Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent

Luke 21
29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Looking around, I think all the generations are here.

The G.I. Generation, you know who you are, you stormed across Europe, defeated tyranny, and laid the groundwork for modern Canada. Your quote is from Marshall McLuhan, who said “on spaceship earth, there are no passengers, only crew.”

The Silent Generation, you know who you are, you remember the Dirty Thirties, you watched your older brothers and sisters go off to war, and you came of age when no was was embarrassed to have a V8 under the hood. Your quote is from Bobby Kennedy, who said “I was the seventh of nine children. When you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive.”

Baby Boomers, you know who you are. You were going to change the world, and for a time it seemed you did. Then the 60’s became the 70’s and you got on like the rest. Your quote is from Timothy Leary who suggested you “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

Generation X, you know who you are. You have lived in the shadow of the outsized cohort ahead of you, and have generally made do with less: less money, less opportunity, less hype. Your quote is from Douglas Coupland: “I want to hear some small moment from your life that proves you're really alive.”

Millennials, we’re not sure who you are, yet. You seem idealistic like your Boomer parents, but the world is more complex and the stakes are higher. You will actually live with the consequences of the previous generation’s decisions. You don’t get a quote, only a cool title: “digital natives.”

And then Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Funny thing, generations. In our day, we tend to imagine that generations define us, give shape and meaning to our lives, allow us to understand ourselves in relation to others. We have a sense that generations are somehow fixed, and even as people age they simply become older versions of their caricature.

And what I’ve shared only scratches the surface. Social scientists (like Strauss and Howe) have taken this pattern of generational change and projected it backwards to the Middle Ages, arguing that the same themes (and the corresponding response) exist over the centuries. Everything old is new again.

Yet, a generation can also mean everyone alive at a certain moment. In my summary I didn’t get to Generation Z, that unnamed group born in the last decade. Some are already calling them the “Homeland Generation,” defined by the aftermath of 9/11, but I would suggest that that describes all of us. If generation means shared experience, we all seem to be having one these days.

So it seems that Jesus meant ‘alive at the same moment’ when he said “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” These things are described in some detail in the first part of Luke 21, mostly M for Mature and mostly out of sync with the yuletide mood we try to create in the weeks before the big day.

In many ways, it reaches back to the Sunday we welcomed the Cohenites, and we pondered the ‘world-ending’ nature of baptism. The new life in Christ that we celebrate with water and the Spirit is the same new life that anticipates a new age, except one happens with smiling parents standing by and one happens when the ‘heavenly bodies will be shaken’ and ‘heaven and earth will pass away.’

We have cause to be alarmed, but not for the reasons you think. Part of the alarm we feel comes from the vague sense that we already know about this, that the outline of the end is happening in our time. And even if you haven’t read the Hal Lindsey classic “The Late, Great Planet Earth” or the sequel “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon” you know that some contend we are living in the last times.

Lindsey and others were really just a product of their generation. When the State of Israel was founded in 1948, an entire ‘end of the world’ industry was started, with all the pieces seeming to fall into place. But what they failed to mention was that is is one of those recurring themes through history, with ‘wars and rumours of wars’ being a human constant, along with the threat of an end.

What was underneath “The Late, Great Planet Earth” and the like was the same ‘old-time religion’ that defined the generation before 1948. Citing the end of the world was just a more urgent and sophisticated version of the alter-call, giving your heart to Jesus before it was too late.

And while there is nothing inherently wrong with giving your heart to Jesus before it’s too late, it does point to a worldview that is more concerned with the state of an individual’s soul and less about the Kingdom of God. If we imagine ourselves as a collection of individuals having a common experience (a generation) then we are less able to see ourselves as citizens of the Kingdom, a collective that belongs to God.

Let me explain. Before there were mainline and evangelical churches, we Protestants were mostly one—different traditions—but the same approach to the world. Our task was to reform the nations, and in doing so help bring about the Kingdom of God. The evangelicals broke away, just about a century ago, and decided that each believer was basically on their own, waiting for the final judgment. Somehow they had better PR, since this version of Christianity is better known and seems to live in the popular imagination. When you say to someone “I go to church,” this is the type of church people assume we attend.

I had occasion to hear the theologian N.T. Wright speak this week, and he made a compelling case moving beyond the Christian stereotype and reclaiming our mission to the nations, to find our voice once more and speak to this generation with all the urgency the Gospel demands.

