"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Archive for November 2014

Battle of Ortona

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We’re approaching the annual marking of the Battle of Ortona and the Moro Valley (December 21 I think). I knew a bit about the Hastings and Prince Edward Island Regiment’s history (mostly through Farley Mowat’s books, “The Regiment” AND “My Father’s Son”). I didn’t really read the history of that series of engagements until I was preparing to preach on the day of the commemoration in All Saints’ Cathedral, Edmonton. I was the associate curate (I think, church titles still confuse me) and as the token military guy on staff I got tasked to preach when the Loyal Edmonton Regiment came to call.

As a funny side-note, my boss told me the only limit on the event was that he would not permit the Regiment in the cathedral with ‘weapons’. For the commemoration day, the Regiment would march with it’s colours, and as is proper by tradition, the colours would be guarded. That usually means the colour party, but also a guard (quarter or otherwise). In the past the unit had brought rifles into the church proper, which is, in reality, a breach in tradition. When the colours pass onto consecrated ground, the church assumes responsibility for the protection. That’s subtle point that’s not really known any more (and military units hold churching parades much less frequently than in history). When I spoke with the RSM, he understood. In the end they left the rifles outside, but the colour party (I noted) all had swords. I was probably the only one who noticed, but I laughed to myself. It was a good one to put over the church on behalf of my fellow soldiers…

I preached a sermon, “Remembering Ortona – a West Canadian town” that day that attempted to mix the history with the call of the Christian.  It was in many ways the start of my quest to study the tension between soldiering and ‘Christianing’ (so to speak).  It might also have been the start of my time as a military chaplain, which was ultimately not to be.  That’s another story, but the vocational ‘NO’ that came back on that question was pretty clear, and left me in a bit of a mess.  My time in uniform was at an end in spades, but it was a real pleasure to honour the Loyal Eddies that day in December.

That sermon would make followers of the Anabaptist tradition of pacifism very unhappy.  I drew a parallel between the blood purchase of the world by Christ through Mary with the blood purchase of Ortona by the Canadians – something inspired by Rupert Brooke’s poem:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

It’s an idea that is offensive to a high degree to some of my brothers and sisters in Christ.  That was the image I was led to through my prayerful development of the sermon…the ideas aren’t usually mine, but gifts that come when the writing task is before me.  That’s the grace of God in the sermon-writing task.  It leaves me wondering if perhaps sometimes the goal of a sermon is to offend?

At a public talk today, this poem was brought up, and I was delighted to see the author was with the Hasty P’s – not so delighted to see he had died in Ortona at the age of 33.

Prayer before Battle 

By Major Alex Campbell

When ‘neath the rumble of the guns,
I lead my men against the Huns,
‘Tis then I feel so all alone and weak and scared,
And oft I wonder how I dared,
Accept the task of leading men.

I wonder, worry, fret, and then I pray,
Oh God! Who promised oft
To humble men a listening ear,
Now in my spirit’s troubled state,
Draw near, dear God, draw near, draw near.

Make me more willing to obey,
Help me to merit my command,
And if this be my fatal day,
Reach out, Oh God, Thy Guiding Hand,
And lead me down that deep, dark vale.

These men of mine must never know
How much afraid I really am,
Help me to lead them in the fight
So they will say, “He was a man”.

This prayer was written by Major Alex Campbell, during a lull in battle.  Major Campbell was O.C. of “A” Company, Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment. He was killed in action on December 25, 1943 at The Battle of Ortona in Italy.

Reading the poem, I’m pretty sure that it will inspire a similar response in some (as my sermon).  That a commander’s main concern before battle circles around one idea – don’t let me screw up!  That awful, horrific undertaken of humankind that we call war, and his first concern is a blessing on his task to lead men.

One thing I’ve realized is that there are diametrically opposed world views in collision around this topic, and much need for understanding and acceptance of opposing positions that we find distasteful.  What I will say as a soldier, is that I understand Campbell’s prayer exactly, and prayed similar ones myself many times.  I wasn’t under the stress of leading soldiers in combat, but that burden of leadership is almost independent of context, if differing in intensity.

My main concern was to lead effectively, so that one of our jets wouldn’t carry one of our pilots into a smoking hole in the ground.  My best was to enable people to do their best, because that’s the least we could do for those who fly.  With thanks to God, my three years on Squadron as chief engineer were free of Cat A, B, C or D accidents.

That was a stark contrast to my first three years of commissioned time on Squadron, as a junior engineer, that involved two crashes and deaths of pilots (Hollis Tucker and Rich Corver).  I wonder now how my boss, the chief engineer at the time, dealt with that (even though neither crash was due to maintenance malpractice).

I’m forever grateful to that same boss for working to form me in the tradition of soldiering, and I still remember the day when he told me that ‘rules were for the guidance of wisemen, and the direction of fools.’  Words to live by, and a reminder that the main task before a soldier is to use the available materials to achieve the mission – to ‘adapt and overcome’ as Gunny Highway said in Clint Eastwood’s role.

Written by sameo416

November 22, 2014 at 9:43 pm

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Justice in Governance

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I have written previously about the authority of synods, and how a governance body can basically do anything it can convince its members to vote in favour of – unlawful or not. The only way to call a body to account is for someone to take that challenge to a court of tribunal that has authority over the governance body.

It’s a bit intimidating to see how much of what is done on a daily basis is entirely unsupervised. For example, a person with the authority to make a decision can make whatever decision they wish, even if that is overtly contrary to the law. Your choice is to either comply, or to embark upon the process of bringing that person to account. If that involves your employer standing with egg on its face, in the end it probably doesn’t matter a whit if you’re righteous in your charge. Winning your case will be followed shortly by the employer deciding you’re more trouble than they want to keep around.

In spite of the whistleblower legislation that is now popping up, I can’t think of any case where a person ultimately ended up happier in life after taking a stand on a matter of righteousness. After reading the Morton Thikol engineer’s account (Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster) of how he tried to stop the launch, his bold disclosure in front of the presidential commission, and how close he came to being fired, my thought is just reinforced.

Sometimes, the only thing that can bring about lasting change, or the end of a person running amok on a power trip, is one courageous person who is willing to take huge risks in order to effect change. This image is a very biblical one.

