November 27, 2007

Looking Ahead to December 2, 2007 -- 1st Sunday of Advent

The Scripture readings for this week all come from the book of Isaiah:
  • Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Isaiah 11:1-10

The hymns for this week are:

  • Advent Hope (insert)
  • #2 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
  • #9 People Look East
  • #481 Sent Forth by God’s Blessing
The theme for this week is Christmas is waiting and hope.

Early thoughts/teasers: What are we waiting for? Is our waiting marked by hope? Anxiety? Fear?

Waiting seems to fill a large portion of our lives. We wait for Dr appointments, we wait for our children, we wait for holidays. We wait and wait and wait.

But in Advent we talk about a different type of waiting. In Advent we wait for the world to be changed. Just read those Isaiah passages, they are certainly talking about a changed world.

So what are the changes we look for? Peace instead of war/violence. Justice, a just society (to use Trudeau's term), where all have what they need. And certainly here in Northwestern Ontario we are waiting for good economic news.

But how do we wait? When we desperately want, nay need, the world to change how do we wait? IS it passive, letting things come to us? Is it actively trying to make a difference? Is it a waiting with overtones of "it will never come" or is it expectant "any day now"?

Advent calls us to wait with hope instead of despair. Faith calls us to trust in the promise expressed best by Julian of Norwich 600 years ago: "All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things be well". We wait for the changing of the world in ways big and small. We wait for peace, for justice, for good news, for the announcement of liberation and salvation for all people.

The challenge is to be hope-filled and non-anxious while we wait.

November 19, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 25, 2007 -- Reign of Christ Sunday

This week we mark the end of the liturgical year. Next Sunday we start again with the first Sunday of Advent.

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Jeremiah 23:1-6
  • Responsive Reading: Luke 1:68-79 (VU p. 900)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 23:33-43

The hymns this week are:

  • 378 Spirit of God
  • MV #162 Christ Within Us Hidden (insert)
  • 213 Rejoice the Lord is King
  • 1 O Come, O Come Emmanuel (verses 1-7)

The Sermon title is Gathering God's Sheep

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to talk about the Reign of God? What sort of leadership model is that? WHat are the expectations of leaders?

Probably the best place to start thie week is Ralph Milton's reflections from his weekly e-mail newsletter Rumours (to subscribe send a blank e-mail here):

Jeremiah 23:1-6 - It's helpful to know that the prophet Jeremiah was writing about his own people in his own time. It's about Israel's scattered flock and the hope that they'd be all gathered together and would live in peace under another king like the great David.
It's interesting that Jeremiah accused the politicians of his day of being responsible for the mess they were in. And of course we now do the same thing.

One of the favorite little games us old fogies enjoy is called, "Ain't It Awful?" The winner of this game if never announced but it is always understood. It's the person who can attribute the most heinous action to the highest level politician. Or church leader. Or organizational leader. Whatever.

The game of "Ain't It Awful" is usually followed by a round or two of the game called, "If Only." This is when we prescribe the solutions to the world's problems - solutions that never fail because they are never tried. If only those folks in high office would ask me, I could tell them exactly how to deal with this mess.

What is never mentioned, or at least would be hotly denied, is that we get exactly the kind of leaders we deserve.
So here, now, in 2007, as we live in the now and the not yet of the reign of God what does this passage say to us? Where is the good news here?

The good news is in that promise in verse 4"I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord". Jeremiah reminds the people that there will be a new king, a new shepherd for the people. This shpeherd will be a good protector, a good guide He will not lead the people astray, unlike the former shepherds (kings) of Judah.

Those of us who live in the faith of Easter see in this a reference to the coming of the Messiah. Christ, we believe, is the Good Shepherd. Christ is the branch of David who will bring safety and peace to the people of God.

THis weekend as we prepare to end one year and start a new we mark the Reign of Christ, that time which is now as we live in the light/shadow of Easter and is also yet to come as we know that we do not live in that time of peace and justice that which is promised. We also start to prepare for ADvent, for teh coming of the baby in the manger and for the coming again of God into our world and our lives. We continue to live in the hope for the Good Shpeherd who will come to guide and lead and protect. WE also live in the knowledge that we have a responsibility to be that shepherd's servants and helpers.

How does that live out? Come on Sunday and we will explore it a bit more.

