Feed My Sheep

(Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; Matthew 25:31-46) J G White
Reign of Christ Sunday, Nov 26, 2017, UBC Digby

Though many of us have very little experience farming sheep, the shepherd and sheep imagery continues to stand the test of time.  The Lord God as our Shepherd steps off the page of the Bible in many chapters, and we keep singing it too.  Jesus says to Peter, at the end of the Gospel of John, “Feed my sheep.”

If we people on earth are the sheep, there are a lot of us now!  And plenty of sheep are scattered or lost or in trouble or sick or in real danger.  

One chapter we read from today: Ezekiel 34.  Here, God speaks – lots of “I language.”  God in action.  There is such a strong sense of God doing so much with the people, and in terms of making things right and fair.  It leads, at the end, to a human worker – a shepherd God uses.  He is named David.  King David.  Not to be resurrected from the dead really, but a Messiah to come and be in his role.  We Christians see Jesus as the best Shepherd King.  

Here in Ezekiel 34, Yhwh God says, thru the prophet:
I will search for my sheep
look after them
be like a shepherd
rescue them from where they are scattered
bring them to their own land
pasture them
tend them
have them lie down
feed them richly
search and bring back the strays
bind up the injured
strengthen the weak
destroy the fat and the strong
shepherd them with justice
judge between fat and lean sheep
save my flock – no longer plundered
place over them one shepherd
he will tend them
he will be their shepherd
be their God
David will be My prince among them

Before all this, Ezekiel had proclaimed a warning, woe to the shepherds of Israel.
Shouldn’t you take care?
You eat, and clothe yourselves
You didn’t strengthen the weak
heal the sick
bind up the injured
bring back the strays
search for the lost
ruled harshly and brutally
I am against the shepherds
will hold them accountable
will remove them
will rescue my sheep

This judgment scene is revisited by Jesus in Matthew 25: the Sheep and the Goats.

We, like other churches, have organized our flock in terms of an Undershepherd Program.  Pastors – shepherds. Undershepherds. Sheep. Perhaps the Shepherd, Jeff White, needs to shepherd the Undershepherds more. 😉

Many new sheep come to us, month by month.  We see this in the corral here. We need to include them/you.

I’d like, a few times a year, to get the newer people together with some longer-term people for a social time.  A meal, followed by some ‘getting to know you,’ and some introductions to the inner life of Digby Baptist.  These events should complement our natural welcoming ways.

And with new sheep who come along to our sheepfold from a different one – let’s pay attention. My attitude is always sadness when someone shows up in my pews because they left some other pews nearby.  Better for them to stay where they had been.

And it is good to have clear communication about what new people are bringing – their gifts, their baggage, their history from their previous church.  I always liked the ministry policy of a Nazarene Pastor in Windsor.  When someone started coming to his Nazarene Church who had left some other local church, he insisted that they meet with the former pastor or leaders and tell them why he or she left.  “Go and talk with them, if you have not already.”  And then, the Nazarene Pastor would call that pastor up to check and see if the person had indeed gone back to explain themselves.
Good, plan, I thought. That Pastor is a wise shepherd.  

And some of our sheep go astray.  Start to disappear, then are gone.  The Shepherds, the Undershepherds, and the Sheep have a loving role to play here.

I get concerned that we don’t miss some of our lost sheep. I’m concerned that those who seem lower on the socio-economic scale are forgotten and we don’t miss them.  The ‘middle class’ and upper, lost sheep are missed more as they disappear.  The healthier sheep are missed more.  Something wrong here.  

Remember the picture Jesus paints in Matthew 25.  The hungry, the stranger not from ‘round here, the poorly clothed, the ill, the imprisoned or ex-con.  Care for them.

I listen for how often names are mentioned. Names of those who are missing, or going missing.  I don’t often hear a lot.  Don’t hear prayer for these people.  Maybe I’m not party to that.  I wonder about how almost every one of us can have a role in caring for the rest of the flock, those who wander, and those who do not.

In Jesus’ story from Matthew 25, we see it is the sheep themselves who are judged to have done well.  The King, the chief Shepherd, judges them.  How did the sheep care for others?  

Each of us is often a sheep, yet sometimes a shepherd.  Depends on what you’re talking about.  In some parts of your life you are a sheep. Your best path is to follow.