Dr. Wright began his talk with this: “The God who made heaven and earth intends to draw them together at the last.” He argued that the Christian story was never about saved souls making their way to heaven, but the creation of a new Jerusalem here on earth. When Jesus said “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” he was expressing his entire project, that God’s realm and our realm become one.

So how does it begin? Wright argues our story unfolds in five acts. It begins with creation, then disaster as we are forced from the garden, then the call of Israel in two unlikely people—Abraham and Sarah. Next is the sending of Jesus, including his death and resurrection, and finally the time after Pentecost, the time defined by the work of the disciples. According to Wright we are in this last stage, disciples acting for God in the world, seeking to ‘put to rights’ all that is wrong.

And Jesus said: “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Generation Disciple, then, continues down to today. We are in that last age, not in the sense that the world will end and some will get a reward, but in the sense that the ongoing project continues, where the distinction between heaven and earth will pass away, and what will emerge will be the fulfillment of God’s desire for all generations.

So we find ourselves outside of time once more. We are living in the Acts of the Apostles but we are waiting for the Christ to be born. We are Easter people, but we wait for the birth of a Saviour. We are living in the last times, but what follows will be an eternity with God, “on earth, as it is in heaven.” May God bless us as we wait. Amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Reign of Christ Sunday

John 18
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?”

When in doubt, make a list.

It’s my best advice, and it seems to fit every possible situation. Too many things to remember? Make a list. Don’t know where to start? Make a list. Feeling overwhelmed and want to accomplish something? Make a list. In fact, I would put ‘make a list’ at the top of every list and just check it off. ‘Let’s see, make a list.’ Done!

And, of course, you are not alone. Within the church, we are famous for it. Luther’s 95 theses, Wesley’s directions for singing, catechisms of every shape and size, and lists of virtues and vices, things to embrace and things to avoid.

So, for example, there nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5). And there are seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and wonder (Isa 11). Add to this the three theological virtues, known to anyone who has ever attended a wedding (faith, hope and love—1 Cor 13).

Now, our Roman Catholic friends take this to the next level, with seven deadly sins (I’m too lazy to list them, but one is sloth), the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance and courage) and the seven ‘heavenly virtues’ which is simply adding Paul’s wedding virtues to to the four cardinal virtues to get seven.

I think the lesson here is if you find a good list, keep it, and make it your own. The most famous example of this, based on all that I have shared so far, is the four cardinal virtues: cited by the church, shared with the faithful, and stolen from Greeks. We can try to claim them as our own, but it was Plato that said “prudence, justice, temperance and courage” should always be at the top of our list.

Not to be outdone, the Romans had at least eighteen leading virtues, far too many to list. So I’ll give you just three—three that I would commend for daily life in Roman Weston: comitas, meaning ease of manner or openness; gravitas, a sense of the importance of the things we do; and humanitas, being cultured, with a respect for learning. I feel better just thinking about them.

For the Romans, however, the mother of virtue was truth. Literally, the mother of the goddess Virtue was Veritas, or truth. You can see her outside the Supreme Court of Canada, alongside her companion Lady Justice, who surprizingly has no blindfold and no scales, just a sword. But that’s another sermon.

So if truth is the mother of virtue, what can we make of the end of perhaps one of the most famous conversations in history? If the idea of truth was woven into every aspect of being a good Roman, how could Pilate ask the question ‘what is truth?’ We should find out.

Pilate’s words occur, of course, at the end of a very long evening. The evening begins with dinner—the last supper—and continues with Jesus washing the disciples feet. He predicts his betrayal, and begins what scholars call his ‘farewell discourse,’ including the love commandment, the vine and the branches, and his prayer for unity—which happens to make up the motto of our church (‘that all may be one’).

The evening continues with Jesus’ betrayal in the garden, Jesus in the court of the high priest, and finally Jesus before Pilate. This begins with a jurisdictional dispute, with members of the court of the high priest reminding Pilate (as if he could forget) that only he had the power of life and death in Roman Judea. Jesus and Pilate enter debate, with a focus on kingship. And Pilate, hearing enough to draw his conclusion, says “so, you’re a king” and gets this response:

“You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

And to this, Pilate famously says, “What is truth?” This, of course, is the question that has launched a thousand sermons, and a thousand suggestions, everything from speaking in jest (since the trial was such a mockery) to pointing to the hiddenness of absolute truth, something a Roman would love to debate.

