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Calvary Episcopal Church
667 Mount Road
Aston, PA 19014
24 Pentecost - Proper 27
November 11, 2007
The Rev. Robert C. Granfeldt
|667 Mount Road, Aston, PA 19014 610-459-2013
|Small Parish - Big Heart - Inclusive
Come and worship with us!
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To serve the
To grow the
began with a Newspaper comic strip!
Yesterday morning I was reading the Sunday comics that are always delivered a day early,
and ran across one that spoke abut Remembrance Day.
It’s not a term we often hear, but having grown up in Detroit – right across the Detroit
River from Windsor, Ontario, and sharing a television station with Windsor – I recalled
that that is the term used in Canada for this date, instead of our term, “Veterans’ Day.”
And I recalled that the comic strip I was reading is a Canadian strip.
But another memory was tweaked, as well, so I did some checking, and sure enough, I
was right. We did, once upon a time, celebrate a “Remembrance Day,” on this date, right
here at Calvary Church.
Because six years ago our Diocesan Cathedral was closed for repair and redesign, it had
been impossible for Episcopalians in Southeast Pennsylvania to gather with one another
as the Church in the difficult period following the events of the 11th of September in
2001. Although it would not be the same, our bishop asked that we gather, each in our
own parishes, to observe a Day of Remembrance on that eleventh day of November –
that two-month anniversary of the horror of September 11th – which also happened to be
that Veterans Day; that Armistice Day, honoring veterans of all wars and marking the 83rd
anniversary of the conclusion of “the Great War; the War to end all wars”.
That’s what World War I was called, originally, some of you may remember. It wasn’t
“World War I” until the Second World War came along. It was “the Great War,” but it had
also been dubbed, “THE WAR TO END ALL WAR,” and there was great optimism on the
11th of November in 1918, and in the years following.
The 20th Century was still young, and the world determined that it WOULD be the Century
in which War ceased to trouble the world. The weapons of war had become too
horrendous to contemplate; too merciless in their destruction! Humankind had matured
in the terrible years between 1914 and the end of 1918; had become too wise; had
become determined that never again would the horror of war be allowed to tear at the
fabric of civilization!
Until the next time. And the next time. And the next time.
Less than two decades had passed when the winds of war were once blowing, with Japan
making war on China, and Italy going to war in Africa; and by the twenty-first anniversary
of the close of the WAR TO END ALL WARS, the only world power NOT at war was the
United States – an oversight that would be corrected within 25 months! And by the end of
the first half of the 20th Century, another global war had been fought – this one a war that
had killed more people than all the wars that had gone before, in all the history of
But we weren’t done, yet. By the half-century mark, there was Korea, and a half-century of
LESSER wars had begun, as the two, mammoth super-powers that had emerged from the
two great wars squared off with one another to duel by surrogate: brush-fires here and
there around the globe, topped by one that would change one of the superpowers in
ways we still have not understood – Viet Nam – and one that would ultimately destroy the
other superpower – Afghanistan!
But as the Century neared its close, it was with another great wave of optimism. The “Evil
Empire” had collapsed like the house of cards it had always been, and the Cold War was
over by default. Pundits were proclaiming the “end of history,” by which they meant that,
because history was mostly the story of conflicts between nations – the story of war – it
was over; History was over because war was over. With the end of the ideological battle
between the Soviet and Western systems – with the victory of the Western system –
there was no longer any reason for war, any need for it. The business of the world had
become business, and war did not make good business sense. Oh, a “brushfire” might
pop up here or there – for so we called them – but nothing important. After all, the United
States had become the Big Cop, and we could handle anything that might come along.
Thus the Century ended much as it had begun – we had just been a bit premature.
Instead of a WAR TO END ALL WARS, we had had a CENTURY OF WARS TO END ALL WARS.
A horrible Century it had been – but at last, war was over.
And then it was the 11th of September, in the first year of the new Century. And suddenly,
the world was at war, again. Not a “World War”, to be sure – but a world AT war. A new war
for the new Century.
I still recall a conversation I had with a friend in the Diocese, shortly after that day. We
began talking about the day – as most conversations in those early months seem to have
begun – when she said the events of the 11th were “Shocking”. “Yes,” I agreed, “it was
“Such a surprise,” she said, and I agreed, again, “Yes. A terrible surprise.” “It was the
evil,” she said. “It was so evil. It was the evil that surprised me!”
