Friday, November 11, 2011

Sacrifice, war, peace, and love

Remarks made at a Community Remembrance Service in Rockglen SK, November 10, 2011. Text: selections from Romans chapters 12-14

Remembrance Day is sacred. It has that status because we gather each year to remember the sacrifices made by young people in war. And sacrifice -- the act of giving up something of value, even one's life, for a greater good -- is what makes something sacred.

Life is our most precious possession. So the deaths of young people in war make Remembrance Day sometimes feel almost unbearably sacred. This is especially the case for veterans, for families who have lost loved ones in war, and for those currently serving in the military.

War is a tough reality in our society. We all hate war and the destruction and death that result from it. We all wish that war might never occur again. And yet war has been a regular part of human history for as far back as we can see.

In the selections we just heard from St. Paul, he writes about sacrifice, love, and peace. He urges us "to offer our bodies as living sacrifices." Now, this does not mean, I believe, that we should all lay down our lives for our friends. Instead, I think that Paul is urging us to remember what is truly sacred about every one of us.

It is not the individual details -- all those things that make us unique and memorable -- that mark each of us as sacred. Instead, our sacred status flows from the truth that deep within us burns a spark of Divine light.

Each of us -- no matter how imperfect or broken we may be -- is created in the image of God. Because we know this to be true, we value everyone as sacred. And that is one reason why we mourn so deeply and honour so passionately all the thousands of young people who sacrificed their lives in the wars of yesterday and today.

St Paul also promotes the famous commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves. And he urges us to work for peace in a violent world.

Collectively, we have not yet learned how to prevent war. But trying to love our neighbours is a great place to start, I think.

When we look at our neighbours -- even our so-called enemies -- and manage to act for them in love, we remind ourselves that everyone is sacred.

War, with its terrible passions, can blind us to this awareness. But by taking time on days like today to honour the dead and by working for peace and justice every day, we remind ourselves of the presence of the Divine light within all of us.

Grace is available with each breath and in any moment. The Divine inner light that shines in our hearts and in the hearts of all of our neighbours helps us to remember and honour the sacrifices of the past and to work for peace among nations today.

May it be so. Amen.

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