Micah 2
1 Woe to those who devise wickedness
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
2 They covet fields and seize them,
and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house,
a man and his inheritance.
3 Therefore thus says the Lord:
behold, against this family I am devising disaster,[a]
from which you cannot remove your necks,
and you shall not walk haughtily,
for it will be a time of disaster.

Written by sameo416

November 14, 2014 at 1:19 pm

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Soldiers, lamp oil and faith in action

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Soldiers, lamp oil, and faith in action.  St John the Evangelist Edmonton,  9 November 2014 – final version
Psalm 78:18, 1 Thess 14:13-18, Matt 25:1-13 wise/foolish bridesmaids

Today we gather as the Body of Christ, and worship, with a moment of remembrance for the cost of violence to all those who are touched by it, but particularly for soldiers. I served for just over 20 years in uniform as a soldier, working mostly with fighter aircraft (most assume I was a chaplain…nope, that came later). I specialized in air weapons and explosives…and if I was still on a fighter squadron in Cold Lake I would be over in Qatar right now as a part of the Canadian mission against ISIS. Part of my ongoing ministry is to bring this image of the soldier forward, and to use a soldier’s perspective to talk about our shared faith, for much of what I understand about faith I learned in uniform.

This is not to say that we as the Body of Christ celebrate the things that soldiers are called to do, by virtue of their willingness to serve. Jesus provides us with a nonviolent alternative, the way of the peacemaker…but I am a pragmatic Christian and I acknowledge that in a broken world like this, we will not see the end of violence until the promised remaking of all of creation. This is as Jesus told us it would be, and that we would continue to hear of wars and rumours of wars until his coming again (Mark 13:7). We will not create that place through our own efforts to fix the brokenness of the world. Our vocations in Christ are a call to continue that working out in the world here in the reality of wars and rumours of wars. We are each individually called to make a difference, some large, some small, but all are called: Christian faith is faith in action, in doing.

Our largest challenge in Western Christianity is how we have become conditioned to expect things in an instant (oh wait, I have a text) and have correspondingly short attention spans. Eugene Peterson calls this the ‘tourist mindset’ where we expect to be entertained, but have no taste for the long apprenticeship and the patient acquisition of virtues in the quest for holiness. Peterson terms this a long obedience in the same direction. Our Gospel reading today brings us the parable of the wise and unwise bridesmaids – 5 bring no extra oil, while the wise are prepared. When the bridegroom’s late arrival is announced the foolish bridesmaids ask the wise to share, and are rebuked. As they go off to find a late-night oil merchant, the wedding banquet begins and they are locked outside…unrecognizable to the master. It seems like a harsh parable, in the failure to share.

This is not what is at work here. First note is that this is a parable, not a factual story. This is a parable about what the kingdom of heaven will be like on Christ’s return. The ten bridesmaids are already called into the kingdom, they’ve all been invited to the party at the end of time, they’re all disciples, but the two groups of five have realized that discipleship in very different ways. You’ve been invited to a wedding banquet, but you have a specific job to do, which is to light the way for the bridegroom. Lighting the way requires preparedness to anticipate the things that might happen along the way. What if the bridegroom’s arrival is greatly delayed? To ask the question in Peterson’s terms – are you in this Christian thing for the long haul, for total transformation of what you are, or are you a church vacationer looking for some distraction?

Soldiers are in it for the long haul, and can teach us something about obedience, and about training for decisions that have literal life and death consequences. They can also teach us something about community. I worked with people I did not really like, but I knew I could count on them with my life. That sort of community, filled with real sometimes difficult people who trust each other with their lives, well, that’s the sort of community the church is called to be, isn’t it? But we live in this place of tension about the use of violence in our broken world, and how we quickly opt for violence as a way to solve our problems. Too many times we blame the soldier as an instrument of violence, much the same way we blame firearms when someone is shot.

Violence in our world is not only the violence of artillery and air power, those are just the most immediately apparent forms. Rather it is about the violence that we are willing to do on a daily basis through the economy, through our own lifestyles. I’m not going to get political, but it is interesting to look at the ongoing conflict between government and First Nations communities over the routing of pipelines. We’re happy to say they have the right to traditional use of the land, but it is interesting what happens when our economic needs to run a pipeline clash with that traditional use of the land. Before we condemn the soldier as a tool of violence, we need to think about our culpability in the cycle of violence.

One day I received a call from a friend, a pastor in an old parish, one of those rare prairie stone churches. His parish had World War I memorials on the walls, in fact, two of the wooden crosses that had been erected on Vimy Ridge by the soldiers right after the battle. The local regimental association had called him and asked if they could hold a memorial service including a re-dedication of these memorials. My friend, who had been raised in the Mennonite tradition, called me because he was in conflict. His question, “How can I be party to the glorification of war through a church service?” He thought he had no choice but to refuse.

That discussion was one of the things that convinced me that a part of my continuing ministry is to teach about soldiers, because you can’t understand the way of the soldier until you’ve lived it. The soldier is a member of a separate culture, with its own ethos, traditions and history…much of which is a mystery to those observing from the outside. A classic example of this came up recently about Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the Argyle who was shot as he stood watch over the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Hamilton Spectator published an article that was originally titled, Cpl Cirillo, Was Not a Hero…and changed to Cpl Cirillo, an Accidental Hero, after the public outcry. I’ve spoken about this before because the word ‘hero’ is not one you are likely to hear a soldier ever use. I was taught that heroes are the ones who, through the desire to be recognized, take risks that put their comrades at risk. A hero, for a soldier, is someone that you stay far away from. The greatest compliment that can be paid a soldier is to say that they did their duty – so a title like, Cpl Nathan Cirillo, He Did His Duty, is something a soldier would understand. A bit like the five wise bridesmaid’s who met their duty to be prepared for the coming of Christ.

Now, back to my friend in the parish. He called because he was torn between his role in a welcoming church, and his inability to endorse something he saw as contrary to Christ’s teachings. This is what I said: If there is anyone who really understands why Christ speaks so strongly against violence, it is the soldier. While we can sit and have lengthy theological debates about the call of the Christian, sitting in a warm room sipping craft beer, it is the soldier who crouches in a ditch in some far-away land, filthy and exhausted, bandaging his friend who has just lost a leg to an IED. Soldiers, more than anyone, understand the true cost of violence because they pay that cost in blood. I said you can preach a sermon of peace to a room full of soldiers because they understand why war must be avoided at all costs, better than we do. The purpose of a memorial service isn’t to glorify war, which is something that the warrior never does, but rather to remember friends that never returned home, families that are missing sons and daughters, fathers and mother, and to ask forgiveness for having survived when better people than you had been killed. I think I still hadn’t convinced him when I offered, almost in passing, a closing comment: Will you be the one to deny a group of soldiers access to the gospel? He held the service, preached a sermon out of the Anabaptist tradition, and wasn’t tarred and feathered by the soldiers in his midst. The church has not always been so welcoming, and there are stories of soldiers being refused entry to the church.