HArding Concert

Last night Riverview played host to An Evening of Singing with Bruce and Cheryl Harding. Expand the post for some pictures.

November 15, 2007

Advent Worship

In just a few weeks (two in fact) it will be ADvent. Advent is the season when we prepare for Christmas and is celebrated on the 4 Sundays prior to Christmas Day. THis is what our worship themes will be this year:

Advent 2007
Christmas is…

1st Sunday December 2 – Christmas is waiting and hope
Character (story or monologue) Isaiah & Unemployed person
-Isaiah 2:1-5
-Isaiah 35:1-10
-Isaiah 11:1-10

2nd Sunday December 9 – Christmas is life-changing
Character (story or monologue) Mary & modern Mary
-Luke 1:47-55
-Luke 1:26-46

3rd Sunday December 16 – Christmas is carols and children
Pageant Sunday, White Gifts

4th Sunday December 23 – Christmas is chaos and calm
Character (story or monologue) Joseph & modern parent
-Isaiah 7:10-16
-Matthew 1:18-25
-Genesis 1: 1-2, 31-2:3

Christmas Eve – Christmas is light in the darkness
Character (story or monologue) yet to be determined
-Isaiah 9:2-7
-Luke 2:1-14
-Luke 2:15-20
-John 1:1-4
-Genesis 1:1-4

November 13, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 18, 2007 -- 25th Sunday After Pentecost

This Sunday will be our "Favourite Hymns" Service

The Scripture Passages this week are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Exodus 15:19-21
  • Psalm 96 (VU p.816)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Colossians 3:12-17

THere are lots of hymns this week. Look for the list in the expanded post.

The Meditation is called Sing to the Lord, Sing out New Song.

Early Thoughts:Why do we sing? Why do we sing what we sing?

If you ask many people what their favourite part of church services are they are likely to say "the music". People are far morelikely to remember a hymn they really like (or really dislike) than a favourite sermon (despite what ministers might like to believe).

We sing in church because people are inherently musical, all cultures have music. We sing in church because Scripture encourages, nay commands, us to sing. WE sing our joys and we sing our laments. WE sing our way through the faith story -- in fact more people learn the Christmas story through carols than through reading the Scriptural text. WE sing to remind us of God active in our lives, to remind us of God's hopes for the world, to remind us of our obligation to respond to God's call. For many of us music is simply part of our faith life.

Where the question gets clouded is when we ask what do we sing. Do we only sing the old favourites or preference the new songs? How do we choose what is "singable"? Well we sing both old an new (remembering that every old favourite was once a new piece. We look at the words and at the music. Sometimes we let go of an old favourite because the words don't have meaning for us anymore. Sometimes we can change the words a little bit and still sing it. Sometimes new words can be sung to familiar tunes. And of course wometimes we need to stretch ourselves a bit and learn music that is different.

This Sunday we will sing some old favourites and listen to some new ones. We will also think about what it means to hear the call to sing, sing a song.

ANd now here is what we will sing:

  • 315 Holy Holy Holy
  • MV #2 Uyai Mose (a new favourite, sung 4x a cappella)
  • 365 Jesus Loves Me
  • This Little Light of Mine (see insert)
  • 380 She Flies On (chorus at beginning, after verses 2, 4, & 5)
  • Old Rugged Cross (see insert)
  • In the Garden (see insert)
  • 703 In the Bulb There Is a Flower
  • There Is Power in the Blood (see insert)
  • 670 Precious Lord, Take My Hand
  • 675 Will Your Anchor Hold

And we will listen to these new favourites from More Voices

  • #8 And On This Path
  • #3 River
  • #223 Sizohamba Naye


November 11, 2007

A Dialogue SErmon For Nov 11

This was offered this morning at the Legion service.

