Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
My writings come out like clockwork at the sixth hour of the sixth day of the week. Each Saturday morning, they greet you as you wake, sitting by your first cup of coffee, they offer you the opportunity for reflection, perhaps on occasion inspiration, or simple gratitude for sometimes overlooked blessings. But on this day, the words arrive unexpectedly in your email box or Facebook feed. It is 2 am, most of us are sleeping, but as we slumber the clock strikes 11 am in France on this the 11th day of November 2023.
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns fell silent, soldiers celebrated, and the Great World War ended with a ceasefire. At 5 a.m. that morning, Germany, robbed of a generation of its young men, bankrupted, out of supplies and hope, signed an armistice agreement with the Allies in a railroad car at Le Francport, France. In its wake were 20 million dead, and 21 million wounded. For more than four years this terrible war had raged as millions of civilians died from disease, starvation, and exposure. The devastation of this war with its new technology killing machines and poison gas was so horrific that the British author, H.G. Wells, thought that certainly this would be “The war that will end war.”
At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the war to end all wars came to a silent conclusion. The dead were buried, white crosses soon dotted pastoral landscapes. The young men who survived returned home, much older than their years, plagued for life with the sounds and images of hell on earth. A forced peace would simmer for twenty years before giving birth to new generation of despotic leaders, totalitarian movements, and more powerful and efficient killing machines. The Second World War would not be called “the war to end all war.” One hundred and five years after the armistice, we are reminded that the seasons of war are not over, it has never been over. The warring madness of power-hungry old men, extremists, dictators and zealots still infect the human species with the unspeakable horrors of war. The images from Ukraine, Palestine and Israel leave deep wounds on combatants and civilians.
In 1962, the songwriter Bob Dylan offered a prophetic voice. He held up a mirror to a nation that had just freed itself from the Korean War, a nation engaged in a Cold War, a nation that would soon send its young soldiers to the jungles of Southeast Asia.
“Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
And how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” Bob Dylan
It is the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 2023. The guns are not silent, the war rooms in the Pentagon bustle with activity, weapons factories work round the clock and arms dealers make record profits. The security we seek, the security that we think we are buying, is little more than an illusion. We spend billions on armaments while the hungry wait at our door for a slice of bread and sadly it seems that H. G. Wells was mistaken. “The war to end all wars” has not yet been fought.
Maybe that war is not to be contested with guns and bombs. Maybe the war that will end all war is in fact a struggle for the soul of humanity. And if this is a fight for the soul of our species, then there is only one who can save us from ourselves. Jesus rejected the sword; Jesus knew that those who lived by the sword would die by the sword. And lest you think that I am preaching to you from some higher ground, let me assure you at this 2 am hour, that my theological cupboard is bare, I have no practical insights to offer the grief-stricken Israelis or the oppressed and forgotten Palestinians. I do not know how we are to confront systemic evil and the reoccurring drumbeats of war.
What I know is that the way that we have been living is not working. How many daughters and sons must be sacrificed for the soul of humanity to be awakened? How many tears, how many slow processions to graveside, where silent crosses remind us of young lives cut short? The answer is within us, and somehow, we must return to God and find a path to peace.
One beggar telling another where to find bread, I am your