Following the path of the soldier is one of sacrifice and self-denial, and those attributes in particular, are the things that taught me real lessons about being a person of faith. If I really believe I need to be prepared to lose everything for the sake of the Gospel – just like a soldier on active duty is prepared to lose their life for the sake of honour, duty and their friends. In my present life of ease the way of the soldier reminds me of the real meaning behind LCol John McCrae’s words, “to you from failing hands we throw the torch”. The soldier calls to each of us – I am willing to die for what I believe, how about you? That torch thrown to us is not a call for us to be soldiers, but a call for us to continue to stand for the values that those soldiers were willing to die for. That is, a call for us to enter a life of service to others, regardless of the cost to us. What is God calling you to do?

In his book “The Blue Cascade”, US Army officer Mike Scotti writes about his struggles with PTSD after two combat tours in the Middle East. He describes in particular the orders of his Battalion Commander as they are preparing to enter a major city on their advance. This was a mechanized battle, and the key in mechanized warfare is speed. The commander said in his orders, if we meet heavy resistance in the city, B Company will deploy from the order of march to engage the threat and be expended. Scotti comments at that point that they all knew what that meant, B Company, all 150 or so of them – all sons, fathers, husbands – were to sacrifice themselves, ‘expend themselves’ in order that the rest of the unit could succeed at their mission. That’s what standing in the gap means to a soldier.

That example is meant to be an uncomfortable one to hear, and it immediately makes me ask: if those soldiers are willing to stand in the gap for their friends up to and including their lives, what is my vocational call from God calling me to do? If those soldiers are willing to expend their lives in what may or may not, ultimately be a noble cause…how much more willing should I be to give of myself in the here and now. To be even more blunt: how seriously do I take Christ’s call to carry the Word forward in the world? How willing am I to risk being ostracized and mocked for being the person that Christ calls me to be? How much am I willing to risk to be called a disciple of Christ? Am I willing to sacrifice my job if Christ calls me to stand against something that is wrong?

As Cpl Cirillo fell, government lawyer Barbara Winters ran back to the memorial because she thought someone might need help – she ran back toward the sound of the guns. She gave first aid and comforted Cirillo as he died. If you’ve seen the pictures, a few others were helping him while the rest of the people were standing around taking pictures or shooting video. Barbara Winters understands what service to her fellow humans means, and her example also calls to me – what are you prepared to do to bring that glass of cool water to someone in need? For many people today our contribution ends with the posting of moral outrage on Facebook or SnapChat, along with the cool photos we’ve taken.

Christians are called to faith in action, and that includes the obligation to identify evil. We are one of the last groups remaining in the first world that maintains some idea of evil, as the general society has abandoned that label as being too nasty and exclusive. The church as a corporate body has done much the same, as we don’t want to appear judging. In a discussion last week with one of my Muslim co-workers, she commented that the message of the Imans across Canada has been a call for Muslims to reject the evil way of ISIS, the Islamic State. I was shocked to hear her say evil, and it reminded me of my obligation to stand against evil.

As much as we want to attribute acts of violence to mental illness, or drug use, or a poor childhood and feel compassion toward the perpetrator, that does not change the reality that such acts are acts of evil – perhaps not always the acts of an evil person, but we have to be live to that possibility as well. Shooting an unarmed soldier is evil, as is running someone down in a parking lot. Killing Christians because they refuse to convert, and then killing fellow Muslims because they’re either not the right type of Islam, or because they don’t embrace you particular brand of fundamentalism, is an evil act. All of our genial ways don’t change the reality that there are people in the world who would see us dead, for no reason other than who we are. G.K. Chesterson said this, “Unless a man becomes the enemy of an evil, he will not even become its slave but rather its champion.” Our willingness to use other, softer names, gives that evil a place where it may grow.

Faith in action is a risky place to be, and it calls us to do things that might be wrong. I read this recently on a blog: ‘faith is on some level the courage to risk being wrong.’ Faith is a call to action, and action has with it risks. Faith is never brought into being unless it is through action of some form. This call to action in the face of evil came clear for the Croatian Christian theologian Miroslav Volf, when he considered the question of how he could love his Serbian Orthodox Christian neighbour after the ethnic cleaning and murder perpetrated on his community by the Serbian community. He realized that if he could not answer that question, all of his life’s work as a theologian would fall apart. He arrived at an understanding of his call as a Christian, described by NT Wright this way:

Whether we are dealing with international relations or one-on-one experiences, evil must be named and confronted. There must be no sliding around it, no attempt (whether for the sake of comfort, or a quick fix) to pretend it wasn’t so bad after all. Only when that has been done, when both evil and the evildoer have been identified as what and who they are, can there be a second move toward ‘embrace’: the embrace of the wound-ed and the wound-er.

If we expect the judgement day to come in a year, or ten years’ time, might we live differently? How long should we wait for this bridegroom anyway? Some other people begin to say, I bet there isn’t any bridegroom, and this was just cooked up by the church to give themselves power. Others began to say, now that we know we’re saved, it means we can do whatever we want. Still others said, because of this great delay, I’ll worry about faith when I get closer to the end of the journey. In all these cases people are exercising their free will to choose how they will respond to the call to the kingdom. How do you chose to respond?

Are you prepared for, as Eugene Peterson terms it, ‘a long obedience in the same direction?’ The call to faith is a call to service, to action and to obedience. It’s a call to act boldly, accepting that you will go wrong sometimes, but knowing that you can always rely on the mercy of God to wipe that slate clean again. In the bridesmaid’s parable, I’m left with the impression that the foolish five didn’t really give much thought to what might happen in the hours between departing home and the coming of the bridegroom. They just went along with what was happening, while the others thought about how to best prepare for what is ahead. Are you the kind of believer that just goes along with things, because it’s easier that way? Or are you always thinking ahead, trying your best to do God’s will in the here and now and being prepared for what might come next? Is your faith one of sitting with folded hands and waiting, or is it a faith in action where you’re up to your elbows in what needs doing?