Why Celebrate War?
A Dialogue Sermon for Remembrance Day
Royal Canadian Legion Branch #145
Atikokan ON

Gord: Greg! Greg! Time to go to the Remembrance Day service! Why aren’t you ready yet?
Greg: Because I’m not going.
Gord: Not going? But you always said you liked the Remembrance Day service?
Greg: Well I just don’t get it. Why do we make such a fuss?
Gord: I don’t understand. You know what Remembrance Day is right?
Greg: Yeah, we get together at the same time on the same day that World War 1 ended to remember the war and the people who fought in it.
Gord: That’s right.
Greg: But most of those people are dead now. I mean they aren’t there anymore, why can’t we just all sleep in?
Gord: Well do we only gather for their benefit? Or do we do it for us too?
Greg: I don’t get it.
Gord: IF we only had ceremonies on Remembrance Day to say thanks to those people who went to war, or to let them remember their friends then yeah, we would stop doing them soon. But I think we celebrate Remembrance Day for other reasons too. What do you think those might be?
Greg: I don’t know, to celebrate heroes?
Gord: That is one thing. But more than that, we celebrate Remembrance Day to remind us of the reality and the possibility of war.
Greg: What do you mean?
Gord: Well a long time ago a man named George Santayana said that people who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. We pause to remember war in the hopes that we can avoid it happening again.
Greg: Doesn’t look like that is working very well. You sure that Santayana guy wasn’t a teacher reminding kids to study?
Gord: Well your right, we do seem to have trouble avoiding wars. You know, they called World War 1 the “war to end all wars”, that’s how disturbing they found it. But unfortunately the name didn’t come true. Still we pray that one of the wars will be the last one. You ready to go to the service yet?
Greg: Not quite, I still have a few questions. Like why do we talk about celebrating this day? I mean you hear all sorts of stories about heroes and great things people did during the wars, doesn’t it make it seem like we are celebrating the war? I thought we were supposed to work for peace?
Gord: That is a good question, or set of questions. Firstly, talking about celebrating the day means more that we find some way to make it special. IT doesn’t mean a celebration like a birthday or Christmas.
Greg: If you say so. But I know there are usually donuts.
Gord: Your question about celebrating the war is harder. I have heard a lot of people ask that over the years. And you are right, we are supposed to pray for peace. In fact in church we often talk about how God’s plan is for all people to live together peacefully.
Greg: Oh, like that story about the wolf and the lamb and the little baby with the snake den.
Gord: Well really it is a prophecy not a story but yes that’s right. So one of the things I always do on Remembrance Day is pray for peace. Sometimes I use a lot of words but sometimes just two simple words the Legion has used in some of the videos they have produced over the years – Never Again.
Greg: OH, so we remember the people who went to war, we say thank-you to them, but we also remember that war is a terrible thing and promise to work for peace?
Gord: You got it! Ready to go?
Greg: Not quite. There are just 2 more things I don’t understand.
Gord: OK, what?
Greg: Well I had always thought that only the “other guys” did really bad things during the war but last year I heard people talking about Canadians doing some not so good things. How do we remember those sorts of things?
Gord: Well that is part of being honest with ourselves about what war means. Have you ever heard the saying “the winners write history”? (Greg nods) Well if we are serious about working for peace we need to write that history carefully. The fact is that by many standards all countries do things they wish they hadn’t or at least wish they hadn’t had to do during a war. Along the same line, I have always believed that Remembrance Day was for remembering all the people who died in a war, not just our own soldiers. We have to remember soldiers on both sides and also those people who just got caught living in the wrong place, and those people who were left at home. WE have to remember the whole story, and that might help us remember how important it is to avoid war again.
Greg: That makes sense. But I still don’t think I want to go to the service.
Gord: Why now?
Greg: Well I keep thinking about what is happening now in Afghanistan. Doesn’t it seem strange to worry about people fighting almost 100 years ago while Canadians are fighting right now?
Gord: Well sort of. But of course we remember them too, and the ones who have been killed in Afghanistan. And even though some of us question whether they should even be there we still need to find ways to remember them, to thank them for being willing, and to pray that they get home safely. All of those things can be part of Remembrance Day too. You see, over the years we focus on different things as the world changes. In the first few years it was a time for people to remember friends and relatives who had died in the war. Then it was a little bit farther away. And now for a lot of us it is a chance to remember our history and to remember the troubles of the present and to hope for the future.
Greg: I think I understand now. And I guess I can go to the service.
Gord: Good to hear. We need young people to keep remembering when the older folks are gone. We should never forget the pledge to be people of peace. Remembering what happens when we go to war is an important part of that.

