation in the offering plate marked poinsettias or e-transfer your donation to Ken (email@example.com). As has been our practice we will have them available for pick-up on the first Sunday of Advent – November 28th. This means that the final date for placing an order is November 21st. The ordering brochure is attached to the bottom of this e-mail.
Brenda has agreed to take the lead again this year; however, she needs help! If you are willing and able to assist with any of these tasks, please talk directly to Brenda. She will need help with: collecting orders and payment, picking up the flowers (Saturday, November 27th), distributing the flowers, delivering the flowers to those unable to attend worship.
Student Christmas Care Packages: Again this year we will be sending “care” packages to the university and college students (children and grandchildren) of the members of our congregation. We know that the exam period is a stressful one, so we want to provide encouragement! Members of the congregation are invited provide a treat or token of encouragement on the first two weeks of Advent (Nov 28, Dec 4) so that the packages can be mailed on the 5th. If you have a student that you would like to receive a package – please let Brenda or me know sometime during the next 2-weeks.
Women’s Candlelight Service: The service will take place on Wednesday, December 1st. This year ladies are invited to The Christmas Café where you will always be welcomed with gratitude and experience the hospitality of a friend who cares. This service is a wonderful opportunity to take the time to center ourselves on the meaning of Christmas. Consider making time for this wonderful service … and inviting a friend.
Advent Sunday School: Would you like to help tell the Christmas story? During the 4 Sundays of Advent, we will be offering a Sunday School for the young children of the congregation, and we need adult leaders. Everything you will need to lead the lesson will be prepared for you – so that you can focus on the children and sharing the special story of Jesus’ birth. If you are able to be a leader for one (or more) of the four Sundays, please speak with Rev. Gushue.
Communion: On Sunday November 21st, the last day of the liturgical calendar, known as the Feast of Christ the King we will celebrate communion together.
Covid-19 Double Vaccination Protocol: Under the guidance of the Presbytery of Brampton, Session has adopted a new double-vaccination protocol. What this means is that for the safety of the members of our congregation, anyone attending a service of worship will be required to be double vaccinated. The exception to this rule is children under the age of 12 for whom the vaccination is not available. It also means that the capacity limits for attendance at worship have also been lifted as a result of the latest provincial government announcement.
We will also continue to follow the public health guidance including keeping physical distance, not socializing inside the sanctuary, and wearing masks during service. We also expect that anyone who is exhibiting symptoms or who has been travelling will remain home for the week.
Preparing for Christmas: Every year it still surprises me how fast Christmas seems to come – and how often I am not prepared as I would like to be. And so, in January every year I make a resolution to be better prepared next year. Even thought it sounds early, now is the time when we have to make decisions about how we will engage this Christmas season and how we will ensure that we focus our efforts and attention on what matters most. One of the practices that I am going to suggest is making the commitment to be present for worship at each of the 4 Sundays of Advent. I expect that the continuity of worship, through what is often a busy and hectic time, will create a space and make room to welcome the Christ child and fill you with the peace, love, hope and joy of the season.
Worship Service – November 7, 2021
Make me a channel of your peace:
For the healing of the nations:
Onward Christian soldiers:
Romans 12: 1-2, 9-21
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Reflection: For Our Part
I was born in 1962. World War I and World War II were events that people my age learned about in history books. As a kid growing up in Newfoundland the Ottoman Empire was something that you could only find on an old map: it was a distant place from a distant time. 1914 was a long time ago for a young boy of 12 or 13 who learned that it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria that led to the first Great War – where more than 16 million people died.
My knowledge of the second world war was different. I learned in school that WW II was an even more devastating war that the first. 30 countries entered into the war and battles were fought all over the world. However, what I learned in school was tempered by what I saw on the Great Money Movie. The cable channel that we received was based in Bangor, Maine and the great money movies were black and white shows that we were allowed to watch after school – when it was too cold and wet to play outside. So if you can imagine, my understanding of what war was like was formed by the singing of Elvis Presley and the humor of Abbot and Costello. In cinema, and from a US perspective, the experiences of war were portrayed in a positive light … if not downright fun.
My first Remembrance Day assembly in high school changed all of that. As part of the assembly one of the teachers sang the song Waltzing Matildawith accompanying graphics that showed the reality of what it was to fight a war in the trenches. As I watched the images and listened to the words of the soldier who had lost both of his legs, my perspective changed in an instant … and I understood at a deep level the devastating and lasting effect of armed conflict. There was no glory in victory or defeat … only death and a life of pain for those who managed to survive. (pause)
As a young man, my interest in how the world worked and why wars had to be fought with such human tragedy, led me to study politics and political systems. As a university student I followed a degree in Political Science and gained an understanding of the mechanics of government and the motivations behind why countries followed the policy options that they did. My visit to the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau Germany on a cold, damp, grey December morning solidified my understanding … and my resolve that such tragedy should never, ever, be allowed to happen again.