Now we come full circle, and back to the topic of the soldier’s way – a soldier is always prepared for the worst, always trained for every situation that can be anticipated. A soldier knows that her life depends on being prepared…which means knowing how to do your job in the dark, with one hand, while someone is shooting at you. The soldier’s life in peace is nothing but training for that future event, as the US Navy SEALs like to say, sweat today prevents blood tomorrow. If a soldier works so hard to be prepared for that unknown future, why do we Christians not also prepare that intently? Could it be that the soldier takes the urgency of her preparation more seriously than we do? Amen.

Written by sameo416

November 8, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Soldiers, lamp oil, and faith

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St John the Evangelist Edmonton, (Psalm 78:18, 1 Thess 14:13-18, Matt 25:1-13 wise/foolish bridesmaids)

This is the rough draft of tomorrow’s sermon…it needs three pages of material cut, but the main idea is there.

Pray. Today we gather as the Body of Christ, and worship, with a moment of remembrance for the cost of violence to all those who are touched by it, but particularly for soldiers. I served for just over 20 years in uniform as a soldier.  Part of my ongoing ministry is to bring this image of the soldier forward, and to use a soldier’s perspective to talk about our shared faith, for much of what I understand about faith I learned when I was in uniform (and not when studying theology, which is sad but true for my experience). Now, I acknowledge up front that this perspective may be outright offensive to some, particularly if you’re a strong follower of the Anabaptist tradition of non-violence. My prayer today is that you will listen to a bit about the way of the soldier, because it has aspects that can teach us about our faith.

Two years ago I talked about Christ’s encounters with the Centurion, and Peter’s later encounter with Cornelius, another Centurion. These soldiers were held up as examples of real faith, Jesus noting in particular, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” If your perspective on soldiers is negative, it’s instructive to consider Christ’s attitude.

This is not to say that we as the Body of Christ celebrate the things that soldiers are called to do, by virtue of their willingness to serve. Jesus provides us with a nonviolent alternative, the way of the peacemaker, but I am a pragmatic Christian and I acknowledge that in a broken world like this, we will not see the end of violence until the promised remaking of all of creation. This is as Jesus told us it would be, and that we would continue to hear of wars and rumours of wars until his coming again (Mark 13:7). This is an important reality to keep in mind, because falling into the trap of believing that we can make this world the place Christ told us it would become, through our own efforts and sweat has far more to do with the thoughts of liberal humanism than anything a Christian should profess. That said, our individual calls, our vocations in Christ are a call to continue that working out of the world here in the reality of wars and rumours of wars. We are each individually called to make a difference, some large, some small, but that is what God calls each of us to in our individual vocations in Christ.

This is an important aspect of understanding the place of the soldier in the world. Christians are called to vocations in the military – at least that’s what happened to me, and Christ’s words about that Centurion suggest that faith is not something that is burned out of a person when they put on a uniform. I would suggest quite the contrary is true, because soldiers by their service, get to see both the best and the worst that humanity has to offer throughout the globe. Something that most of us will never get the chance to encounter. Christ did not reject those soldiers because of what they did, and neither should we.

But we live in this place of tension about the use of violence in our broken world, and how we quickly opt for violence as a way to solve our problems. This is not only the violence of artillery and air power, those are just the most immediately apparent forms. Rather it is about the violence that we are willing to do on a daily basis through the economy, through our own lifestyles. I’m not going to get political, but it is interesting to look at the ongoing conflict between government and First Nations communities over the routing of pipelines. We’re happy to say they have the right to traditional use of the land, but it is interesting what happens when our economic needs clash with that traditional use of the land.

Now how do we encounter that conflict in the church? I received a call one day from a friend, a pastor in an old parish, one of those rare prairie stone churches. His parish had World War I memorials on the walls, in fact, two of the wooden crosses that had been erected on Vimy Ridge by the soldiers right after the battle had been brought home and installed in this church. A rare and unique piece of Canadian history. The local regimental association had called him and asked if they could hold a memorial service including a re-dedication of these memorials. My friend, who had been raised in the Mennonite tradition, called me because he was in conflict. His question, “How can I be party to the glorification of war through a church service?” He thought he had no choice at that point but to refuse the request.

That discussion was one of the things that convinced me that a part of my continuing ministry is to teach about soldiers, because in spite of all the war movies we’ve watched, and war video games we may have played, or the number of Sergeant Rock comics you read as a child (like me), you can’t understand the way of the soldier until you’ve lived it. The soldier is a member of a separate culture, with its own ethos, traditions and history…much of which is a mystery to those observing from the outside. A classic example of this came up recently about Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the Argyle who was shot as he stood watch over the tomb of the unknown soldier. The Hamilton Spectator published an article that was originally titled, Cpl Cirillo, Was Not a Hero…and changed to Cpl Cirillo, an Accidental Hero, after the public outcry. I’ve spoken about this before, and written blog entries about it, because the word ‘hero’ is not one you are likely to hear a soldier ever use. I was taught that heroes are the ones who, through the desire to be recognized take risks that put their comrades at risk. A hero, for a soldier, is someone that you stay far away from. The greatest compliment that can be paid a soldier is to say that they did their duty – so a title like, Cpl Nathan Cirillo, He Did His Duty, is something a soldier would understand.

Now, back to my friend in the parish. He called because he was torn between his role in a welcoming church, and his inability to in anyway endorse something he saw as contrary to Christ’s teachings. This was roughly my response: If there is anyone who really understands why Christ speaks so strongly against violence, it is the soldier. While we can sit and have lengthy theological debates about the call of the Christian, sitting in a warm room sipping craft beer, it is the soldier who crouches in a ditch in some far-away land bandaging his friend who has just lost a leg to an IED. Soldiers, more than anyone, understand the true cost of violence because they pay that cost in blood. They are the ones who come home with the wounds that never heal – something like 25% of our Afghanistan veterans experienced a psychological injury. To a room full of soldiers, you can preach a convicted anti-war homily, because they understand why war should be avoided at all costs. Don’t fall into the trap of criticizing them for their choice to serve, because it ultimately isn’t the soldier who decides it’s time to head to that far-away land, but rather the civilian leaders of our nation. The purpose of a memorial service isn’t to glorify war, something that the warrior never does, but rather to remember friends that never returned home, families that are missing sons and daughters, fathers and mother, and to ask forgiveness for having survived when better people died.