So, when I take my car to the garage, I have no idea how my machine works or how to fix things.  I am the sheep, my mechanics are the shepherds in this case.  

But when I go on a hike in the woods with other avid hikers, they start looking at plants and trees.  Now, I get to be the shepherd, and they are the sheep.  One hiking friend now calls me “Plant Guy.”  

You have ways you are a shepherd, or an undershepherd.  And you have other parts of your life where need to be guided.  All the sheep in the flock help one another out.  Even the shepherds among us, like me, need care and feeding, guiding and leading.  

As this year draws to a close, and I look ahead to a whole new twelve months before us, I wonder about focusing upon being a healthy flock – with healthier sheep and shepherds and undershepherds.  I’ve been reviewing a little book called The Healthy Small Church. (Dennis Bickers, 2005) I find it quite inspiring.  We can seek to be a healthy flock; one that, as this book suggests:

  • Has a positive self-image.
  • Shares a common vision that creates a sense of purpose and unity.
  • Maintains community while still warmly welcoming new visitors.
  • Practices the importance of faithful stewardship and financial support.  
  • Understands ministry to be the responsibility of all the members of the church.
  • Encourages everyone to serve according to his or her spiritual gifts — not by seniority or by guilt.

We are a flock with a lot of healthy things going on already.  Our next steps can be wonderful too, though some will be challenging.

So, remember that there are two sides to the coin of being a flock of God’s sheep: being shepherded by the Good Shepherd, and shepherding one another.  At times we must claim the ancient promises, and hear God still say:
I will search for my sheep
look after them
be like a shepherd
rescue them from where they are scattered
pasture them
tend them
have them lie down
feed them richly
bind up the injured
strengthen the weak
shepherd them with justice
And then we must we ready to help in all this work, and be good sheep.

Armoured with Faith, Hope & Love

(Judges 4:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) J G White
Sunday, Nov 19, 2017, UBC Digby

This is a sermon about non-violence, in part.
Why then, are we going to sing, at the end, “Soldiers of Christ, Arise”?  Why was one of our Bible readings from the violent Book of Judges in the Old Testament, with God inflicting oppression on the chosen people, and then fighting for them in a war?  Why is the New Testament Bible reading one that uses the imagery of armour: a breastplate and a helmet?

The closing hymn reminds us what holy armour and strength is made of.  
take every virtue, every grace,
and fortify the whole

It’s like the better-known hymn, ‘Lead On, O King Eternal,’ which sings
for not with swords loud clashing,
nor roll of stirring drums,
with deeds of love and mercy
the heavenly kingdom comes.

In the bit of the Bible that’s called First Thessalonians, we find a letter.  A letter from one of the early pastoral leaders to a little congregation in a town.  Amid everything else being said, the believers are encouraged: let us… put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 T 5:8)

This is the kind of personal armour to wear.  Armour we are given: faith; love; hope.  

But we still have many other pages here, in the Bible, many pages of armour and weapons more traditional, fashioned of wood and metal.  The kind you see in a gladiatorial movie.  Or, a biblical movie.  Right here in the book of Judges.

Reading this, we set ourselves back in an era far from our own.  We are accustomed to this when we read fiction or history, when we enjoy some action/adventure film.  

Today’s story – really just the beginning – is of Deborah the prophet and judge in ancient Israel.  Judges 4 is quite a chapter when it comes to female heroines, not only with Deborah but also a Canaanite woman named Jael, who does in the fleeing Canaanite general, Sisera, with a tent peg.  D’you know this story?

Out of those violent days, in that context, heroines arise, peace sometimes comes, justice is done.  Human nature and violence – in the name of faith – lives on today.  The struggle is real.  And to keep these stories – very honest stories about what the people were like – we must keep them together with all the other tales we know and that we forget.

That was then.  And the First Letter to the Thessalonians was also then. But it is a Christian letter, under the New Covenant of Jesus. Thousands of years after the days of the Judges in the Promised Land.  And here the armour of God for us people is described in terms of faith, hope and love.

If this is to be our armour, how shall we wear it? Get it?  Use it?  I find there is always more to learn about this than what I already know and do.