“What is truth” may underline Jesus innocence (having been presented the ‘truth’ of his seeming guilt by the Pharisees) or an overall rejection of the truth, something that seemed to be in the air that night.

Or maybe, just maybe, Pilate had gravitas that night, a sense of the importance of the thing he has doing. How would that work? If you had to say one thing about Romans, one thing that defined them, you could say they loved history. History defined them, history informed their actions and their decisions, and history allowed them to put nearly everything that happened into some kind of perspective.

They may not have invented history, that seems to belong to the Greeks, but they made it their own. Education was largely studying the past, learning about the history of gods and goddesses, about the great ones of the past, and even learning the debates of the past. If it was a turning point in the history of Rome (Scipio v Fabius as an example) and someone had a conversation about it, there was a good chance it was added to the curriculum.

The point of this obsession with history was the matter of consequence: your deeds and the way you led your life was your legacy, the way you would be remembered, or as the Romans would say, your monument.* And your monument could be quite literal, something you might see in the Forum, or it could be an office, or a title (Scipio become Africanus). So in some ways, this interest in history was self-interest, trying to understand history was to understand your place in it.

And monument building, being remembered in some manner, was fairly formalized or at least commonly understood. First, you would always remain mindful of being in the public eye, even if you were simply living your life in your own neighbourhood (vicus). Next, you never lost the sense that you were being evaluated, measured against that list of eighteen virtues.

Next, you could expect that a monument would be formalized: again, a reputation, a name, even a statue. And finally, this monument would be a lesson for others: something to inspire similar action on the part of the audience, or a cautionary tale, and example to avoid at all cost. This four-part movement or action-evaluation-commemoration-lesson was in the mind of every good Roman, and in the mind of Pilate that day.

The action, being used by the mob to defeat a threat to the established religious order, was completely fraught with peril. The city and the province were always on the cusp of rebellion, always ready to erupt into violence, so Pilate’s first task was to keep the peace (pax). Already, the truth of the matter at hand was in question, since the justice was compromised by the need to keep order.

The evaluation, the knowledge that Pilate would be judged for his decisions, was top-of-mind. Historians were the journalists of the Roman world, and he know that his decisions were being chronicled for consumption back home. His monument, a perpetual association with this and every situation was accepted as a given, but that this stage the monument was ambiguous: savior of Roman Palestine or the man who washed his hands?

And the lesson—hero or cautionary tale—was the ultimate outcome of what ever transpired that night. Would he stand up to the locals, defend the truth of this man’s innocence? Was he better to defend order, a virtue all on it’s own, a truth on that list of eighteen virtues? In the end, he made a decision, but his monument, that thing that defines him for all time, is the question ‘what is truth?’ and washing his hands.

Along side Pilate’s monument is another, more familiar monument, the cross. Jesus said “If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the religious court.” Escape was possible, momentary insurrection was possible, or just a good scuffle was one of the options at the end of a long evening. But Jesus chose the cross. His monument would be a spirited defense of eternity, that our sin would be met with the determination to defeat death, and in defeating death, we would be free. Jesus also said “the truth will set you free” and he was speaking of his monument, he was speaking of the cross. Amen.

*The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Historians, p. 216

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 13
As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!”
2 “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”
5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

Once more—it would seem—world events overshadow our gathering, and compel us to address pain and terror. Utterly reprehensible attacks in Paris, the ongoing war against ISIS, the civil war in Syria—all of these press in from beyond these walls to add urgency to our prayers.

And so we pray for the victims of violence in Paris, for their families, for a free nation that must confront terror without becoming something else altogether. We pray for world leaders as they seek to respond, and we pray for our enemies, that they be disarmed by the grace and peace of God, the very God they distort and misrepresent. Amen.

Sadly, world events and our reading from Mark dovetail this morning, with world-ending predictions sounding painfully familiar. “Wars and rumours of wars” along with the prediction that “nation will rise against nation” could well be today, and so our task is to place scripture and world events side-by-side in an effort to understand both.

But before we do that, we need context. Mark 13, most often called “Mark’s little apocalypse,” is a catalogue of what Jesus’ followers can expect in the time to come, and what they must do to prepare. It is part of Jesus’ own preparation for his passion, giving his disciples what they need to confront the future.