I think I still hadn’t convinced him when I offered, almost in passing, a closing comment: Will you be the one to deny a group of soldiers access to the gospel? That is too often the result of our safe musings, that we look down our noses on the people who decided to risk it all for something they believed in. My friend held the service, and preached an anti-war sermon out of that deep Anabaptist tradition (and wasn’t tarred and feathered by the soldiers in attendance).

Soldiers serve under what is known as the unlimited liability of service. This means that a soldier accepts death as a possible outcome of carrying out orders. This unlimited liability exists nowhere else in our society. There are others who regularly expose themselves to great risk on our behalf – police, fire fighter, medical staff, but only the soldier has taken an oath to die if the country requires it. Soldiers operate without any of the protections available to everyone else in the country: there is no workers’ compensation, no employment standards act, no labour code, no occupational health and safety act…soldiers cannot use the civilian health care system unless referred into it by the military (who pays for the treatment). Following the path of the soldier is one of sacrifice and self-denial, and those attributes in particular, are the things that taught me what it was to be a person of faith. If I really believe that what I really believe is real, than I need to be prepared to lose everything for the sake of the Gospel – just like a soldier on active duty is prepared to lose their life for the sake of honour.

This is something we don’t clearly grasp in western society, and I think this is because we have so much bounty around us, that most of us have never experienced what it is to be without. When my daughter was younger, she refused to eat something she didn’t like. I laughed and said – you know when you’ve been in the field for weeks, hungry all the time, even a pork chop covered in sand is like a banquet feast. She looked at me like I was nuts.

I’ve used this before, but it’s worth repeating. In his essay, “Why I’m not a Pacifist”, CS Lewis – himself a combat veteran of the First World War – wrote this about the life of the soldier: “All that we fear from all the kinds of adversity, severally, is collected together in the life of a soldier on active service. Like sickness, it threatens pain and death. Like poverty, it threatens ill lodging, cold, heat, thirst and hunger. Like slavery, it threatens toil, humiliation, injustice, and arbitrary rule. Like exile, it separates you from all you love. Like the gallies, it imprisons you at close quarters with uncongenial companions. It threatens every temporal evil – every evil except dishonour and final perdition, and those who bear it like it no better than you would like it.”

Now, I’ll tell you what the way of the soldier says to me in my present life of ease, and what I’ve come to understand are the true meaning behind LCol John McCrae’s words, “to you from failing hands we throw the torch”. The soldier calls to each of us – I am willing to die for what I believe, how about you? That torch thrown to us is not a call for us to be soldiers, but a call for us to continue to stand for the values that those soldiers were willing to die for. That is, a call for us to enter a life of service to others, regardless of the cost to us. What is God calling you to do to serve others?

A few weeks ago we sang a contemporary piece at the 915 service called “God Arise”, that had this refrain, So come and stand in the gap for the Lord of Hosts. Standing in the gap is something that soldiers understand.

In his book “The Blue Cascade”, US Army officer Mike Scotti writes about his struggles with PTSD after two combat tours in the Middle East. He describes in particular the orders of his Battalion Commander as they are preparing to enter a major city on their advance. This was a mechanized battle, and the key in mechanized warfare is speed. The commander said in his orders, if we meet heavy resistance in the city, B Company will deploy from the order of march to engage the treat and be expended. Scotti comments at that point that they all knew what that meant, B Company, all 150 or so of them – all sons, fathers, husbands – were to sacrifice themselves in order that the rest of the unit could succeed at their mission. That’s what standing in the gap means to a soldier. That example is meant to be an uncomfortable one to hear, and it immediately makes me ask: if those soldiers are willing to stand in the gap for their friends, what is my vocational call from God calling me to do?

Or, if those soldiers are willing to expend their lives in what may or may not, ultimately be a noble cause…how much more willing should I be to give of myself in the here and now. To be even more blunt: how seriously do I take Christ’s call to carry the Word forward in the world? How willing am I to risk being ostracized and mocked for being the person that Christ calls me to be? How much am I willing to risk to be called a disciple of Christ?

If you haven’t seen the video of the shooting in the Centre Block of our Parliament, you should watch it for this reason. Watch what all the security people are doing – first they’re cautiously advancing making use of cover and concealment. When the first shot is fired, the Globe & Mail reporter with the camera dives for the floor, and all you can see is marble. When he comes out from behind the pillar, all those cautious security agents are now running toward the sound of the gunfire. That’s commitment in spades, and it again says to me, what commitment are you willing to show because of your faith?

Another example from that day was government lawyer Barbara Winters. She had just passed the National War Memorial when she heard shots. She turned and ran back to the memorial because she thought someone might need her help. When she arrived she helped with first aid and with comforting Cpl Cirillo while he died. Along with a few others who had stopped to assist, the rest of the people we standing around taking pictures or shooting video. Barbara Winters understands what service to her fellow humans means, and her example also calls to me – what are you prepared to do to bring that glass of cool water to someone in need? Unfortunately, for much of the first world, our contribution ends with the posting of outrage on Facebook or SnapChat.

In this regard, you can see why the term hero is not one that a soldier would ever pick to describe someone like Nathan Cirillo. What sets Cirillo apart was his choice to stand in the gap that day, to put aside everything else in his life, and to just stand in a symbolic position of guard. It’s his choice in life that sets him apart, and not the manner of his death, that defines the idea of service and sacrifice behind Cirillo’s position on guard duty. Look at the statement he made through his choice in life to stand in the gap. This image of service and sacrifice is why I say the soldier has much to teach us who strive to follow a life of service to the Lord. How is it that God is calling you to serve and to sacrifice?

There is another call on the Christian in the world, and that is the call to identify evil when we encounter it. We are one of the last groups remaining in the first world that maintains some idea of evil as a concept, as the general society has abandoned that label as being too nasty and exclusive. The church as a corporate body has done much the same, as we don’t want to appear judging. In a discussion last week with one of my Muslim co-workers, she commented that the message of the Imans across Canada has been a call for Muslims to reject the evil way of ISIS, the Islamic State. I was shocked to hear her use that word, evil, and it reminded me of my obligation to stand against evil, and part of the way we do that as Christians is by naming it when we see it.