Faith.  I don’t think of faith as having something proved.  I think of it mostly as confidence.  That’s what my faith is in God, and in the Christianity I wander in.  Confidence in Jesus.  Frederick Buechner said, In the last analysis, you cannot pontificate but only point.  A Christian is one who points at Christ and says, “I can’t prove a thing, but there’s something about his eyes and his voice.  There’s something about the way he carries his head, his hands, the way he carries his cross — the way he carries me.” (Wishful Thinking, 1973, p. 32)

Put on the breastplate of faith and love.  Of course, to put on a helmet, to put on body armour, one must take off the helmet and breastplate one already had on.  

We notice, here, that this goes together with faith.  It is a breastplate of faith and love that we wear. I don’t know if this was intended, but it reminds me that faith in God and love for everyone are like one thing, inseparable.  Or do I say, faith in people and love of God go together?  

It takes some doing to put on the breastplate of faith and love.  Put on Love.  I could give lots of examples of love.  Ways we do it.  Ways we put it on and wear it, instead of other armour.  
We could think about the habit of ‘paying it forward.’  That’s love.
Tell a story about someone learning from the past to see people differently, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
Remember to pray and seek an opening and healing of the heart through prayer and meditation, devoted time with God, one on one.
Or testify about the people who loved us in life, and that opened us up to love more.  

Let me give you this example: love in terms of Nonviolent Communication. For, among the many ways we people give out or are hit by violence, one is our language.  Our talking, our body language, the whole bit.

Ever thought about some of our day-to-day talk being violent, and some not?  The term, Nonviolent Communication, has been used especially by the late Marshall Rosenberg, to help people communicate in understanding, loving, peace-making ways.  He founded a thing called the Center for Nonviolent Communication.

It teaches that there are four steps or parts of speaking in a way that is not violent.  First, we observe what is actually happening in a situation: what are we seeing others say or do that is either enriching or not enriching our life?  The trick it to put this into words without judging, critiquing or evaluating it.  
Next, we state how we feel when we see what’s going on: are we hurt, scared, joyful, amused, irritated?  
And thirdly, we say what needs of ours are connected to our feelings.  

For example, a mother might express these three pieces to her teenage son by saying, ‘Felix, when I see two balled up, dirty socks under the coffee table and another three next to the TV, I feel irritated because I am needing more order in the rooms that we share in common.”
She would follow immediately with the fourth component – a very specific request: “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?”  (Nonviolent Communication, 2003, p. 6)

Five years ago I had a Bible Study group go through video sessions on this Nonviolent Communication, and Marshall Rosenberg’s book is lovely and thorough.  But what this is about really is ordinary, loving interaction.  Something God has made us for, and offers to us.  Let me give you one of Rosenberg’s stories, told him by an uncle, about Marshall’s own grandmother. His uncle asked, “Surely your mother told you about Jesus.”
“About who?”
“No, she never told me about Jesus.”
The story about Jesus was the final precious gift I received from my uncle before he died.  It’s a true story of a time when a man came to my grandmother’s back door asking for some food.  This wasn’t unusual.  Although grandmother was very poor, the entire neighborhood knew that she would feed anyone who showed up at her door.  This man had a beard and wild, scraggly black hair; his clothes were ragged, and he wore a cross around his neck fashioned out of branches and tied with a rope. My grandmother invited him into her kitchen for some food, and while he was eating she asked his name.
“My name is Jesus,” he replied.
“Do you have a last name?” she inquired.
“I am Jesus the Lord.” (My grandmother’s English wasn’t too good.  Another uncle later told me he had come into the kitchen while the man was still eating, and grandmother had introduced the stranger as Mr. Thelord.)
As the man continued to eat, my grandmother asked where he lived.
“I don’t have a home.”
“Well, where are you going to stay tonight? It’s cold.”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you like to stay here?” she offered.
He stayed seven years.

When it came to communicating nonviolently, my grandmother was a natural. She didn’t think of what this man “was.” No, she just thought of him in terms of what people feel and what they need.  (Nonviolent Communication, pp. 193-194)

Looking at the book again, I’d like to delve into this whole thing, and put it into practice.  

Finally, Hope.  For a helmet the Hope of Salvation.
Emily Dickinson wrote,

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Hope will get you to be more positive than how you started out, without hope.  If you are naturally optimistic, hope still gives you more out of life. If you are on the pessimistic (or realistic) side, hope brings you up.  Can keep you pointed in a good direction.

A helmet of hope gets put on when hope floats in, and we take off the hard attitude we had been using to protect us from things we thought inevitable.  