November 06, 2007

Looking Ahead to November 11, 2007 -- 24th Sunday After Pentecost, Remembrance Day

This Sunday our worship service will be at 7:00 pm not 10:30 am as usual. This is to allow people to attend the Legion service in the morning.

The Scripture Readings for this Sunday are:

  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Isaiah 11:1-9
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Romans 12:18-21
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 5:9, 43-47

The Hymns for this Sunday are:

  • Evening is Here Now (see insert)
  • 443 God, We Pray at this Beginning
  • Let There be Peace on Earth (see insert)
  • 433 Day is Done

This Sunday we also celebrate the sacrament of Baptism.

The meditation is titled United for Peace

Early Thoughts: As we remember the war where do we see ourselves going? What does it mean to be called to be peacemakers?

This Sunday is Remembrance Day. On this day we pause to remember those who died in the many wars of the 20th century and the first few years of the 21st century. But what do we do with that? Scripture makes it plain that we look forward to a time when all will live in peace. It is also clear that we have a role in making that happen.

At the last couple meetings of General Council the United Church was challenged on the issue of investing in Israel and Palestine. What role do our investment choices have in promoting peace or continuing the causes of conflict? Partly out of those discussions the United Church is launching a two year campaign called United for Peace. If you follow the link you can learn more about this campaign.

This Sunday we will lift up some of the issues around being peacemakers and peace-bringers. This is something we do in big and small ways. On this Sunday as we welcome a child into God's family it seems appropriate to talk about making the world a more peaceful place for our children to grow up in.

November 05, 2007

UCW Bazaar

The Annual UCW Bazaar took place last weekend. Expand for some pictures.

Tables all set up

MMMM, Baking

Busy Busy

November 04, 2007

Covenant or Contract?

A few years ago I was asked to do a dialogue sermon for our Conference Annual meeting. As I was going through files today I found it and thought it was worth sharing.

Covenant or Contract?
A Dialogue Sermon for Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Conference Celebration of Ministry Service: May 29, 2005
Written by: Rev. Gord Waldie
May 2005

Scripture Passages:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
1 Corinthians 12:4-13
John 15:9-16

Base Concept:
Person in Paid Accountable Ministry meeting with new chair of Ministry and Personnel Committee to discuss M&P issues. The conversation is side-tracked when the M&P chair, who works in HR professionally, asks about the employment contract and conditions of the P.A.M. They then discuss how the church envisions the relationship between the “minister” and the congregation in terms of shared responsibility and ministry.

(Note: G = ministry person (Gord) and E = M&P Chair (Elvin).

Scene opens with G sitting at a desk working. There is a knock on the door.
G: (looks up) Hello? Oh Elvin, nice to see you. Is it 10:30 already?? Come in, come in.

E: (enters carrying a file folder) I think I might be a little bit early. I can wait a moment if you are busy.

G: Oh no problem, I was just reading through the workbook for the Conference AGM, nothing that can’t wait. Actually, just between you and me, it seems that it might be best to save for bedtime reading.

E: I know what you mean. I have seen many things like that for meetings.

G: Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about the M&P committee and to thank you for taking on the chair. As you know, Personnel stuff is vitally important work, but it is also very confusing at times. Did you get a chance to read through the M&P Handbook I gave you?

E: Yes I did, and the M&P files from the office. They were very helpful in letting me figure out what exactly this committee does. But there are a few things that I am confused about.

G: I thought there might be. M&P work isn’t exactly like Human Resources work but it is close. So what are your questions?

E: Well the first is this line from the beginning of the Handbook. It talks about “being in ministry together”. I thought you were the Minister. What does it mean?

G: (shuffling papers) Well, now, maybe this will help. See, here on the bulletin each week where it says “Ministers: The Congregation, Enabling Minister: Rev Gord Waldie”? Well that is because we recognize that the work of the church isn’t just done by one person. All of us work together to make the church grow. All of us are part of a relationship, we call it a covenant, where we promise to work together.

E: “Enabling Minister” If you are our enabler doesn’t that make us co-dependent?

G: (chuckles) Not really, but it does mean that we are interdependent. Churches need many
things to run smoothly. They need people who are good with money and numbers, people who are good with children, people who paint the windowsills and all sorts of other things. Even if I was good at all those things, which I’m not, there is no way that I could do it all. Part of my role here is to help people discover what they can do as a part of the church and encourage or help them as best as I can. Maybe Empowering is a better word than enabling.

