God Grants Peace

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Remembrance Sunday
SCRIPTURE: 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4 and Haggai 2: 6-9
“The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord Almighty. “And in this place I will grant peace,” declares the Lord Almighty.
Haggai 2: 9 (NIV)

FEELING HOMELESS

My name is Kim Gilliland. I am a retired chaplain with the Canadian Armed Forces with 30 years of service. I started off as an officer cadet back in 1984 when I did my basic training at Esquimalt which is near Victoria BC. During my time with the Canadian Forces, I served with both the navy and the army. I travelled throughout Canada and the US and spent time in the high Artic and Europe. I served with seven different units. My final posting with as the Deputy Division Chaplain to the 4th Canadian Division which is the largest division in Canadian army where I had supervisory responsibilities for all Chaplain services across Ontario, both Regular Force and Reserves. I retired in 2015 with the rank of Major with a medical category because of injuries received in the course of duty. I am a veteran.

I’m still involved with the military. It never really leaves you. I’m on the executive of the Essex and Kent Scottish Association and also the Scottish Borders. I’m the Chaplain to and the on the Executive of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 201 in Essex. I have also played with the Windsor Regiment Band. I recruit for the Chaplains whenever I can and continue to get calls from servicing Chaplains who need a ear to listen to them.

My father was WWII veteran, my grandfather a Boer War veteran. Three of our children either have or are currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. So it’s kind of in my blood. I’m happy that I could serve. It was my honour and my privilege and I still miss it.

And that’s why it’s really strange that for a period of time this week, I began to understand what a homeless person feels like.

I know, you’re wondering, “Where did that come from?” It came from my experience this week standing outside a couple of local businesses, selling poppies for the Legion. I had never done that before – always thought I was too busy, so let someone else do it. But I also realized this week that taking a couple of hours out of my week to man that poppy boxes was probably a good idea.

And so for two hours this week, I stood in the doorway of a couple of businesses with my little carboard box filled with poppies and a slot in it where someone could place a donation in exchange for a poppy.

And to tell you the truth, lots of folks antied up. One little guy came by – I think he must have been about ten years old – wanted a poppied. All he had was about $.20 so that’s what I got and that was appreciated. Lots of folks put in loonies and toonies or some combination thereof. There were a few $5 and even some $20. Every time someone made a donation, I said, “Thank you.” I also gave some sticker poppies away especially for children. The stickers are good because they can’t stick themselves with the pins. That always brought a smile to their faces.

Then there were the people who were already wearing a poppies – and there were lots of them. When they passed by, I thanked them for wearing their poppies and the support that they show when they do that. Not everyone wore a poppy and that’s okay. Some of them told me that they had one in the car or that it was on another coat. I totally get because they same thing happens to me. And how many poppies have I lost because they flipped away when I put on my seatbelt? You all know what I’m talking about. But even when they walked by I wished them a good day. Most would smile back and acknowledge my greeting.

But then there was the final group of people. They weren’t wearing poppies and they would not look at me. They wouldn’t make eye contact. They either looked at the floor or off to the other side when they passed by. I always wished them good day too but they just walked by silently like I wasn’t there, like if they just didn’t acknowledge that I was standing there in front of them, like I didn’t exist. And if I didn’t exist than my poppies must not exist either and, if none of that exist, then they would not have to drop a loonie or a toonie or even a quarter into my donation box. It’s these people who gave me a glimpse of what homeless people must go through every day.

So where did that remark come from? We’ve all seen homeless people. They’re usually in cities where there are often more resources and choices for them. Sometimes you see them in doorways. Sometimes they’re standing on the sidewalk asking for money. Sometimes they stand in the median at corners with stop lights with their hats out, walking past your car as you wait for the light to change.

How do we respond to them? Do we make eye contact or do we look away? Do we acknowledge their humanity and offer them a greeting or pretend that they don’t exist? Do we treat them like they are creations of a holy God or do we just go on our way feeling just a little embarrassed by the whole thing?

I have to admit that I’m not used to being ignored and bypassed. But homeless people must get used to it because it happens to them all the time. And do you know something, of all of the homeless people who use homeless shelters in Canada, 15% of them are veterans. That amounts to about 2,200 Canadian veterans who are using homeless shelters on a regular basis. Note that, because they are veterans, that means by definition that these people have an education, were once gainfully employed in a job that made a difference and knew the value of team work and hard work. And now they’re on the street.

THE EXILE

The prophet Haggai wrote at an interesting time in the history of the people of Judah. The year is 520 BCE. Sixty-six years earlier, in 586 BCE, Jerusalem was sacked and burned by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. Prior to that, Judah had been a vassal state of Babylon but, under King Zedekiah, Judah had rebelled. The Babylonians were not pleased and after a siege, defeated the Jews, destroyed Jerusalem and took the Jewish people captive back to Babylon where they lived for the next sixty-six years.