As much as we want to attribute acts of violence to mental illness, or drug use, or a poor childhood and feel compassion toward the perpetrator, that does not change the reality that such acts are acts of evil – perhaps not always the acts of an evil person, but we have to be live to that possibility as well. Shooting an unarmed soldier is evil, as is running someone down in a parking lot. Killing Christians because they refuse to convert, and then killing fellow Muslims because they’re either not the right type of Islam, or because they don’t embrace you particular brand of fundamentalism, is an evil act. And it’s important in this naming of the demon to observe that ISIS, in its roll through the Middle East, is killing far more Muslims than Christians. This is an attack on faith, and we need to be clear when we call it what it really is. All of our genial ways don’t change the reality that there are people in the world who would see us dead, for no reason other than who we are. Our willingness to use other, softer names, gives that evil a place where it may grow. G. K. Chesterson said, “Unless a man becomes the enemy of an evil, he will not even become its slave but rather its champion.” This is one of the things we’re effectively post-graduate specialists in – naming evil – and we do not favours by shirking our duty.

We’ve seen some witness to this recently, in the story of Jian Ghomeshi. I read an article written by one of his collegues, a journalist and music critic by the name of Carl Wilson. Wilson admits that he suspected all along that there was something untoward going on, as he heard the rumours and had friends talk about experiences…but he did nothing because of the benefits he gained from the relationship like continued invitations on to the show, Q. What’s fascinating about Wilson’s confession is he compares it to the Catholic church’s cover up of sexual abuse which he looked on in disbelief – how could they have let it go on for so long? He now realizes that his silence has placed him in the exact situation that he had previously criticized, and that he too was complicit in the toleration of evil. Chesterton again: unless you become the enemy of evil, you will not only become its slave, but also its champion.

Part of our call to service, is this call to identify evil when we encounter it, to leave no doubt that this thing is something that should be opposed. Now, our modern mind will quickly respond, but what if we’re wrong. I read this recently on a blog on faith: ‘faith is on some level the courage to risk being wrong.’ Faith is a call to action, and action has with it risks. Sometimes you’ll be wrong, sometimes you’ll cause more harm than good, but that should not drive us to inaction. Inaction is not the place that God calls each of us, but this is the primary challenge we face in the safe, western church. Faith is never brought into being unless it is through action of some form.

This is another aspect of the soldier’s life that resonates with being a person of faith – soldiers are always people of action. I can recall being taught that leadership would sometimes require that I make quick decisions, based on limited knowledge, and that sometimes I would be very wrong. What was important was a timely decision because remaining inactive was far, far worse. We’re called to the same sort of action, and remaining inactive and comfortable is not the place for a Christian to rest.
This call to action in the face of evil came clear for the Croatian Christian theologian Miroslav Volf, when he considered the question of how he could love his Serbian Orthodox Christian neighbour after the ethnic cleaning and murder perpetrated on his community by the Serbian community. He realized that if he could not answer that question, all of his life’s work would fall apart. He arrived at an understanding of his call as a Christian, described by NT Wright this way:

Whether we are dealing with international relations or one-on-one experiences, evil must be named and confronted. There must be no sliding around it, no attempt (whether for the sake of comfort, or a quick fix) to pretend it wasn’t so bad after all. Only when that has been done, when both evil and the evildoer have been identified as what and who they are, can there be a second move toward ‘embrace’: the embrace of the wound-ed and the wound-er. NT Wright extends this to talk about the reconciliation that occurred through Desmond Tutu’s South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: where both guerillas and white security forces confess publically about their awful deeds. It is only through that pain that there may be some possibility of renewed community.

Our Gospel reading today brings us the parable of the wise and unwise bridesmaids – 5 bring no extra oil, while the wise bring oil. When the bridegroom’s late arrival is announced the foolish bridesmaids ask the wise to share, and are rebuked. As they go off to find a late-night oil merchant, the wedding banquet begins and they are locked outside…unrecognizable to the master. It seems like a harsh parable, but should sound no harsher than the following two – the talents and the sheep and the goats. What strikes us as harsh is the failure to share…what seems like a failure to love they neighbour.

This is not what is at work here. First note is that this is a parable, not a factual story – it is meant to illustrate certain things, and you have to be cautious reading into the parable things it was not intended to address. This is a parable about what the kingdom of heaven will be like on Christ’s return, parables about the end of it all. The ten bridesmaids are already called into the kingdom, they’ve all been invited to the party at the end of time, but find that the call itself is not enough. Some attribute the oil in the parable to good works, as in you have to store up good works (oil), to gain admittance to the kingdom. That view is too transactional for my liking, and turns us into good deed accountants, trying to only do the things that will bring us maximum credit when we know the accounts book died with Jesus on the cross. I think the oil has far more to do with faith and preparedness – attested to by the concluding sentence in the discourse, watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. You’ve been invited to a wedding banquet, but you have a specific job to do, which is to light the way for the bridegroom. Lighting the way requires preparedness to anticipate the things that might happen along the way. What if the bridegroom’s arrival is greatly delayed?

If we expect the judgement day to come in a year, or ten years’ time, might we live differently? Some thought that it would come in their lifetime after Christ’s death, and when it didn’t people began to wonder. How long should we wait for this bridegroom anyway? Some other people began to say, I bet there isn’t any bridegroom, and this was just cooked up by the church to give themselves power. Others began to say, now that we know we’re saved, it means we can do whatever we want. Still others said, because of this great delay, I’ll worry about faith when I get closer to the end of the journey. In all these people are exercising their free will to choose how they will respond to the call to the kingdom. In the parable, Jesus cautions us again to be on watch, and to be prepared for His unexpected arrival at the banquet hall.

Are you prepared for, as Eugene Peterson terms it, ‘a long obedience in the same direction?’ The call to faith is a call to service, to action and to obedience. It’s a call to act boldly, accepting that you will go wrong sometimes, but that you can always rely on the mercy of God to wipe that slate clean again. In the bridesmaid’s parable, I’m left with the impression that the foolish five didn’t really give much thought to what might happen in the hours between departing home and the coming of the bridegroom. They just went along with what was happening, while the others thought about how to best prepare for what is ahead. Are you the kind of believer that just goes along with things, because it’s easier that way? Or are you always thinking ahead, trying your best to do God’s will in the here and now and being prepared for what might come next? Is your faith one of sitting with folded hands and waiting, or is it a faith in action?