E: Hey, is that what you meant last week when you were talking about how we are all part of one body? I thought it was about spiritual gifts.

G: Well Paul does talk about spiritual gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues on but later he goes on to talk about the church as a body. He suggests that if all of us were an eye we wouldn’t get very far in life. So yeah, that is why we talk about being in ministry together. So that we all do a bit of the work, eyes, ears, feet, hands. And while my title might be The Minister, really I am one of many.

E: But aren’t you in charge?

G: (laughing) I Wish! Actually the congregation and the Board are “in charge” if anyone is. We try to understand what path God has laid out for us and follow it but it is tempting to find a path we like better sometimes. You know, Jesus told his followers that he didn’t see them as servants but as friends. I think that is helpful to remember when we try to run the church. No one person is in charge and no one is the servant. We are all friends trying to work together. (pauses) Actually I don’t think that any of us is really “in charge”. The congregation, the Presbytery and I are all part of a covenant. The congregation appoints a committee, the M&P committee, to work with me and help set goals, talk about how things are going and so on. But I don’t really work FOR them. Part of the time I work FOR Presbytery, not only at meetings but in helping to represent the wider church to the congregation. My best guess is that I work for the church as a whole but most of that work is focussed in working with this congregation.

E: OK, I think I am starting to see what you mean. We pay your salary but you really work with us, not for us. You enable us to be a part of the church.

G: Well I think that God is a part of it too. A big part of being the church is trying to understand what God is saying to us. In fact God is a part of that covenant I just talked about. But basically that is what I mean. What else were you wondering about?

E: Well I found a signed contract for the secretary, and for the organist, and for the cleaning service. But I couldn’t find one for you? Don’t you have a contract?

G: Can I see that file? (shuffles through it, pulls out a page) Here, this is what is called a call form. It lists things like salary, vacation and study time, housing allowance. It is pretty much a contract. And somewhere in there should be a copy of the Joint Needs Assessment report. It included a position description.

E: Yeah I saw both of those but they don’t aren’t as clear as I think a contract should be. But I guess there are lots of ways people get hired.

G: Yes, the church sometimes isn’t as clear as we would like. But there is another point to raise. Although we agreed to those terms of employment when I was called (actually a lot of them are minimums set by National Church Policy) I don’t really work just under that contract. We work together in a covenant relationship.

E: You keep using that word, covenant. What do you mean?

G: A covenant is, well it is sort of hard to describe. A covenant is a way of working together. It is sort of like a marriage in some ways. Each party to the covenant makes promises about how they will behave and what they will (or won’t) do, just like the vows at a marriage ceremony. Actually it is a term that is used a lot in the Bible. God makes a covenant with Noah, and with Abraham, and with Moses. Jesus spoke of his followers as being part of a new covenant. Actually, I think Jesus was thinking about the prophet Jeremiah when he said that. Jeremiah talked about a covenant that wouldn’t be written on stone tablets or on scrolls but would be written on people’s hearts.

E: What do all these stories have to do with how we run the church though? I mean I understand why it is important to tell them and why it is important to talk about God’s promises and our promises to God. But when it comes to employment wouldn’t you rather have a hard and fast contract instead of this loose covenant thing? At least a contract would hold up in court.

G: In some ways you are certainly right. When things go sour it would be nice to have things a little bit more cut and dried. But unfortunately that doesn’t always work in the church. When we talk about the arrangement between a congregation and a minister we are really talking about a relationship. In fact when the time comes a minister doesn’t quit or get fired, but either the minister or the congregations asks Presbytery for a “change in Pastoral Relationship”. The best way I have found to describe it is like a marriage. And another thing, in any marriage things change as the relationship develops. The same thing happens in this covenant. Over time the position description will develop and evolve as the needs of the congregation change. That is easier to do when things are not cast in stone.

E: That sounds like a bizarre way to talk about someone’s job. How are conflicts worked out?

G: That really depends on the people involved. But for me, that is where that idea of a marriage helps. A covenant is a set of promises we make to each other. When a couple comes into problems we hope that those promises will support them, the same thing happens in a church. We remember that we promised to work together through our difficulties. When that happens a contract can be helpful in reminding us of what our legal and moral obligations are (what my salary and position description are for example) but the love and promises of the covenant are what help us to keep trying. At least that is the ideal.