This period of time in the history of the Jews is called the Exile. And it was a foundational time for them and their understanding of God whom they called Jahweh. One of the most important things that they learned was the God’s power and presence was not limited to Judah. Until then, they had believed that God dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem. This was the temple that Solomon had built when Israel was the most powerful nation in the Middle East. It was a magnificent architectural accomplishment, at the time one of the most impressive buildings on the face of the planet. The Jews thought of as God’s seat of power, his house if you will.

But in 586 BCE the temple was utterly destroyed by the Babylonians. That massive stones that made up the walls were toppled one after the other until they lay on the ground in a disheveled ruin. That must have taken a long, long time but the armies of Babylon were serious about turning Jerusalem into a wasteland as a sign to any other vassal state that was thinking about rebelling. The result, of course, is that the Jews became homeless.

As the Jewish people were herded to Babylon, they must have wondered what was next for them. Not only were their homes destroyed and their businesses ruined. Not only had they lost family members in the siege of Jerusalem. Not only were they being taken to a foreign land where they had never been before but they also were leaving God behind. His house was gone too, the temple built in his honour. What would they do without God whose worship was so central to their everyday life?

One of the most important learnings that occurred during the Babylonian Exile is that, 30 or so days later, when the Jews finished the 1,500 km trek and arrived in Babylon, they discovered that God was there too. God was not limited to the geographical bounds of their homeland. God did not reside exclusively in the temple even if it was considered to be his home. God was everywhere. Wherever his people were God was there before them to be worshipped and to give them a source of eternal love and strength. God had not deserted them and God would never desert them. God was there no matter where they were or how they got there, they were not alone.

Sixty-six years later, Haggai looked over the new city of Jerusalem. Much had happened in the intervening years. Babylon itself had been defeated by the Persians in 539 BCE. A year later, King Cyrus the Great of Persia put an end to the Exile and allowed any Jews who wanted to return to their homeland to go back and begin to rebuild.

But, for various reasons, the building had not gone well. The people who had moved in after the Jews were exiled were not pleased about their return. Funds were scarce and building expensive. The people had enough trouble growing food and maintaining their homes, let alone rebuild the city and the temple. And they had become discouraged.

And so nineteen years after the Exile had ended, the prophet writes these words in Haggai 2:6-9 (NIV):

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the Lord Almighty. 8 “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” declares the Lord Almighty. 9 “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord Almighty. “And in this place I will grant peace,” declares the Lord Almighty.

What this tell us is that our God is one who is not afraid to shake things up. God will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. God will shake the nations and in the shaking will give them what they need. And God’s house will be filled with glory. Why will God’s house be filled with glory? Because people will see that our God is a God who is not afraid to shake things up.

REMEMBERING

What do you think? Do you think it’s time for God to shake a few things up in the world? I think so. When 2,200 Canadian veterans are using homeless shelters, we need a shakeup. When veterans can’t get the services that they need for injuries received in the line of duty, we need a shakeup. Do know the injury that causes the deaths of more soldiers and veterans than any other? It’s suicide. I remember when I was the Deputy Division Chaplain that there was a time when we were dealing with at least one suicide every week. At the same time, in the US where I think they keep better track of such things, one American military veteran was dying every sixty-five minutes. That is twenty-two every day. In fact, the very last next of kin notification that I did was to a father in Kingsville whose son had killed himself in his quarters on the base where he was serving. It’s not a pleasant thing to knock on a door knowing that the news that you are bringing will change a family forever but it has to be done and it has to be done well.

Canadian military personnel and veterans carry the scars of their service. Some of them are visible: a lost leg, a missing eye or a shattered hand. But many, if not the majority, are not so obvious. They are the ones that carry on inside a soldier’s head, years after their service is over. They are the sights, sounds and smells that will never be forgotten. They are the names and faces of friends who never came home. They are the nightmares that continue to stir the sleep every now and then and you wake up sweating and anxious.

As a veteran, I get that and that is why I have mixed feelings about Remembrance Day. While I think it is necessary to remember I also know that it affects me. It affects my sleep, my diet and my moods. Because I remember people like WO Roberge who taught me some of hand to hand combat which Padres aren’t supposed to learn. I remember Cpl Andrew Grenon whom I never met. But on the morning of September 3, 2008, as his parents were getting ready for work, I rang their doorbell with the news of Andrew’s death. He was the first soldier from Windsor Essex to die in Afghanistan and the outpouring of grief and the support of this community was amazing.

And I remember one mother who refused to come to the door when she saw me there because she knew that when a Padre showed up at your door unannounced it was probably not good news. She couldn’t come because if she didn’t come then I didn’t exist and if I didn’t exist than the news that I carried didn’t exist and the daughter that she cherished so much was not dead. But she was.