And so there are seemingly two world-ending events in this passage, the trouble predicted where ‘not one stone will be left on another’ and the trouble that will follow the death and resurrection of Jesus. Reading further in Mark 13, it is obvious that Jesus is preparing his followers for persecution, where brother will betray brother, children will rebel against their parents—and in his clearest prediction—”everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

I said seemingly two world-ending events because the third isn’t identified my Mark—even though it would have been painfully obvious to the first readers. The third world-ending event is the Great Revolt, also called the First Jewish-Roman War, which began in 66 and finally ended with the Roman siege of Masada in 73.

The revolt began as these things often do, with taxes and religious tension leading to conflict. Rome made a habit of making examples of trouble-makers, and this only served to strengthen the resolve of the rebels. They took control of Jerusalem, expelled the garrison and in doing so shocked the Roman world.

This shock was compounded when the 12th Legion, based in Syria, was defeated by an rebel army at Beth Horon. The success of these Jewish rebels was not to last, of course, when Vespasian and his son Titus—both future emperors—were dispatched to settle the matter. Jerusalem was destroyed, along with the Second Temple, and rebels would make their final and ill-fated stand in the south, at Herod’s fortress Masada.

The key part of this story is the destruction of the temple, very nearly matching Mark’s description and prediction: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” In fact, there are several courses of the Second Temple still standing, including the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. The destruction of most of the temple, and the longing it provoked, long led people to call it the ‘wailing wall’ instead.

So Mark is describing a current event like a future event, and using the resonance of this experience to underline the world-ending nature of the death of Jesus. He is trying to twin the persecution that has already begun in the period he is writing, with rebellion and war that will define this late first-century generation. And he has to provide some hope, though it is in decidedly short supply at this moment in the story.

Ironically, it falls to St. Paul to summarize the prosecution that will follow as this nascent church emerges from the synagogue and begins to attract gentiles. Ironic, since Paul as Saul is chief among the persecutors, describing himself as extremely zealous in defense of his former tradition. Following his conversion, however, his zeal shifts to defending the Gospel. In his words:

I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. (2 Cor 11)

He never mastered humility, but he does make a strong case. Carmen will tell you that a tremendous amount of ink has been spilled trying to substantiate his claims, or at least understand them in the context of Roman judicial practice, but that is for another sermon. It is enough for us to understand that present trauma and future hope are easily conflated, that what we experience today will colour what we long for going forward. And once again, Paul has the answer:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6)

You will notice that this was not the preamble we used before baptism this morning. We chose the more appropriate Luke 18, although we didn’t use the wonderful language of the King James: [Jesus said] “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.”

Instead Romans 6 is held in reserve for this moment, when we shift from baptism to remembering our baptism, to pondering the way in which our baptism is part of the “little apocalypse” of today’s passage. We have trouble in the world and trouble in the text (Paul S. Wilson) and we are confronted by baptism. I say confronted because it begins with water and the spirit (and unbearable cuteness) and then it becomes what we live each day.

Baptism is never a one-off. It is the context of everything we do: how we respond to the world, and how we respond to the world-ending events that confront us and the people we love. So how does this work?

First of all, we are already resurrected. Baptized into his death, buried with him, raised from the dead, and walking in newness of life. We can set aside fear, because for us death has passed and new life has already come.

Second, we can demonstrate this new life to others. We worship a God who stands with the persecuted, blesses the merciful, and promises life in all its fullness (John 10). This commanding vision leads us, because it is a resurrection vision of newness of life.

Finally, we pray. We pray that wars may cease, and that children may grow and experience the fullness of joy that God imagines for every child. And we pray for ourselves, that we may live our baptism, free to be a channel of God’s peace. Amen.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Remembrance Sunday

Mark 12
38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

A great philosopher once compared our journey through life to the simple act of driving through town.

Think of it: you are driving through town and the engine light comes on. Suddenly, all you can do is look for a garage. If you are hungry, you look for a restaurant. If you have an abiding passion, say reading or learning, you may be looking for libraries or schools. And for church folk: we tend to look at churches.

What the philosopher (Ram Dass) was trying to suggest, was that we travel through life with needs and interests, and these things colour the way we see the world. What we look for defines us, and the self-critical will take this into account and occasionally look for other things.