E: Is that what you mean about the covenant being written on our hearts? I know that is how I feel about my wedding vows. They are a part of who I am now. They are part of how I run my life.

G: Exactly!

E: You know, as you talk about this I can see how this covenant ties in with that idea of us all being in ministry together.

G: I think it does, actually I think it is integral. But how do you see it?

E: Well, if we hired you and signed a contract it would be really easy to look at your job description and say that you do the ministry and we don’t. But when we make these promises to each other then we all have a stake in making sure they get lived out. The promises push us to take a bigger part in helping the church thrive, or even survive.

G: I agree. And don’t forget that these promises are made in a worship service. So God is part of our covenant. The book of Ecclesiastes talks about a threefold cord that is not easily broken. If the covenant promises had to rely on all of us as people then it would be easy to see how they would never work. But with God as the third strand in the cord we add strength and stability. I use that passage a lot in weddings.

E: So let’s see if I have this straight. We pay you but the ministry is done by all of us. We have agreed to some conditions of employment, like a contract, but really your work with us is guided by a set of promises we make to each other. And we include God in those promises to help when we don’t feel that we can live up to them by ourselves.

G: That just about covers it. It may seem confusing but I am sure that with time you will see both the strengths and weaknesses of the way we do things.

E: I sure hope there are some strengths. It seems like an awfully silly way to have people’s employment handled to me. But then I guess that the church doesn’t always have to do things the way everyone else does them.

G: And that is a good thing. Amen.

Bill Remembers -- A Story/Sermon

This is a story I have used on a few Remembrance Days...

Bill Remembers
First written for Remembrance Day 1999

Remembrance Day was always very important to Bill. He always made it into a week long event by visiting with schools, Cub packs, Brownie groups, Sunday School classes and so on. But that is the end of the story. To understand why Bill did this we need to go back to the beginning, in this case the beginning is in 1941 when Bill was only 10 or 11.

Bill was the youngest of 8 children. His idol and best friend was his oldest brother Sam. Sam was twelve years older than Bill. In 1941 he was starting out on his own with a job and had just gotten engaged to be married. But, Canada was at war and Bill and Sam came from a family which put a high importance on serving one’s country. So Sam decided that he would join the army. Sam went off to basic training. After his training Sam came back home to be married. It was a time of great excitement. Sam got on the train for Halifax shortly after his wedding; from there he was going to get on a ship that would take him to England. Sam and Bill were both excited, Sam promised that he would bring back souvenirs and tell Bill all about the places he got to see. Bill was jealous but he was still too young to join the army.

For the first few months Bill got lots of letters from Sam who was training and drilling in England. There were a lot of rumours going around town that there was going to be an invasion of France soon but nobody knew for sure. Sam was also telling Bill all about the sights of England, he was able to visit the town where their grandfather had been born and meet with cousins who were still in England. Then the summer came and the letters didn’t come as often. Sam was busy but he couldn’t tell Bill what he was doing. One day in late August Bill was outside working in the garden when some men came over to visit. Bill didn’t recognize them but he just waved and kept on working. But as he worked he was suddenly hit with the sense that something was wrong. Bill walked towards the house and as he got closer he could hear his mother crying so he started to run. When Bill got inside his mom and dad were in the front room with the visitors.

"Bill, come here for a moment" his father called. Bill went in and saw his mom crying and everyone looked very serious, his dad looked like he was crying too. Bill sat down. "Bill," said his dad, "These men have come to give us news about Sam." Bill looked at the men and suddenly felt very sick. "They have?" he asked. "Yes," his dad said taking a deep breath, "Bill, Sam’s unit was part of a force that was sent to invade a French port town named Dieppe. Unfortunately Sam’s unit ran into a German convoy in the English Channel. Sam’s boat was sunk before they got to shore. Bill, Sam is dead." Bill couldn’t believe this. Sam was supposed to go, have great adventures, collect some souvenirs, and come back. He wasn’t supposed to die. Bill couldn’t handle any more. He ran out of the house and hid in the garden shed for the rest of the day.

