ARMISTICE DAY - 100 YEARS AFTER "THE WAR TO END ALL WARS."
This sermon was presented on November 11, 2018 at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Sacramento, California in remembrance of the 100 year anniversary of what would be called Armistice Day and is now called Veterans Day.
Hymns and appropriate music were integrated into the service. You can learn more about the "Just War" theory at http://www.mustbeguida.com/the-just-war-theory.html
ARMISTICE DAY - 100 YEARS LATER
OLD TESTAMENT READING: Genesis 4:1 - 11
Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have produced a man with the help of the LORD."
Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground.
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."
Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.
Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
Cain said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?"
And the LORD said, "What have you done? Listen; your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground! And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.
One hundred years ago, to this date, November 11, 1918, at 11:00 o’clock, peace was declared, officially ending what was called “The Great War” and what we would know as World War I. Eleven eleven at eleven o’clock. Peace is declared marking the end of “the war to end all wars.”
When that hour strikes today, wherever we are in the service, we will pause to remember those who valiantly fought so that we can meet here today in peace.
At 11:00 AM, when the bell tolls 11 times:
“While we should always keep peace in our hearts and in our minds, let us deliberately pause at this moment and give a brief mediation for those who have served our nation. Those with us here today and those who will be with us nevermore, whom we lost on the fields of battle or who elseways fought the good fight of an ongoing battle for peace and love.”
I’ll wager some of you had family who fought in World War I. I know for a fact that many of you have deep memories of the Second World War, the horrifics of which were brought about as a direct response to unresolved rivalries from the first war, including the rise of Adolf Hitler.
World War I was triggered by an assassin from one nation killing the archduke of another. And after that, all hell broke loose. I know some of you don’t like it when I use that word and I apologize for it’s casual usage in the past. But there is no other way to describe the atrocities that occurred.
The assassination was a terrible event in itself, but one that should have had minor international consequences. But due to a convoluted mass of treaties and alliances, some of them duplicitous, coupled with horrible miscommunications, millions lost their lives. Sixteen million people died as a direct result of that war and 100 million as an indirect result, mostly from genocide and the 1918 flu epidemic, which was a direct result of the war.
While we may think of the war as a European battlefront, fighting took place in Asia, the Pacific, Africa, the Middle East, and East India. While Canadian soldiers fought with their United Kingdom brethren, the United States didn’t enter the war until it was well underway. When we did, the Selective Service Act was created, at one point sending 10,000 men every day to fight.
Fifty eight billion dollars was spent by the Allies, $25 billion by what were called the Central Powers.
“The Great War.” One hundred sixteen million deaths. Eighty Three billion dollars spent.
The good news is… we won.
What have we learned in the past century? Well, now we can kill more efficiently, without the horrors of mustard gas burning our lungs as we lay dying on barbed wire in the middle of a frozen field.
The city of Sacramento could be annihilated in less time than it takes to finish this sermon. Actually, in less time than it takes… to finish this sentence.
And personal weapons exist that can wipe out our church in a matter of seconds.
I say again… yay.
As Christians, we are a nation of peaceful people, whose most important laws include loving our neighbors. How do we justify fighting a war?
First of all, realize that “All is NOT fair in Love and War.” In the 4th Century, Emperor Augustine of the Christian Roman Empire postulated a “Just War Theory,” which Thomas Aquinas, whom the Catholic church considers one of its greatest theologians, codified in the mid-1200s, and which has remained the basis for the theory these past 800 years. Please note, this is not a theory to justify a war, but if a war is to be fought, this is how it should be done.
The gist of the theory says that in order to justify the killing that occurs in war, there must be a reason so important that it overrides the truth that killing people is wrong. The possibility of taking even one human life is a prospect we should consider in fear and trembling.
There are eight parts to the theory. I won’t read them all, but the first is “Just Cause” which means we have to have a good reason to be involved in the war. This includes the stopping of a massacre of large numbers of people - genocide.
“Last Resort,” means we must have tried everything - negotiation, conflict resolution and prevention - before resorting to war,
“Just Intention,” means the only reason for the war is to end the war - no revenge, no economic gain, no ideological supremacy.
Our response must be “in proportion” to the situation. “Nuking them into the stone age” is never a proper response. The war must “discriminate” between the attacking of soldiers and the attacking of civilians, intentionally seeking not to harm those not fighting.
And the “Good” of the war must outweigh the “Bad.”
These are the ways to fight a “Just War,” but the key phrase, of course, is “War.” People are just as dead and resources are just as destroyed in a “Just War” as in an “Unjust War.”
In the past 100 years, the United States has been in 40 wars - one of which was a result of our being attacked - and the longest of which is still being fought with children from our own church involved. Children who, as babies just a few years ago, sat here on these steps, listening to Children's Moments. How many of these wars were “Just Wars”?
This conversation is a slippery slope. In a historical context, when our military bases in Pearl Harbor were attacked, should we have we thrown up our hands and cried, “Heaven help us!”? We had a “Just” decision to enter the war at that time. But I offer, if we were to recognize the atrocities being committed in Germany - the genocide of the Jews and others - whose persecution continued in the death of 11 innocent members of a temple last month - should we have, in fact, entered the war sooner. By the “Just War Theory,” we had a right to do so, to stop the annihilation of a people. But as Christians, we want to avoid fighting.