Yes Remembrance Day is hard but it is also necessary because it is absolutely vital that we remember. We remember because we need to honour those who sacrificed and continue to sacrifice themselves for our freedom and peace. We need to remember those who died and those who are scarred. We need to remember their families and the communities from which they came. We need to remember that while we desire peace, the price of freedom is often paid with the blood of our sons and daughters. We have to remember them.

PROMISED PEACE

We also have to remember Haggai 2:9 (NIV) which says this: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord Almighty. “And in this place I will grant peace,” declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai is telling the people of Judah not to despair for, despite all that they have been through, despite the defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, despite the Exile to a foreign land, despite the fact that things just aren’t getting done in Jerusalem as they should be, God is there. And in the end, despite everything else, there will be peace.

That is sometimes hard to believe. When we look around at the world, when we see the bloodshed that is still going on in many nations, when we hear the hyper-partisanism that is destroying North America society through fake news and social media, we wonder how we will ever have peace either domestically or abroad.

God promises that we will, that the glory of this day will be greater than the glory of yesterday because God is there and because God is there we will have peace. But peace does not come freely and it doesn’t come without some effort. And maybe the first place to start is with those men and women who are selling the poppies in store fronts and take out lines and street corners all over our communities. Many of them are veterans and all of them care about veterans. Even if you don’t need a poppy because you have three at home or in your car, at least smile and offer a friendly greeting. Those people really are there and the money that they raise in the poppy campaign is all designated to help veterans in programmes across this great nation. Any help that you can give will be appreciated by all.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Loving God, we come to you on this Remembrance Day, thankful for those who have gone before us. We give thanks for what you gave to us through their efforts. We thank you for freedom and prosperity. We thank you for safe homes and the ability to worship in the manner of our choosing. We thank you for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Remind us that our privileges were bought at a cost. The price was paid in human suffering. We give thanks for those who had the courage to offer their lives for a higher purpose. Our debt is great and we seldom truly appreciate the depth of what we owe. Many veterans, men and women, gave so much of their time, energy, relationships, blood and breath. Many still feel the effects of their years of service. How can we thank them enough?

We mourn the horrors of war in all of its destructiveness. We mourn the great amounts of resources that must be amassed for such devastation. We mourn, also, that we as a people seem to have learned little from history. War still occupies the lives of many. Munitions manufacturing is a major multi-billion dollar industry. Countries fight countries. People struggle against one another. Armies collide in a conflict for power. Forgive us God.

We pray for our own troops around the world working in peace keeping and combat operations. We are grateful for their contribution to world peace and their ability to keep warring factions apart long enough and innocent people safe.

Our minds turn to those who suffer. We remember the many innocent people who are living under conditions that we could not even imagine. Bring peace, O God.

In our prayers we lift up those who are sick, those with minor colds and flues, and those with more serious illnesses. We remember, especially, Al and Mary.

Finally, O God, we pray for peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our land. Peace in our community. Peace in our families and in our relationships. Peace in our lives. Peace in our Church. Send your Kingdom into our lives in ways that we will recognize and appreciate, in ways that will make a real difference to the well being of the women and men whom we meet and support. God of Peace, God of Justice, hear our prayers offered in Jesus name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

November 10, 2019 / Pentecost 22 / Proper 27 / Remembrance Sunday

SCRIPTURE

Haggai 1:15b-2:9; Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 or Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17; Luke 20:27-38

CALL TO WORSHIP

Today, we remember the tragedy of war;

We remember the rebuilding that comes after war;

We remember God’s presence with us in all of life;

We remember the peace that we have in Jesus;

Let us worship God!

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Peace and Love, we remember with sadness the pain and suffering of war. We remember those who are suffering this minute because of past or present conflicts. We come to worship as a people seeking your peace. Give us to the courage to be peacemakers, no matter the cost. We pray for the day when your love is alive in every heart, and when Jesus’ name is known in every corner of the world. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Mercy, we know that you watch over us, yet how easily we forget about you. When we fail to remember the sacrifices of others, forgive us. When we forget the emotional scars of war left upon the children and the children’s children, forgive us. When we forget that each person on earth is your child and our sister or brother, forgive us. When we forget your love for us and fail to be your instruments of peace, forgive us. We come before you in humble repentance. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Even when we forget God, God does not forget us. In the midst of our brokenness, we are offered the healing that Jesus brings. When we repent, we are forgiven.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Remembering the sacrifice of many, we offer our simple gifts to you, O God. May they continue the work of justice and freedom for which our ancestors offered so much. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

As we leave, let us remember the tragedy of war. As we remember, let us rebuild a world of peace. As we rebuild, let us live in the light of Christ. As we live, let us celebrate God’s love.

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