Time went by and the war came to an end. The men who had gone off to fight started to come home. As they returned, Bill would go and visit with them. Some of them came back missing an arm or a leg or blind. Some of them had been wounded but had healed with only the scars to show. Some of them had never been hit but certainly weren’t the same people on the inside. Bill would ask each of them about what had happened. Many of them had trouble talking about it but from the people who could talk about it Bill learned far more than he ever wanted to know. He heard of the horrors of an artillery bombardment, of the terror of running ashore at the landings in Normandy or Sicily, of the sickening stench of mud and blood and decaying flesh. Finally Bill stopped asking.

Some years later, Canada was again at war. This time it was in a place that Bill had never heard of, a place called Korea. Bill wanted to honour his brother’s memory so he enlisted and went over to fight. Bill actually did not see a lot of fighting but what he saw changed him forever. When he got back Bill dedicated himself to making sure that people did not forget the lessons he and so many others had learned.

He organized the local Remembrance Day celebrations; he made sure that the schools had people come to visit, he told his story whenever he could. As time went by this became more important to him. He could see that the younger children had a hard time understanding Remembrance Day because the war wasn’t real to them. Their experience of war was something in movies and games played on the playground. Bill did all he could to tell them what war really was. But there was something missing, something he knew he needed to do.

Several years after coming back from Korea Bill started going to church again. He had stopped after Sam was killed because it didn’t seem to matter. And then as he grew older he found that the church was important. As he went to church and read the Bible Bill began to get a picture of how God wanted the world to look. God’s plan wasn’t for people to fight; God wanted people to live together in peace. This struck home to Bill and he realized what he had been forgetting in his work around Remembrance Day. He had been forgetting to stress the importance that this never happened again.

So he began to teach this to the children he met. He began to work for peace in his community, to lead protests against nuclear weapons, to call for more peaceful solutions to conflicts within his town, his country and across the world. So it was with sadness that he read of battles being fought in Cyprus, in Israel and Egypt, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Afghanistan, and so on. With each new crisis he strengthened his call for other alternatives. This, he realized, was what Remembrance Day was for. Not only to remember but also to prevent. "Never Again", he said, "Never again can we allow the price of human life to be worth so little as to send young men off to fight and die."

So now, each year Bill still helps to organize the Remembrance Day service, he still goes into the schools and churches and youth groups. He tells them about Sam, about the neighbours who came back from the war, about Korea, and he tells them that they have the power and the responsibility to change the world. And each year, in the afternoon of November 11 Bill returns to the cenotaph. Everyone else has gone home, all that remains of the service are the poppies and wreaths placed around the memorial. And Bill walks up to the cenotaph and reads the names carved into its face. He reaches out a wrinkled old hand and rubs his fingers across the bumps that spell out Sam’s name. With tears filling his eyes Bill drops to his knees and begins to pray for peace and for the loss of his brother and friends.

THe Dreams -- A Remembrance Story/Sermon

When I preach at the LEgion on November 11 I usually use a story. Here is one from 2005

The Dreams
Remembrance Day 2005

“Stop IT! Stop IT! For God’s Sake STOP!” screamed Marilyn as she sat bolt upright out of a sound sleep. Instinctively she reached out, searching for her helmet. Instead she found her husband, rolling over to comfort her.

“It was just a dream, just a dream. You’re home now” he said, stroking her hair softly.

“Mama, mama, what’s wrong?” came a small voice as young Joel ran into the room.

“Mommy had another bad dream” Marilyn said, breathing deeply.

“Time to get ready to go to the service anyway, why don’t you and daddy go down and start breakfast.” she suggested.

“And make sure great-grandpa is awake too”. After they had left Marilyn sat still for a moment.

When would the dreams stop? It had been a year since she had returned from her Peacekeeping mission but still she kept hearing gunfire and seeing angry people in her head. Even worse were the visions of blood and mangled bodies from a bombing, or a mine explosion. When would it all stop?

When Marilyn got down to the kitchen everybody else was already eating. She looked over at her grandfather, resplendent in his Legion blazer and bar of medals on his chest. She knew how important this day was for him every year. “Did the dreams come again dear?” he asked gently.

“Yes” Marilyn said sadly. “Grandpa, when do they stop? When do I get to sleep again”

“I don’t know”, he said thoughtfully. “I still get them once in a while. I wake up convinced I am back in Italy with the guns blazing. But they don’t come as often, a little less often each year.”

