I was invited to take an ANZAC day service at a local retirement village care facility.
It is hard to know how to speak at ANZAC day. I have always been drawn to stories of daring, courage and bravery. War stories of men and women who have put them selves in harms way and made the ultimate sacrifice for what they believe in, for the sake of country out of duty, and for an over-arching hope and vision of peace when conflict and tyranny has been opposed and defeated.
But at the same time I am aware of the great cost and tragedy. Death and the pain and sorrow and suffering that those who serve in war and armed conflict and experience war suffer. There are not many of us who it has not touched. I was born in 1963 which makes me the last of the baby bom generation, those whose parents served in world war two, both my father and mother served during that war. My father in the Airforce and my mother as a WAAF, neither saw action. I have a grandfather, whom I never met who was wounded at Passchendaele, on that darkest of day for New Zealand troops. I have an uncle who both received a field promotion and was injured and invalided home at the battle of El Alamein in 1942. In a parish I served in in Tauranga one of the men who came back from world war two always told his wife he had been overseas during the war and had seen enough and simply wanted to stay home. It was only towards the end of his life he talked of being in the artillery and knowing that every time he pulled the rope and fired his weapon that it meant death and destruction and it still hurt and haunted him. Another acquaintance was a child during the blitz in London and is instantly transported back to that time when she hears the thunder and lightning on a stormy night. For many of you the people and the scares are closer. Our returned service men and women from modern battlefields speak of wounds that don’t bled and the deep scares within them.
The passage from Isaiah speaks of the hope of peace and prosperity and justice and righteousness that the reign of God would bring to our hurting and suffering world. A hope for the end of war and its practise fading from memory. Our Gospel reading speaks of the great sacrificial love that Jesus showed by laying down his life for his sheep. A gospel hope for peace with God and the reconciliation of human beings together in the Kingdom of God. Today we remember a similar sacrifice and hold a similar hope. We remember the sacrifice of those who died in war and in the process peace keeping and we say that we will not forget them. Maybe the best way to do that is the work of peace. Peace at a personal level as we forgive one another and look to love one another as Christ loved us. On a community level as we seek to resolve conflict, injustice and oppression with compassion and commitment to justice. On a societal scale as we are willing to speak and act to resolve and to mend, to reconcile and come together. So our children will not know the pain and sorrow that our parents and grandparents have known.