Is it honorable to fight for honor? Hollywood says “YES!”, with guns ablazing. Or do we walk away from a losing battle and let those who died before us rest in vanquished peace? A well know short poem from World War I says “stay the course.”
I read to you IN FLANDERS FIELDS -
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
There are no easy answers and please know - this sermon is not about politics, although wars and politics are synonymous. It is about the Christian quest for peace. Not the peace of the Crusades or the peace sought by those screaming scripture at those who are different, but the peace of not living in fear. The peace of knowing men and women, Black and White and all colors in between and of all faiths and orientations, can live and work together without fear. The peace of knowing your next meal is coming soon, along with clean water and safe shelter. The peace of Justice. The peace of Jesus. Here and across the globe.
How do we, as Christians, assure that global peace? None of us is a member of the United States Congress, who are the only ones who can legally declare a war. We don’t have the resources to stop the planes and bombs and guns from being manufactured. But we are Christians. And the greatest gift we have as Christians is hope.
Not the hope of wringing our hands and wishing things were different, but the hope of action, the hope of setting examples, the hope of change for the better world Jesus promised us, here on earth before our heavenly eternity.
Does it make sense to say, “We have to fight for peace?” It is certainly an oxymoron, but on a real sense - outside of spiritual strength - that is what we must do. And to do that takes courage. Not the false courage of guns and bombs, but the personal courage of standing alone in your beliefs, if need be. Of speaking up against a wrong when all around you remain silent. Of taking a knee for a belief, when all others are standing. If you'll allow a Hollywood example, the courage of a Victor Laslo, telling the band in Rick's Cafe to “Play the Marseillaise,” in defiance of the German soldiers singing their anthem.
Hollywood gives us many definitions of courage. The “Greatest Hero in Film History,” is not James Bond or any macho, gun-toting character. It is Atticus Fitch, the quiet Father of two young children, played by Gregory Peck, in the film TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Fitch says, to his children, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
We can all be courageous, even if we think we haven’t the strength or intelligence … If we have the spirit, we can succeed.
To quote another book to film source, “You have plenty of courage, I am sure.” he said. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.” And from the movie made from the book, I quote the former Cowardly Lion, when he says: ‘Ain’t it the truth? Ain’t it the truth!”
Your courage can exist in many forms - from physically standing up to bullies in a peaceful protest, as was done crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge in 1965, to reminding a grandchild that love comes in many forms and colors, even if outside influences tell the child to the contrary.
Jesus tells us, in Luke 10, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.” So how we act with each other, here in our church family, those in our neighborhood and those neighbors around the world, is how we can begin to construct peace.
The bumper sticker reads, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” We can bring peace to an empty stomach by supporting our Food Closet, allowing those hungry people to focus on bettering themselves - as we all must do - and not on their immediate lot in life.
Another way we can effect peace is through education - by supporting our local public schools. Ignorance often leads to fear and fear is the great catalyst to war. If we teach our children the borderless lessons of science, of math, of biology, and botany, they can’t help but learn that we are one on this planet - that we are all in this together - and it is only as one will we succeed.
Also support multi-lingualism. Being Americans,we believe everyone should speak “American.” But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn Spanish, Italian, French, Sign Language, Vietnamese or any of the other 4500 languages spoken world-wide. There are 1,200,000 speakers of some form of Chinese in the world and I doubt anyone in this room can even say “hello” in that language. It is NI HAO, in case you are wondering. And yes, I had to look it up.
But communication, in all it’s human, written, and electronic form, is essential for a common peace. Be a part of that global understanding. If you know it, teach it. If you don’t, learn it! But most of all, live it. Live in a world of tam o’shanters and turbans, of baklava and burritos. It is through understanding those around us that peace is gained.
Do not despair of our political leaders, but encourage them to find peaceful ends to the man-made troubles of the world.
Love those who need it most, although they are the most difficult to love. But it is by our love that they will know we are Christians.
And pray. Say a prayer which motivates you and others to seek out peaceful solutions to the problems of the world, of your neighborhood and of your heart. We can’t control what is going on in Afghanistan, but we can do something about Arden Arcade, Land Park, Elk Grove, south Sacramento, and elsewhere.
Many of us have lived our wars and we pray not see another in our lifetime. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. says “Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.” But for our children and their children, this escalated warfare cannot continue. Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
We cannot allow that to happen and it must begin with us.
Our sermons traditionally begin with a New Testament reading. This has hardly been a traditional sermon, and as such, I offer the reading now.
From John 20 - Jesus been crucified, buried, and has risen from his tomb. He came to his disciples, who are cowering in a locked room, in fear of the leaders. Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Peace be with you.”
And THIS is the word of God.
END OF SERMON
PRAYERS FOR THE PEOPLE
We Pray for Peace, Lord. A simple prayer, which covers everything.
The peace of safety from bullets and bombs - internationally and at home.
The peace of a full belly, clean clothes, and shelter.
The peace that comes from education and the wisdom to apply it properly.
The peace of Jesus.
God, in your mercy.
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Jesus, Jesus is sending us. Peace be with you.”
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love
Here I Am, Lord
Hymn after sermon:
Let There Be Peace on Earth
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Joan Baez