Young Joel couldn’t contain himself. “Why do you cry so much mommy? Aren’t you happy to be back?” Marilyn tried to answer but the words just weren’t there. Instead she reached out and wrapped Joel in her arms, tears streaming down her face.

It was Great-Grandpa Joel who answered. “Your mommy is very happy to be home Joel. But sometimes there are things that happen that we can’t leave behind us very easily.”

“You mean like when you were in the war” asked Joel, fighting to free himself from his mother’s arms.

“Yes,” said the older Joel. “Even though I came home 60 years ago I still cry when I think about those days and remember the friends I made, and the friends who never came back.”

“Is that why we are going to the cenotaph today?” asked the child. “My teacher says that today is a special day when we remember everyone who fought in the wars.”

“That’s right”, said the older man. “Each year I stand there and remember all those things. It hurts, it hurts a lot sometimes.”

“But if it hurts why do you do it?” young Joel asked.

“Because I have to. Because if we don’t remember then we don’t learn.” came the reply.

Young Joel thought about that for a moment. “Learn what?” he asked.

“That war is a terrible thing.” his great-grandpa replied.

“Did you kill people in the war” the young boy asked.

JOEL!” his father said, trying to shush him.

“No, it’s okay,” the veteran replied. “Yes Joel, I am sure that I did. But I don’t like to think about that. I saw a lot of people get killed and hurt too.”

“Is that what you see when your have the dreams?”

“Yes, that is a part of it.”

“But my mom didn’t go to war. She promised she wasn’t going to war. Why does she have such bad dreams?” This time Joel’s eyes were filling with tears. “I don’t like it when she cries, or screams at night.

Marilyn tried to answer but couldn’t, her voice suddenly disappeared, so the old veteran spoke again. “Your mom did something very hard Joel. She went to a place where people were fighting and stood in between them. WE call that being a peacemaker. Canadians have done a lot of it over the years, in fact it was a Canadian that came up with the idea.”

Young Joel tried to understand, “so they go to make people stop fighting?” he asked.

“Well, sort of.” Great-grandpa replied. “But sometimes the people are so mad that they still try to hurt each other. Then people like your mom and her friends get caught in the middle.”

“Oh” said Joel, “that was very brave mama.”

Marilyn smiled. “Thank you sweetheart. But I was just doing my job.”

Suddenly young Joel looked very confused, “Last Sunday my Sunday School teacher told me that war is a bad thing. Why did so many people do a bad thing?” he asked. For a moment nobody said anything as all the adults tried to come up with an answer. Then Old Joel sighed heavily.

“Your teacher was right Joel. War is a very very very bad thing. But sometimes we have to do bad things because to not do them would be worse.”

Now Joel was really confused. “That doesn’t make sense”, he said. “Either you do the right thing or the wrong thing.”

“Well,” his great grandfather said, “that is usually right. But sometimes we have to choose what is less wrong. People call that choosing between two evils. Have you ever heard a story about wolves lying down with lambs?” The boy nodded. “Well that comes from the Bible, it is talking about how God would like us to live, how God wants even old enemies to learn how to be together without fighting. Until we learn how to do that there will still be times when people like your mom and I have to go and see terrible things.”

Young Joel thought about this for a moment. Then he looked deep into the old man’s eyes and asked, “Great-grandpa, are you sorry you went to war?”

The old man’s face paled for a moment. “No, I don’t think I am sorry I went.” he said slowly. “I am just sorry that I had to go.”

Joel looked at his mom. “And are you sorry you went away mama?”

“I think I would say the same as grandpa dear. I went because I had to; I just wish nobody ever had to.”

Joel looked at his mom, and then at his great-grandfather, then back at his mom. “I think you are both really brave” he said, “and I think it is good you did what you had to do. And I really hope we can get a pet wolf and a pet lamb to live together sometime really soon. I hope people will stop killing each other and maybe then mama’s dreams will go away.”

“I hope so too honey,” said Marilyn, “I hope so too.” “Come on, it’s almost time to leave for the service.”

'Tis the Season for Remembrance

Remembrance Day is quickly approaching. And so we bring you this video...

The story behind the song, links to audio only versions (and links to the video) as well as the lyrics and melody can be found here