HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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Standing on Guard

Canadian Soldiers“which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”  [2 Timothy 1:12-14]

This month brings with it the annual day of remembrance. Poppies and solemn services, Reverie and Last Post. These will all be a little more poignant this year for us Canadians. In the past couple of weeks we have been shocked and saddened by the death of not one but two members of our armed forces, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, right here on our own Canadian soil. Murdered simply because of their uniform. One can’t help but also think of the three  fallen RCMP officers from Moncton in this regard either.

Without making light of the pain their families and communities now bear, it is a powerful reminder that freedom always comes at a cost. A cost every soldier proudly says they are willing to pay when they take up the uniform. Make no mistake, this is not just about conflicting ideologies. At least, not because of any nationalistic or social/political/religious identity. (Although it is very obvious that  NOT all such identities are morally equivalent or “good” by any stretch of any definition!) It is a question of Good and Evil. The sanctity of life and the disregard for life. Evil is real, and evil never rests. It will not stop until all is enslaved once again. Eternal vigilance is not just the stuff of rhetoric and political speeches. It is the price that must sometimes be paid in blood. Thank God we have those brave souls who are willing to pay it!

But before our country remembers it’s fallen soldiers, the church has already done the same. All Saints day (November 1)  is our reminder (in part) of the lives lived and died under Christ as the price of that eternal freedom of God’s Kingdom.

Many of these soldiers of the cross never once picked up a gun, or marched off into battle (though many did), but all sacrificed, in their own way, for the sake of country, neighbour, family, and God. When they took up the uniform of the faith, Christ’s robes of righteousness, each confessed their willingness to pay the cost. All were willing to meet evil head on, in their communities, their homes, the lives of their friends and neighbours. Many fought for those they had never met, and likely never would this side of eternity – sending money and missionaries, providing aid and prayers for any and all affected by the high cost of evil in this world.

And facing that evil, they paid for it. They paid from their own comfort, their livelihoods, their reputations, the support of their friends and family. Some even paid with their lives. And more and more pay every year. It is open season on Christians in vast parts of our world … but just you watch … that won’t stop them from standing up and paying the price to love their friends and family, communities and countries, strangers and enemies. They know it is the cost of freedom.

Canadians have been entrusted with a freedom and openness that makes life for her citizens the envy of much of the world. It is the good deposit we are called to defend. Christians have an even greater deposit entrusted to them … the very Gospel of God … the Good News of free salvation in Christ for anyone and everyone regardless of nationality. So remember the sacrifices that allow you to be here today. Remember and stand guard for those who will come tomorrow. To live in service to freedom and to die in service to that freedom are always worthwhile. Just ask the families of our faithful men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, and all first responders (Firefighters, Police, and EMT’s) who gladly do the same for us everyday. Just ask your Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

saints

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Greater Love Has No Man Than This

PoppyLet me begin by stating at the beginning that I love my children very much. I love seeing what they are doing at school. I love being able to take some time to be present at their assemblies, such as I was on Monday.  As far as Remembrance Day ceremonies go it was your pretty standard affair. The teachers doing their best (but generally failing) to file the children in neatly and get them sitting in respectful silence. The welcomes and introductions. A poem spoken (barely) by the older children, the presentations of a wreath from each home room class. The presence of veteran to play the traditional bugle parts. And then my son and his class got up to sing. They sang beautifully. They sang with gusto. They sang clearly (and for the most part on key). I could make out my son’s voice and he is a credit to both his mother and his father. But what they sang was like nails on a chalkboard …

Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Perhaps you know it. Here are just a few of the grating phrases i had to sit through: “If you want the world to know we won’t let hatred grow put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place …” “I hope when you decide kindness will be your guide put a little love in  your heart. And the world will be a better place …” I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, or worse yet who agreed with them and signed off on it. But I do understand the thought behind it. It comes from a deep-seated misunderstanding that many people in our culture have regarding love and what it is. One that is intimately tied into their misunderstanding of Tolerance and Compassion.

For many people these days (people who for the most part have never really and truly had to face real war) love is often confused with appeasement. If you love someone you need to let them be. If we really loved, there would be no more need for war. If we really loved, we could all just get along. If we really loved, not one veteran would ever need to waste their life on something so foolish ever again.

It all stems from the idea that everyone is basically good and that no one really wants to hurt anyone else (or if they do it is only because they don’t know better, and a little kindness will show them the error of their ways). Perhaps we all watched a few too many after-school specials growing up. It is the kind of thinking that summarized in the recent (but certainly not new)  “white poppy” debate.

It is also, unfortunately, a thinking that simply doesn’t work in our world. And it doesn’t work because it refuses to acknowledge both sin and evil.  You see, no one in this world is basically good. We are all sinners, every one of  us. There are times when even the best of us has no qualms whatsoever with sticking it to someone else.   And there are some who genuinely enjoy hurting others, killing others, and subjecting others to all kinds of  suffering. And no amount of kindness is going to teach them otherwise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but one might ask the former British Prime Minister Chamberlain, how well his loving approach to appeasing Hitler’s Germany worked. Better yet, ask the Austrians.

This world is broken by sin. This world is pock-marked by evil. And no amount of school assemblies, children’s choirs, or after school specials (no matter how good they are) is going to fix it.  Somethimes the only loving thing to be done is to confront the evil head on, and not allow it to do any more harm.  This is the kind of love that God showed for us. No appeasement to the way things were. No, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” No desire to get along by letting things slide. Instead He took it upon himself to come down to this battleground in the flesh and stand in the breach. In love He choose the path of love that led Him to pay the ultimate price in defeating evil. In love He chose to give up His life in the battle that would set us free from sin, grant us victory over death and evil. In love He waged a war. In love He fought and He died and He rose again so that He might lead His people to do the same.

John 15:12-14a  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends”

And this, I think, is what is missing in so many people’s stundted understanding of war and peace, and the remembering of our veterans. They did not do it (most of them) to glory in war. They didn’t do it out of hatred … but out of love. Love for you and me and all who were (or are) oppressed. Love for Canada.  Those blessed men and women loved enough to lay their life upon the line. They loved enough to say “enough is enough” in the face of evil. They loved … and for so many of them they lost … all so that you and I might gain the freedom and security we now take for granted. And I can think of no greater love to put in my heart, as I remember their sacrifice for me, than a love like theirs … a love like our saviour’s … A love that is willing to lay down my life for someone else.