But to that, I could NOT agree. “No, the evil did not surprise me,” I said. “Evil should
never surprise a Christian. Christians and Jews, of all people, know evil, and should
But that, you see, was the mistake we had all made. We had made it at the end of the WAR
TO END ALL WARS. We made it again at the end of World War II, and then again at the end
of the Century. We forgot about EVIL!
But Christians should never forget about evil, should never fail to expect it, should
never fail to recognize it. How could we?
Every time we enter our houses of worship, we meet it. Every time we look toward the
altar of the Lord we worship, we see its effect. Every time we look upon the cross where
the King of Glory was hung to die, we are confronted with the reality and the power of
I’m afraid my friend, when I said these things, was shocked at ME! “That’s so depressing,”
she said, “to ‘expect evil.’ Don’t you find that depressing?” she asked me.
“Not really,” I said. “Recognizing evil is simply reality, and expecting evil is just self-
defense. To expect evil is to be ready for it; to be on guard against it; at least not to be
surprised by it. We Christians should know that even better than most. But as Christians,
there’s more, as well. As Christians, we have HOPE that evil can and will be overcome.
And as Christians we believe that there is an antidote to evil; an antidote called love.”
Peace will not come to the world because one nation or another has risen or fallen.
Peace will not come to the world because alliances have been made or broken. Peace
will not come to the world because one country or another enforces it. Peace will not
come to the world because war is suddenly seen as “bad for business!”
Peace will only come to the world – peace will only BEGIN to come to the world – as we
begin to understand the teaching and the example of the Lord Christ. Peace will only
BEGIN to come to the world as we learn to live the Gospel.
As I have said so many times, two thousand years after the coming of the Lord in Flesh,
we have only BEGUN to get it, only BEGUN to understand; and we’ve Barely begun to live
Until we do begin really to learn, our world will continue to be broken, continue to be
beset by evil.
Today is, once again, November 11. Once, when we believed in the idea of “THE WAR TO
END ALL WARS,” it was called Armistice Day. Later, in 1954, it became, rightly, and
remains, Veterans Day. It is the day when we remember and honor those persons we turn
to when the evil surprises us; the day when we pray for those who have given their lives
to defend us and the land and way of life we hold dear from the evil; the day when we
thank those who undertook the same risk as those we honor on Memorial Day but who
survived – though not always intact.
Six years ago – the last time Veterans’ Day fell on a Sunday, and two months after the
events of 9/11/01 – remembering the day and all those whose lives had been cut short by
its evil, and praying for all those who, we knew, we would be calling upon to defend us
and our world from the evil, we began our Service with the Great Litany, as has long been
our practice in the Episcopal Church to begin such solemn occasions, because it so
powerfully puts our reality in such clear perspective, for us.
Recalling all these things, last evening, I thought seriously about beginning this morning’
s Service that way again, today, but decided against it, because to do that would, I’m
afraid, detract from the main theme of this day on our country’s calendar: remembering,
and giving thanks and praying for, all those who, in wars past and in wars present, have
served and now serve this country when and as called to do so. Theirs is an offering and
a sacrifice that should never be forgotten, and never be slighted for any other purpose.
So let us remember them this day, and give thanks for them and to them, as befits the
day. And let us make that remembrance and thanksgiving our special offing in the
Eucharist we celebrate.
But as we join together in making Eucharist, I ask that you remember, too, that, as
necessary as it may be for this world to respond to evil with war, to send young people in
harm’s way again and yet again, to strive for justice and to protect us and our world from
the evil that breaks out again and again, it is wasted effort, and the lives of those we will
honor on other days like this one, in other years, wasted lives, unless we go the rest of
…Unless we ourselves determine to put away all thoughts of hatred and vengeance,
refusing to succumb to the evil in our OWN hearts; Unless we ourselves determine to
learn the way of the Cross our Lord shows us and calls us to; Unless we, ourselves
determine to learn to live lives of forgiveness, as our Lord commands; Unless we
ourselves determine to learn to love our enemy, even as we may be driven to defend
against him; And unless we ourselves determine to make our prayer always and only for
justice and peace.
In his Name who IS justice, peace and Love, our Lord Christ. Amen.