Now, I don’t need super heroic amazing stories of hope and faith to inspire me.  Really, I need true stories of simple ways that people stepped over everyday obstacles.  

Like the story of Amelia.
One year ago, sharon’s daughter, Teanna, was getting excited – and anxious – because she was pregnant again. In the New Year, she and Sherwin had a little party to announce that the expected baby was… a girl. In spite of problems in the past, they held onto some hope that they would have this second child.  Hope that the baby would be saved, not lost.
It was March.  Preparations were all made for our grandson Dryden’s fourth birthday.  That Sunday there would be a party at Teanna and Sherwin’s house.
No.  The baby girl was in trouble, and she had to come out – be born three months early.  And so she was, on her brother’s birthday.
Starting off at one pound, three ounces, Amelia Joy Doucette lived in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the IWK for 118 days.  Teanna stayed there too, and Sherwin as much as he could, and Dryden visited.  Every day was a day of looking for hope, hoping against hope.  Some days better than others. The thousands of people who know them, and heard about Amelia, prayed and prayed, day by day, Sunday by Sunday.  Lots of people hoping, helping the little family hope.  Amazing, wonderful nurses and doctors giving hope by doing their daily work.
Hope continues, and keeps being sought and found. This past week, nine pound Amelia had a feeding tube put in to help get enough food into her for her not just to survive, but to thrive.  That’s the next hope, eh?  She’s a happy little thing, and so are we.  Happy, and grateful, and hopeful.  

Not that the story has a happy ending.  It hasn’t ended, of course.  Maybe there is no such thing as the ending of some little person’s story.   By the grace of God, our lives are timeless.   It has simply been amazing, so far, how a little struggle for life and health can bring out the hope in so many people.  

Let me quote Buechner again.  He gets at hope by talking about Wishful Thinking.  Christianity, he says,  is mainly wishful thinking.  Even the part about Judgment and Hell reflects the wish that somewhere the score is being kept.
Dreams are wishful thinking.  Children playing at being grown-up is wishful thinking.  Interplanetary travel is wishful thinking.
Sometimes wishing is the wings that truth comes true on.  Sometimes the truth is what sets us wishing for it.
(Wishful Thinking, 1973, p. 96)

The armour against all the things that attack our souls shall be faith, and hope, and love. Wear them as best you can. And I will do the same. AMEN.

No Solo Story

(Psalm 78:1-7; Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25) J G White

Sunday, Nov 12, 2017, UBC Digby

Monty Python “Life of Brian” scene.  A large crowd gathered outside a window, where a man named Brian lives.  The people have mistaken him for the Messiah.  Brian’s mother goes to the window and opens it…

Crowd: The Messiah! The Messiah!
Show us the Messiah!
Mother: The who?
Crowd: The Messiah.
Who are you?
Mother: I’m his mother, that’s who.
Crowd: Behold his mother.
Behold his mother.
Hail to thee, mother of Brian.
Blessed art thou. Hosannah.

After a while, Brian goes to the window to talk the crowd out of following him:
Brian:  You’ve got to think for yourselves, you’re all individuals.
Crowd: Yes, we’re all individuals.
Brian: You’re all different.
Crowd: Yes, we’re all different.

I got you all speaking together, in unison, today, with a script in front of you.  You can’t just start talking to me in unison!  But the Bible storytelling that the film pokes fun at is rooted in the deep sense of community in scripture.

The biblical story is about community, not so much individuals.  In ‘Bible times’ the culture was very communal, not individualistic.   

Joshua famously declared: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  Even this is not purely individual.  He says “My house.”
“Choose this day whom you will serve” is asked of the whole people.  And the group answers.  In unison. 😉

Evangelical Christians think of this as an individual question.   Every single person must decide.  Same as how we take the words of Jesus in the vision of John.  Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  We forget that this is written in a letter to a congregation, the Church in Laodicea.   

In Acts 16, when a worker at a jail asked the apostles Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. …he and all his household were baptized. The jailer… was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Faith, religion, spiritual activity is a community affair, and a household thing, for those of the ancient Middle East.  So no wonder we have the NT warnings about not being yoked to unbelievers, and about shunning people who go astray in the church.  It was their main worldview that spiritual life is a shared thing.

We may well wonder, what does it mean to share a faith?  To be a congregation?  To practice a religion = shared spiritual activities?  Our culture is individualistic.  Our worldview is personal, more than it is about community.  Salvation is totally personal and individual.  

