1st Readings: “In Flanders Fields” and Psalm 78
Remembering, passing on the wisdom we have learned, these are this morning’s themes on this Remembrance Day weekend.
I watched some of the coverage of the Cenotaph Service in Ottawa yesterday morning, before attending our own service at the Legion. One of the reporters commented on a perceived trend of bigger and bigger attendance at these events across the country. Close to two hundred people, including about a dozen children, attended our ceremony on Texada – the most we have seen out in many years.
Lots of people don’t bring their kids, and I have been asking “why not?” The answer I usually get is that they get a lot of this history at school, so parents often take them away for the long weekend.
I think we are missing the point. When I was a child in Vancouver, we often were taken to the Cenotaph downtown for the Remembrance Day Service. It was a special occasion. We had to dress up in our Sunday best, wear a poppy, behave ourselves and pay attention. What we learned was that this was a somber and important commemoration of the sacrifices made for us as Canadians during times of war. And just as an aside, we children were learning how to conduct ourselves at important public events.
I’m a parent too, so I know this is not an easy expectation to have of parents of young children. They often don’t behave well. They are quickly bored with the whole thing. They need to go to the bathroom when all other distractions fail! But nobody said that being a parent was a walk in the park. It is our job to help our kids learn how to be respectful toward others – both the living and the dead. It’s our job to teach them the values that we hold dear – who will do that otherwise?
I love that most kids learn the poem “In Flanders Fields” at school. I hope they learn the meaning of the word “sacrifice” and how that might relate to “laying down one’s life for one’s friends” as Jesus taught us to do. The human heart is capable of so much more love than can be expressed in a tweet or a facebook “like”. Our children need to see real love in action – not just in words. And they need to see that poems like the one we read this morning can move us adults to tears.
Perhaps we can teach them to wonder as they watch us prepare food for the food bank, take warm clothes to a shelter, or as we stand together outside in the cold to remember what sacrifices others have made for us.
As we all learn to wonder, may our hearts be opened to the amazing things God has done for us, and in that heart opening may our humanity stretch toward its full potential.
Hymn #299 VU “Teach Me God to Wonder”
2nd Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:1-13
I’m not sure how this happened, but in my office at home I have a clear plastic file holder on the wall facing my computer. In that holder are two words in large letters, laminated, that I must have used in some activity some time ago. The words are “Faith” and “Wisdom”. See if you think there is any meaning for these words in the context of the story I am going to read you now. It’s from a book titled: And He told them a Story by Richard Carl Hoefler. (Chapter 11, p.221)
“A young man was speeding down the road when he saw a train and decided to race it to the crossing. It ended up a tie and the young man lost. His family decided to sue the railroad for there should have been a watchman on duty at this dangerous crossing. The railroad officials called in the man assigned to the place where the accident happened. They asked him if he were there, if he were awake, and if he attempted to warn the approaching motorist that a train was coming. The watchman assured them that he was on the job. He was awake and he went out and waved his lantern but the young driver paid no attention to it.
The case was brought to trial. Under severe cross-examination on the witness stand, the watchman stuck to his story. After the trial was over, the head of the railroad called the watchman into his office and told him how pleased the company was to have such a dependable employee. “I was afraid,” the company president said, “that you might back down on your story and admit you fell asleep.” “No,” the watchman replied, “I was awake and on the job. But you know, I was afraid, too – I was afraid one of them smart lawyers was going to ask me if my lantern was lit.”
It makes a big difference if your lantern is lit or not doesn’t it? Intuitively we know this is true on more levels that just at the level of the parable. Many analysts feel that Jesus’ story is about being prepared for crisis or catastrophe, tho they disagree a lot about what he might have been referring to.
I am intrigued by his use of the metaphor of light itself. The light of understanding? The light of wisdom? The light of knowledge? Or maybe the light of passionate commitment? What I do hear the Master saying is that having your lantern in place (your faith? Right beliefs? Status or position?) is not enough to ensure your reward – in this case the reward seems to be spiritual in nature – union with the bridegroom? Enlightenment perhaps? Which will not be attained unless some greater understanding or wisdom is employed to keep the lantern lit so that the way ahead is illuminated.
Many are saying that we are facing the greatest challenges the world has ever known. Climate change, human population growth, animal extinctions, the threat of nuclear war….
I do not hear Jesus saying that the sky is falling, all is lost – say your prayers. I do hear him saying that using the twin powers of faith and wisdom, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Action speaks louder than empty words – even if they are the right words. There is hope, people of God, but only if we keep the Christ Light burning.
Hymn #424 VU “May the God of Hope Go with Us”