These experiences led me to understand that the predominant way of the world was aggression – where one group or country took what they wanted from the smaller or weaker and justified their actions through their political ideologies that purported what they were doing was for the good of the wider society – the reality often being very different. (pause)
Juxtaposed against. and countering this world view that I was learning. were two significant forces. The first was my identity as a Canadian. The second was my Christian faith.
Studying Political Science and being actively involved in the political process, it was natural that the political leaders of the time affected my understanding of the world and how we were to engage in it. My Canadian identify, as well as the identify of many Canadians, was shaped in part by the legacy of Lester Pearson.
Lester Pearson served in World War I (1914-1918) and lectured in history at the University of Toronto. He joined the Canadian foreign service in 1928 and became the first secretary in the Department of External Affairs. He served on two royal commissions (1931) and as counselor of the Canadian high commissioner’s office in London, England (1935) as well as ambassador to the United States in (1945–46. )
In 1948 he became secretary of state for external affairs and represented Canada at the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, and in 1951 he was chairman of NATO. From 1948 to 1956, Lester Pearson headed the Canadian delegation at the United Nations and he was president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1952–53. And he served as the Prime Minister of Canada from 1963-1968. Lester Pearson was an accomplished civil servant and politician; however, it was for his leadership during the Suez Crisis in 1956 for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: an acknowledgement that solidified his legacy as well as the identity of Canadians as peacekeepers.
The crisis centered on the Suez Canal and the importance of this passage for the transporting of petroleum from the Persian Gulf to Western Europe. And it was fueled, among other things, by long standing animosities between Israel and Egypt as well as East-West tensions that pitted communist Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union against the United States and their English and French allies. After Israel invaded Egypt tensions erupted, and full-scale war threatened.
It was into this situation that Lester Pearson suggested that the United Nation deploy an armed peacekeeping force to keep the warring factions separated.
Canadian soldiers became the backbone of the United Nations Peace Keeping force contributing 80,000 personnel between 1948 and 1988: roughly 10 per cent of the total UN forces sent on peacekeeping missions during that time.
As a young man to be a peacekeeper was foundational to my understanding of my identity as a Canadian. And it was my Christian upbringing that taught me that being a peacekeeper was only the first step: that it was more critical to be a peace maker.
As I have mentioned before, I was raised in the church. I was an alter server at a young age and read the Bible readings as part of weekly worship from when I was 10 years old. I had heard the stories of Jesus countless times and had it explained to me that the Kingdom of God was a place not of vengeance but forgiveness … a place not of war but of peace. I knew Jesus as the Prince of Peace. I waited each year in hope of his coming at Christmas and lamented his crucifixion each year through Lent: I wondered how Jesus’ messages of peace could lead to such vehement opposition from the religious leaders and the Roman military regime.
Why was what Jesus taught so unacceptable to the powers that be? For Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and rather than exact vengeance against them for the crimes and atrocities that they have committed, that as his followers, if it is possible, and so far as it depends on us, to live peaceably with all.
- do not repay anyone evil for evil
- if your enemies are hungry, feed them
- if they are thirsty, give them something to drink
- bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them
- do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
These lessons challenged, and continue to challenge, my understanding of how we as Canadians can engage the World. Yet deeper than that, these lessons challenge how we as Christians are to engage the world and remind us that our decisions must first be informed by who we are as disciples of Christ. (pause)
These are important lessons for us to remember on this Remembrance Day, as the major world powers are shifting, and we can observe the posturing to exert dominance that is occurring around the globe. Some pundits are saying that the world is being primed for another major conflict – and point to the building up the Chinese Navy and the purchase of nuclear submarines by the Australians. To the south we have observed how technology in the form of social media can be used to create divisions and twist truths – polarizing people and perspectives. Here at home, we have lived through the ordeal of the two Michael’s and have been reminded that the countries of this world operate in very different ways – democracy is but one of many ways through which countries are governed, decisions are made and policies are set. …. And some others would say that such speculation is no more than chasing after shadows and fear mongering!
How then, on this Remembrance Day, are we to respond as we spend time in this Christian place of worship?
Are there changes that we can make in the way that we engage with others who are different form us, who hold different political ideologies or world views?
How then, on this Remembrance Day, are we to respond as Canadians?
What lessons of war do we need to remember? What perspectives do we need to hold as our country deals with mounting global tensions? For our part, how can we be peacekeepers?
How then, on this Remembrance Day, are we to respond as disciples of the Prince of Peace?
What lessons of Jesus do we need to remember? How can we live out the exhortation to love our enemies? For our part, how can we be peace makers?
These are difficult questions for us to struggle with on this Remembrance Day. However, within these questions are important truths for us to not to forget … Lest we forget the lessons that we learned through the major wars of the 20th century. Lest we forget the cost in human life that has resulted from humankinds’ inability to reconcile conflicts. Lest we forget that the absence of war is not peace Lest we forget that peace comes as a result of creating space for differences.
We remember, on this Remembrance Day … Lest we forget the lessons of the Prince of Peace . Amen