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The Grand Parade & Sharing Our Lamp Oil:
A reflection on Remembrance Day & loving each other.
A year ago, it was shortly after Thanksgiving Sunday that I began doing the three services on Sunday: Wiarton, Lions Head, & Tobermory. It took me a number of Sundays to learn how to manage my energy for these long days of worship: what to eat, what to do with my dog, Parkie, even when to drink and when to go to the washroom!
I remember my first two or three Sundays, feeling like having that cookie or square after worship at each stop was a good idea … and then finding myself almost falling asleep while driving as my blood sugar spiked and then dropped. To maintain a steady pace, and stay alert, I needed to nourish myself in a certain way. I needed to be prepared. SO it wasn’t long before I began packing a cooler, with the right kind of food to keep my energies reasonably steady for the long day.
We do tend to approach things differently if we know the race to completion will come soon, vs if we know there may be a longer journey ahead. If we think the race may be quick to end, the goal may be quickly met, it is common to pour everything into the endeavour all at once. On the other hand if we know the target will take years, even lifetimes to be met – the goal may take generations to arrive at, we pace ourselves, hopefully incorporating measures of compassion and grace into how we treat ourselves and others along the way.
If I may, let me ask you to bracket these examples for a moment, and hear (if you didn’t read it in the news) the story of Remembrance Day celebrations in Halifax this year. The city’s major Remembrance Day celebration usually happens at the Grand Parade.
The Globe and Mail reports: At one end of Grand Parade is City Hall and at the other end is St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the oldest standing Protestant church in Canada – both National Historic Sites. In the centre is the war memorial built in 1929 to commemorate those who died during the First World War.
Halifax, like most of Canada, and certainly like the Bruce Peninsula is facing a severe housing shortage. Many have camped in tents in the Grand Parade area, and this year, the Legion decided not to hold the Remembrance day parade at the war memorial,
moving the celebrations so that the people who are camped in tents as their primary shelter would not be disturbed.
Nova Scotia has a long military history, with the capital city serving as a naval base and a strategic port for overseas troops during the First and Second World Wars. The city is also home to Canadian Forces Base Halifax, the largest military base in the country, with 7,500 military members.
The Mayor of Halifax, said he supports the legion’s decision to move it. “It’s a shame that it’s not going to be here at Grand Parade,” he said. “It’s a historic place and it’s a place where people should be able to come and meet and greet each other.”
But at the same time, he said, encampments should not be hidden out of sight. “These are not unpatriotic Canadians. These are not people who don’t care. They’re just folks who don’t have a place to live. I would like to see Grand Parade clear of tents but it should only happen once people have a better place to live.”
To put this in the language of the gospel reading today: the bridegroom arrives when everyone has a better place to live. The bridegroom arrives when there is housing and support for all who require it. The Kingdom of God is a place of adequate, indeed abundant provisioning for ALL God’s children.
In the meantime, however, knowing that the Kingdom is almost here, but not quite yet, knowing that Jesus initiated this Kingdom project with his birth, life, death and resurrection – we know that the promise of God was fulfilled in Jesus, is fulfilled in Jesus, is being fulfilled in Jesus. And we live in this space of a Kingdom of God which is unfolding – partially here, almost here in completion, but not quite yet …
In this extended liminal time, we tool ourselves for the longer wait. We tool ourselves for a longer journey, a longer working day of witness in which the things we consume to sustain ourselves must be capable of sustaining us:
- capable of keeping our soul lights on,
- our love lamps lit,
- the currents of compassion continuously flowing
Like the Legion in Halifax, we are called to make the decisions which live in celebration, in remembrance of the sacrifice that has been given for us to have what we have – and living in the knowledge of that sacrifice is not merely ceremonial, living in honour of that sacrifice is not just a matter of remembering – it is also a matter of respecting the lives and the dignities which the sacrifices – of God, of others – have allowed us to live. ALL of us – not just those who have homes, but those who are homeless … not just those who are free, but those who are held captive by any number of things: from addictions to idolatry, from scarcity to judgmentalism.
We are free because Jesus died for us. We are free because God loved us enough to send God’s only begotton son. We remember those who died in war by wearing a poppy. What do we do to remember God’s love for us? We remember that by heeding and honouring the invitation: to love others as God has loved us, i.e. not because we are worthy, not because we have earned it – but out of a spirit of generosity and love that knows no limit.
We prepare for the coming of the bridegroom by tooling ourselves for the current time of living in this unfolding kingdom of God. Packing in our lunchpans for the day: compassion and love, mercy and kindness – the body and blood of Jesus Christ – to light the way until his return.
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