Faith, in this parable, is a faith that demands action. I mentioned earlier something I had read about faith being a willingness to risk being wrong, and faith in action has to risk being wrong because the alternative, inaction, is to proceed to the wedding banquet without the extra oil required to keep the lamp going through the night.

Now we come full circle, and back to the topic of the soldier’s way – a soldier is always prepared for the worst, always trained for every situation that can be anticipated. A soldier knows that her life depends on being prepared…which means knowing how to do your job in the dark, with one hand, while someone is shooting at you. The soldier’s life in peace is nothing but training for that future event, as the US Navy SEALs like to say, sweat today prevents blood tomorrow. If a soldier works so hard to be prepared for that unknown future, why do we Christians not also prepare that intently? Could it be that the soldier takes the urgency of her preparation more seriously than we do? Amen.

Written by sameo416

November 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm

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Those who wish peace…

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Watching the movie, “Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer” tonight heard an Orthodox Abbess make this statement,

Whoever wants peace should be prepared for a struggle.

Written by sameo416

November 4, 2014 at 10:50 pm

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Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright

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tyger

 

 

An interesting article from a pathologist on his take on Blake.

Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire!
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Reflected in snips from T.S. Eliot’s poem, Gerontion:

Signs are taken for wonders.  ‘We would see a sign!’

The word within a word, unable to speak a word,

Swaddled with darkness.  In the juvescence of the year

Came Christ the tiger

In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,

To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk

Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero

With caressing hands, at Limoges

Who walked all night in the next room;

The tiger springs in the new year.  Us he devours.  Think at last

We have not reached conclusion, when I

Stiffen in a rented house.  Think at last

I have not made this show purposelessly

And it is not by any concitation

Of the backward devils.

From the website Lit.Genius, this comment:

Here’s what Grover Smith, an Eliot critic, has to say on the matter:

“But Christ came not to send peace, but a sword; the Panther of the bestiaries, luring the gentler beasts with His sweet breath of doctrine, is also the Tiger of destruction. For the “juvescence of the year,” in which He came, marked the beginning of our dispensation, the “depraved May” ever returning with the “flowering judas” of man’s answer to the Incarnation. And so “The tiger springs in the new year,” devouring us who have devoured Him.”

Written by sameo416

November 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

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An “accidental” Hero?

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I’ve written several times about the soldier’s perspective on the concept of a ‘hero’. Most soldiers I know are distrustful of the term. A hero, to a soldier, is the person who takes huge risks for the purpose of being recognized. That is, a person who places their individual wants and desires above those of their comrades. That is fundamentally antithetical to the ethos of the soldier.

I remember one refrain being central to my time in recruit term at charm school – “Don’t biff your buds”, in regular speak, don’t do anything to harm your peers. One of the worst offenses you could commit was to do something that resulted in your buds suffering.

One person in my recruit flight got tapped for a ‘kit muster’. The kit muster was considered tantamount to descent to the third circle of hell, reserved only when our seniors wanted to inflict the highest level of suffering. The chap’s section-mates, and all of my section, worked for a week to perfect everything in his room. I can recall folding the sheets tucked underneath the mattress, because they could be seen through the springs under the top bunk. Everything that could be polished was polished, all that needed dusting had been dusted repeatedly.

As the inspection proceeded, we were standing in the room next door listening to the critical comments of the CSC – section commanders. When they pulled out the bottom drawer of the dresser, they found a hidden box. It turned out that the box had inside it a cake that had been sent to the chap undergoing the kit muster.

The reaction of everyone was immediate and angry – after labouring all that time, the thought that he would hide a care package from home was unthinkable. As was included in the lyrics of the Billy Joel song, “Goodnite Saigon” that was played to us every night in bed, the idea was that “we will all go down together.”

I was willing to give him benefit of doubt, to assume that the package would have been shared in the aftermath of the kit muster – but I was the odd one out. It was apparent at that point that his career in the military was over, for even the seniors were disgusted.  He left shortly thereafter.

That might seem like a really trivial matter to get so worked up about, but it really comes down to a question of character. If I can’t trust you to share a cake from home when I’ve been giving everything for your benefit, how will I trust you when you’re the one laying down suppressive fire while I’m charging up a hill to take out a machine-gun post? (this is an example that never would have involved me militarily, but I could easily restate this 1,000 different ways, because character was the key).

Those who have demonstrated they are trustworthy in small things, will be given even larger things (paraphrasing).

So, as I’ve said before, the greatest compliment that you can pay a soldier is not, “you’re a hero”, but, “you did your duty” or more directly, “you didn’t let your buds down”, or “well done, true and faithful servant.”

That forth link (above) to Anthony Swofford’s comments says it beautifully:

I told her that the problem with believing your country’s battle monuments and deaths are more important than those of other nations is that the enemy disappears, and it becomes as though the enemy never existed, that those names of dead men proudly carved on granite monuments cause a forgetting of the enemy, of the humans who died and fought in other cottons, and the received understanding of war changes so that the heroes from one’s own country are no longer believed to have fought against a national enemy but simply with other heroes, and the war scar is no longer a scar, but a trophy. The warrior becomes the hero, and the society celebrates the death and destruction of war, two things the warrior never celebrates. The warrior celebrates the fact of having survived, not of killing Japs or Krauts or gooks or Russkies or ragheads. That large and complex emotional mess called national victory holds no sway for the warrior. It is necessary to remind civilians of this fact, to make them hear the voice of the warrior.

Likewise, this comment from another post referring to a book by Mike Scotti concerning a decoration he was awarded:

To my mind, all the citation really said was that a Marine had fought the way he was supposed to fight in combat, regardless of the circumstances. It said that a Marine had done his job. It didn’t say anything about governments, politics, oil, the United Nations, the CIA, or intelligence that pointed to weapons of mass destruction. (p. 56)

All this to say that the ‘voice of the warrior’ calls out to our civilian masters to remember different things about us.  The danger in the term ‘hero’ is that it may submerge the person behind a false title that removes the death and destruction of war and replaces it with a bloodless facade.

Now, all that to set the background to look at this article about Corporal Cirillo from yesterday’s Hamilton Spectator (these links only last about 30 days so I’ll include a snip):

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo an accidental hero

Title a sentimental posthumous promotion from tragic victim

The prime minister is back in Ottawa; the church robes are tucked way; and the bagpipe laments to blood and sacrifice have faded into memory.

Cirillo’s death was tragic and senseless, but in no way was it heroic.

