Remembrance Devotional Nov 8 2020

Remembrance Devotional:
Throughout the pandemic we have used language like, it is your duty to stay at
home, it is your obligation to others to wear a mask. I can remember early on that some
even stated, “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being asked to sit on the couch.
You can do this.” While I would never use the language of fighting against a pandemic in
comparison with those men and women who have served our country by choice, in various
ways I do feel like we are living in volatile times. In fact, because we are pre-taping this
service in October I don’t know the results from the US election but I am worried about the
divisive and volatile times that are unfolding south of us. The passage from Isaiah this
morning speaks to conflict, suffering, volatile times, and hope.

Yes, there is both hope and tragedy in this passage. Hope and tragedy is a
combination I know well. I celebrate that there is a bond between my family and a family
in the Netherlands that goes back to when my Grandfather billeted with them in 1945. This
friendship goes back over 75 years and spans three generations but it was born out of
tragedy. We would not have this strong connection with the Van Scuppens had my
Grandfather had no reason to go there. The same goes for the Schulte family in Germany
where my in-laws were stationed, and where Mike was born during the cold war. These
incredible friendships- full of joy and blessings- were born out of tragedy and volatile
times. I remember well sitting with David Sakade and Jim Rae as they talked about their
various health issues when they hit their 90s. I heard them laugh and swap stories. Two
men, who in their 20s fought on opposite sides- brought together in hope talking about the
tragedy of ageing.

The passage in Isaiah begins by describing the experience of conflict and
destruction that takes place in war. We can certainly interpret that it is God who has
brought on this violence- that is certainly implied but what is also important to note is the
transformation that takes place. The fortified city that now lays in ruins symbolizes the
imperial power of the oppressor- the violence that has seen this city fall- was nothing
compared to the oppression that took place within its walls. And the hope is that as a city
of a great empire falls there is recognition that God’s power is far greater. The destruction
was not caused by God but overcome by God and now this place becomes a place of refuge for the poor, the needy in their distress, and a place of shelter. Hope that the ruthlessly powerful will not win out over those unable to defend themselves shines through here.

The passage then changes in verse 6 and begins to describe an incredible banquet
on Mount Zion. We have to realize that throughout the history of the Hebrew people,
meals have played an important role. Meals become opportunities for religious
transformation. If we think of the first passover to the last supper this remains true for us
too. This particular banquet in Isaiah is one of reconciliation. And, perhaps the description
of rich food and well-aged wines brings to mind our communion celebrations- another
meal in which reconciliation takes place.


I often hope that Remembrance Sunday is a time in which we can seek
reconciliation too. It is most certainly a time to honour those who sacrificed their lives or
youth to serve their country but it is also a time in which we can turn tragedy into hope. In
which we can think to a time when there will be no war- when, as Isaiah says in another
passage- our swords are turned into ploughshares. Remembering is also an opportunity for
renewal and reconciliation- this is what brings me hope even as we face our own volatile
We remember today all the ordinary people ripped from their towns and villages,
torn from their families to serve their country in war. We remember today all the ordinary
people left behind to keep things going in factories, on farms, on the streets blitzed by war.
We remember today the ordinary people who lost their lives in war and those left behind
who never saw their loved ones again, who grew up without a parent, a sibling, a partner
or friend, those who never discovered love again and who grew old alone. We remember
today all the ordinary people on either side of the conflict whose lives were changed
forever, all those who paid the price of freedom and, in our remembering of the ordinary
people who died and served for us, we remember that the cost of war will always be too
high and paid for by ordinary people. This year, think of how hope is born out of tragedy,
how God is greater than volatile times, and how in remembering we can reconcile. Amen