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Proper 27, Year B (3 before Advent, Remembrance Sunday/Armistice Day, 11.11.2012
Jonah 3.1-5, 10:
Ps 62:6-14:
Heb 9:24-28:
Mark 1.14-20: (683)  

The Third Sunday before Advent

God, our refuge and strength, bring near the day when wars shall cease and poverty and pain shall end, that earth may know the peace of heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord.

                 Once more I stand before you on Remembrance Sunday.  David Cameron has promised that we shall make a special observance in two years’ time to mark the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, the war that was called ‘the war to end all wars’.  It didn’t.

          We all have our own memories that we bring to today.  I would like to share mine with you.

          During World War I my father was a Second Lieutenant in the American Army.  He was a post adjutant behind the lines in France .  At the time he was disappointed not to have reached the front, but everyone who came back from the front told him to count himself lucky that he had not done so. 

          When I was a child we had a book of black and white photographs of the War.  Its size and format was such that I suppose today it would be called a coffee table book.  As a youngster I read it many times.  It was a stark reminder of the war, but it could not possibly convey all the horror of that war.

          When I was a young choirboy the very nice lady who looked after the choir’s cottas and surplices was a widow whose husband was killed on the morning that the armistice was declared.

          Forty-one years ago, just before we went to India , while Dorothy took our daughter, Jenna, to the National Gallery, I took our two sons, Steve and Tom, to the Imperial War Museum .  I remember to this day the mock up of the wretched trenches and tunnels that we saw. 

          That war sent such a sense of revulsion through the nations that, spurred on by such people as President Woodrow Wilson, the effort was made to found the League of Nations to help avoid further war.  Unfortunately the United States went back into its isolationist shell, and the American Senate refused to ratify the treaty.  An impotent and toothless League of Nations failed to stop Mussolini when he went into Abyssinia, present day Ethiopia .  As a result Hitler received no warning shot across the bows of his delusions of grandeur, and so began World War II, which the U.S. entered after the attack on Pearl Harbour .

          I remember during the war the small flags that appeared in the windows of some houses as one went down the street.  One showed a purple heart to indicate that someone serving from that house had been injured in battle.  More rarely the flag showed a gold star.  The person had been killed.

          Shortly before World War II we had a boarder.  His name was William Buderus, Jr., whom everyone knew as ‘Buddy’.  Buddy was a young graduate architect, and while he was living with us he was working in downtown Chicago .  We knew Buddy and his parents very well.  He married Louise and then, when war came, he was drafted into the Navy.  The escort carrier on which he was serving as radar officer was sunk in the Second Battle of the Philippines .  Louise, his wife, received a flag with a gold star.  So I have someone in particular to remember this day.

          After World War II the United Nations was founded, and this time the US was in it from the start.  Perhaps the UN’s best efforts have been those of an humanitarian nature. Its peace-keeping efforts, while valiant and numerous, have led to some very mixed results, including the sorry episode of Srebeniza.  Even now we are faced with what amounts to the civil war in Syria which may end up spilling beyond its borders, not to mention the problems of Iraq and Afghanistan, plus other hot spots like Mali, Somalia, North and South Sudan, etc.

          As we remember and honour those who have paid so much for the freedom and relative peace that we enjoy, let us vow as well to continue to support all those who work for the ultimate goal of turning all swords into ploughshares that God’s peace as embodied in Jesus may reign in the hearts of all the nations.