But back to churches. Like all interests, we like to compare and contrast. ‘Such a big church for a small town,’ or ‘look at that crooked steeple—I guess only God is perfect after all.’ The most dangerous is the minister’s tendency to try to read the sign on the front, a distracted driver of ever there was one. ‘The Rev. So-and-so. I wonder who that is...?’

But the interest/obsession truly falls within the ‘priesthood of all believers’ category. Ask a church person from a small town to describe their church and they will tell you about every church in town, details flattering and unflattering. And church friends go on holiday, and you have occasion to see a few snaps, there is a good chance church photos will be among them. Ask Carmen about all my church photos, or better yet, don’t ask her.

The reason I share this is that every time Jesus drove through Jerusalem, he could only see the temple. The temple was an interest/obsession that appears throughout the Gospels—sometimes neutral, sometimes negative. Sometimes it is little more than a backdrop—like the location of the widow’s mite—and sometimes it’s the point of the story. Yet whatever the role, the temple is usually a character worth noting.

Think way back to the beginning of the year, as Jesus is presented in the Temple, and the temple is a place of acknowledgement. Simeon, long waiting for Messiah, meets the child and says something akin to “mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’ A week later we’re back, and this time a precocious twelve year-old, is asking questions and providing a few answers of his own.

As an adult, Jesus is back in the temple, either teaching in the outer court or already seized with righteous anger, if John has the chronology right. Either way, tension is in the air. The temple is the place where his authority is questioned, his arrest is debated, and his own body is conflated with the three-day destruction of the place. And if you put the turning of the tables at the end, you get the means, motive and opportunity that leads to the cross.

And in the brief passage that Joyce read this morning, we find a distillation of these temple themes in just seven short verses. Jesus begins with a thumbnail sketch of the religious elite, the ones with the gold-embossed cards and the all-cotton clergy shirts made in Italy. They demand a place at the head table and can no longer see the widow or the orphan from where they sit.

And then perhaps the greatest object lesson found in scripture: the one-percent paid the revised temple tax—another election promise kept—but they hardly noticed the difference. The poor widow, however, added two copper coins, and in case the disciples missed it, Jesus underlined the point:

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

This would normally be the moment that I would tell you about our budget deficit, approaching the approximate retail value of a BMW 6-Series coupe, but that would be too obvious, a maybe a little crass. There is a stewardship sermon coming, but just not this week.

Back to temple, this would be the moment to turn to our old friend Walter Brueggemann, who describes the temple as an “ambiguous figure in Israel’s imagination,” a noteworthy character in the story that is constantly being used and misused for various ends.

On one extreme, the temple is an extension of royal pretensions, an arm of the governing elite set up to instill awe and collect taxes. At the other extreme, it is the literal ‘house of God’ where religious identity is confirmed and perpetuated. On one hand it seems that the various kings who built and rebuilt the temple were trying to hold God captive, adding much needed legitimacy to their reign, while on the other hand they were simply responding to the abiding presence of God on which the furtherance of the nation depended.

And into this steps Jesus. He sat down opposite the place where people paid the temple tax, and he watched. He chose the very place where piety and pretension collide, the place where some try to be faithful and some try to demonstrate their place in the temple system. He underlined why people share: some to gain something and others to give all they have.

In effect, Jesus is describing in a thousand year-old tension in the simple act of paying the temple tax. You could make a showy payment in support of the temple administration or you could make a sacrificial payment to the place where God dwells. Both payments end up in the same place, but each supports a different vision of the temple. One will be destroyed in three-days, and one Jesus calls simply “my father’s house.”

Driving through town, in early November, we are more apt to see memorials to the fallen. They line the great avenues, they appear in town squares, they are found on the walls of churches, schools and community centres. There are names, or locations, or perhaps a solitary figure in granite or bronze.

One of the great contrasts to our neighbour to the south is the extent to which we do not honour leaders. A student of history might know Arthur Currie or Harry Crerar, but most do not. Some may know that Pearson made it to France and Diefenbaker didn’t, but most are unaware. Contrast this with Eisenhower, MacArthur and the various ‘profiles in courage’ that place various presidents in the context of war.

Instead, we tend toward the names of those who paid the ultimate price: Private Charles Plumridge, bricklayer. Year by year we hear these biographies, and we note how citizen-soldiers left homes and families to serve overseas, at great risk to themselves, giving—like to poor widow—all that they had.

May we continue to honour their sacrificial giving, the extent to which they did not think of themselves, but thought instead of our future. Amen.