By the time this week’s regimental funeral took place, Cirillo’s death had snowballed into an overwhelming spectacle of public mourning.

By definition, a hero is someone singled out from the rest of us by their outstanding courage.

The accolade traditionally isn’t bestowed for simply wearing a uniform, be it military, police or firefighter.

The honour is accrued by performing brave deeds and daring feats — risking or sacrificing your life to save others, valiantly defending a position, boldly destroying the enemy.

Cirillo may have possessed those heroic qualities and might even have had a chance to display them had he lived. But he didn’t. He died unprepared and unarmed, the unlucky victim of a seemingly deranged killer who was himself gunned down after storming Parliament.

And yet the random nature of Cirillo’s death has in no way impeded his posthumous promotion to hero in headlines, articles, comments, tweets and even a local billboard.

Does that mean anyone who dies while in uniform is automatically a hero? If so, what do we call those who really do perform lion-hearted acts?

The sad reality is we’re doing truth an injustice by minimizing the true meaning of the word and elevating Cirillo into something he wasn’t.

By all means, the city should appropriately commemorate him.

But as a lost son at the heart of a wrenching tragedy, not some kind of warrior-saint.

Cirillo’s journey from innocent victim to national hero is a cautionary tale onto itself.

There’s no question his meaningless murder at the cenotaph so close to Remembrance Day, combined with the assault on Parliament, struck Canadians as a desecration of our heritage and historic values.

The rush of relief that came with knowing it was the work of a lone shooter, rather than a co-ordinated conspiracy, gave lift and depth to the empathy churned up by the death of the good-looking young soldier.

Would the emotional outpouring have been as strong if Cirillo hadn’t been so photogenic? We don’t know, of course. But there’s little doubt his physical attractiveness gave poignancy to the tragedy, as did the fact he was a young single father.

That poignancy gained momentum as his body was returned to Hamilton along the Highway of Heroes, the funeral convoy route for fallen Canadians soldiers from the Afghanistan war.

Thousands lined the way, waving Canadian flags, spontaneously showing sympathy for Cirillo, his family, friends and comrades in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Hopefully, his poor mother took some comfort from it all.

Soon Cirillo’s death had taken on an emotional life of its own, complete with saturation media coverage of every aspect of the funeral arrangements.

Emotion is contagious and it spread like wildfire. People felt intimately connected to the family. Cirillo’s grief-stricken mother became all grief-stricken mothers, his orphaned son, all orphaned sons. People were not only touched by their loss, they were moved by images and stories of other people mourning.

The more connections there were, the more people needed to be part of it.

By the time this week’s regimental funeral took place, Cirillo’s death had snowballed into an overwhelming spectacle of public mourning, military pageantry and religious ceremony that was feeding on itself.

As a result, even before the prime minister was whisked away, before the church lights dimmed, before the bagpipes fell silent, Cirillo had achieved what amounts to secular canonization.

Through no action of his own, the accidental victim had become an accidental hero. But sadly, like all accident victims, he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I won’t fall into the obvious trap of now saying that soldiers never call each other ‘hero’, but we expect civilians to see us that way, because that’s not it at all.  This article misses the point entirely, and underlines why that term ‘hero’ can be so dangerous.

Cirillo’s sacrifice, what makes him special, is the fact that he was standing there, in uniform, on duty, when he was murdered.  He wasn’t in a mall with friends, walking down the street in a suit or in his yard raking leaves.  He was a soldier, doing what soldiers do: standing guard.  That act, that willingness to stand on guard, is what sets him apart from the rest of society.

This sadly misguided article falls into a common trap that catches civilian journalists who fail to make any effort to understand the military ethos.  There are notable exceptions: Christie Blatchford, who has my respect for her sensitive and perceptive writing about soldiers; Sebastian Junger, who spent months with a US unit in close combat and captured the understanding of love between soldiers.  The rest of them, particularly those who have never gone to the desert to be with the soldiers as they live, fight and die, really don’t get it.

As a recent crest states, my oath of enrollment has no expiry date.  When I enrolled (to use another common catch phrase) I signed a blank cheque to my nation that included giving my life in pursuit of the mission.  That applied whether death came in a vehicle accident on an Alberta highway, in a training accident in Chilliwack, or in a fire-fight in Afghanistan.

What the reporter misses is that Cpl Cirillo is not being made into a saint because of how he died, but because of the choices he made when he lived.  That choice was to wear the uniform, and to do his duty, even if that duty was to stand in public with an empty rifle…even if that duty was to walk across a parking lot where he was run down (in the case of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent).  That choice is one the reporter never made, and that is what defines the gulf between the two of them.

For the same reason, what I share with my brothers and sisters in the police services, or the fire department, or paramedics, and all those that give service while risking their lives, is that choice exactly.  As I wrote previously, what marks the difference between the Globe & Mail reporting video taping the assault of Parliament and all the security officers, is that when the shooting started he dives for cover…while they all start to run…toward the sound of the gunfire.  That choice is what makes the difference. (there is a different, in that the military is the only one that accepts the unlimited liability of service…but for my purposes here we’re more alike than different).

What do you do when you hear the sound of gunfire?  Do you seek cover, call 911, and wait for help to arrive?  Or do you run toward the danger, run toward the sound of the guns, because you might be the one that makes the difference that day?

Adding to this a conversation I had with a friend today…the root question here is service, whatever form that service might take (although I’m specifically addressing the question as a soldier).  It may not involve gunfire, it may involve facing an epidemic of obesity and diabetes, and asking the question…to what service does God call me?  It might be to become a bright light on a hillside shining good eating instruction down upon many, but the root question is service.  This is a powerful Christian witness against a post-modern culture that seems to value observation above action.

This is what upsets me most about this debate – most of those who stand back and provide us with their thoughts haven’t even taken the time to understand what it is they’re talking about…and who would be the last ones to stand in the gap to help others.  Barbara Winters, CRA lawyer, who ran back towards the guns to give first aid to Cirillo…she understands.

Forgive me if I fail to pay you much heed when you express your opinion, if you don’t have the moral authority because you’ve never stood in the gap, never risked your life nor comfort for what you believe in.

Cpl Cirillo stood in the gap that day, and died while doing his duty, as did WO Vincent.  That is what defines him, not some term applied or not applied by those who do not understand why he was standing there in the first place.

Written by sameo416

November 1, 2014 at 2:34 pm

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