So many of our Christian hymns are “I” hymns.  Take out the Hymnal and look at how many songs start with “I.”
P. 729… I – 42    Jesus – 38     God – 44      O – 44
   we – 26    the – 57

There are, of course, people who do not make faith very personal, who rely upon religion and the church without the deep personal commitment.  One of you, lately, has been speaking about God wanting a relationship with me, and rightly so.  

Individual spirituality gets us to know (to experience) we are one – with God, with others, in creation, in history, into the future.  At times we hear of what Jesus does being reconciliation, and giving us a ministry of reconciliation.  Bringing together.  Making one that which was separated.

We have deep needs to connect, to belong, to find and build community.  And perhaps these needs are greater for us today than they were for most people thousands of years ago, described in the Bible.  We do know the appeal and attraction of community and belonging.  There is, for us, so much isolation.  We can feel our personal story is unique and not shared by others.  We are alone on our life path.  Often this is valued: the strong, solitary person, who takes the road less traveled.  

I have decided to follow Jesus…
Though none go with me, I still will follow…

And in a Baptist faith community, we are so trained to be democratic, to have votes to decide together, and the majority wins.  It is actually a method that naturally separates and divides.  Perhaps it is time to look into some other ways of deciding things together; there are options.

We have this ideal of the right of the individual member to have his or her say.  This was not so much part of those ancient cultures we read about in the Bible.

But hear me: there is no need for us to become the same as those people of old, in scripture.  We are different.  We swim in a different cultural river, as Dr. John Walton would put it.  We have come a long way since then, come this far by Faith.   But the peoples of the Bible influence us, teach us, train us, give us perspective.  Our sacred stories remind us of the unifying way of God.

The Persian mystical poet, Rumi, said, long ago, “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in one drop.”  

When we walk the story of our lives, the sacred story of life, we find we are connected.  One of the strongest words in our tradition is grace.  ‘Amazing Grace’ speaks of being found after being lost.  Seeing after not seeing.  Begin saved after being in danger.  Isn’t this always about being brought together, connecting, belonging, about love?

No wonder we like God as the Trinity so much.  God, all on God’s own, is Three, and is a Community, a Fellowship, is Love.  Perhaps we are in the image of God because we are made, not to be alone, but to be with.   

How shall we walk together?  We already know so much about this. We do it. We love. And yet there is more. More walking together for us to discover.  Because people – even in our own pews – are lonely, isolated, or not included.

We are at an important moment in our history, our story, dear Church.  We look back at things we used to do longingly.  We look around and do not see a long future for the people around us.  We feel fear – hoping to survive.  We sense danger – and become defensive of our ways, our building, our finances.  We get convinced we are a congregation that is beyond middle age, and are tempted to have a survival mentality.  

What is the UBCD story now?  In the future?  

We may need to tell our story more.  I told a version of my story recently, from the point of view of the many privileges and blessings that have come to me.  Scripture tells the story of the people of old many times.  Psalm 78 is but one example.  Joshua recited the people’s history in the start of Joshua chapter 23.  

What would our UBCD story sound like?  I wonder about composing one.  So often, church histories are written as if the church were the building!  What about the people and our activities of 179 years?  And how does this inspire us?  To continue… and to be different?

To have a shared story we must walk together, share the experience.  It is no solo story we are each writing with God.  I would ban songs like “And Now It’s Jesus and Me.”  No, let’s remember to take our Christianity from Me to We.  They we know we are Christians by our love.


A Watershed Moment

(Psalm 107:1-9; Joshua 3:7-17) J G White
Sunday, Nov 5, 2017, UBC Digby

Let me speak to you, briefly, of war and of peace.

We remember, in this week, in special ways.  Along with the deceased individuals we remember – and those alive who still remember – we also tell tales of ‘watershed moments.’  Moments when history changed, the flow of actions turned, a new chapter began.

So, I quoted from Watson Kirkconnell’s poem about the Vimy Ridge Memorial. *  The Battle of Vimy Ridge, one hundred years ago this past April, was significant in our Canadian military history, and has been considered significant in our national history.  A watershed battle.

Yet in his elegy, Dr. Kirkconnell reflects upon the many other battles upon that same soil through past centuries.  So many battles.  Will peace ever be sustained?

We may still ask the same of any part of our world.  Our Bible reading from the book of Joshua is a peaceful watershed moment for the early Israelites – crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land – but they are about to enter a season of conflict and violence.  And how the wars have kept on in the ‘Holy Land’ for four thousand years.

The pacifist in me comes to attention at verse ten of Joshua chapter 3.  10 Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: 11 the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan.

Our God is a God of these scriptures, the Hebrew Bible.  Is our God a God of war, of obliterating certain tribes so that the chosen tribe can have a ‘promised land?’

I have wondered, this week, how our aboriginal peoples would read this story, and hear these words.  Does it sound like an old claim of the Europeans?  “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Mi’kmaq, the Maliseet, the Beothuk, the Passamaquoddy, the Algonquin, the Innu and the Inuit…”

I have also wondered how these stories would be read by a newcomer to Canada now, who has fled as a refugee to us as a ‘promised land.’ Then, she meets with people who already live here and reject her and her strange ways, strange language, and strange dress.  She gets told to become like us or ‘go back to where you came from!’ Those who flee violence are sometimes met with violent language and attitudes, even here in Canada.  

As people of faith we must come to terms with our God of Love, our King of Peace.  And the scriptures we hold dear.  When we step back, we remember that the Bible stories are told by many voices.  The Holy Spirit has preserved for us the tales of the Promised Land from more than one perspective.  The theme of God’s people who must stay pure and get rid of the pagans is here.  Also here is the theme of integrating and coexisting – the book of Judges tells us this.  And the story of Ruth is an example too.  Ruth, a non-Israelite, who is welcomed and intermarries, and actually becomes an ancestor of the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.  

It is Jesus who becomes for us, His disciples, the be all and end all.  The One who takes us to the greatest water- shed moments of our lives.  Those moments when we find that the way of peace is the way, not any way of violence.  

Looking in the Bible we see back two thousand years, three thousand, four.  The god of violence, bit by bit, watershed by watershed, becomes known as the God of peace, of non-violence, of oneness.  Bible scholar, Walter Brueggemann boldly claimed that God recovers from the use of violence over the course of the Biblical story.

We remember in a special way today.  With Holy Communion, what we call the Lord’s Supper.  A way to remember that when Jesus fought the greatest battle for humanity – and all creation – Jesus did not put up a fight.  Christ simply died.  Christ conquered death – dying to do it.

The crossing of the Jordan River, and the end of death and violence, are poetically brought together in William William’s powerful old hymn,
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and hell’s destruction,
land me safe on Canaan’s side. (1745)

Like a baptism into a new life, the ancient Hebrew people crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land.  In our Christian story and song, we see the Promised Land as the great Realm of Jesus, a Realm of eternal joy and justice.  

It is a watershed moment for Bible people to discover a Promised Land, not of conquest, not of violence, but of peace and grace and welcome.  And again, God says, I will be with you.  Jesus: I will never leave your nor forsake you.


* The Vimy Memorial
  Watson Kirkconnell

High on the summit it towers and gazes in silence to eastward,
  Over the plain of Douai, over the lowlands of France:
Based on twin ramparts of ashlars, upreared in a pile cyclopean,
  Flanked with cold figures of stone, worthy of Mizraim’s prime,
Pillars of marble upsoaring, stupendous and touched with the sunrise,
  Speak of a battle of old, tell of a victory won.

Here on the hilltop at Vimy the monument stands in remembrance;
  Threescore thousand dead, these were the price that we paid.
Here will their spirits foregather, pale ghosts of our nearest and dearest,
  Thronging the steps of the plinth, thronging the platform of stone.
What will they dream as released from the clogging constraint of the body
  Over the flatlands they gaze, over the lowlands of France?
Will they rehearse all the battles that raged on those plains through the ages–
  Caesar assailing the Gauls, Attila’s army of Huns,
Saracens sweeping in ardour to conquer the world for the Crescent,
  Norsemen who land from their ships, feudal despite to the Crown,
All of the sweep of the warfare that followed the French Revolution,
 Legions from over the Rhine, brought by the French on themselves?

Such may the reveries be of the ghosts of our kinsmen departed:
  Deeds of a handful of dust, vanquishing valorous dust.
Will they be proud as they see, in our land that they laid down their lives for,
  Petty political spite, bickering selfish and crude?
Deathless their valour remains, to rebuke the small souls who come after.
  If we should founder in shame, ghosts of our great will be grieved.