Apr 24, 2021
Sin and Blessing, War and the ANZACs
106 years ago today men landed on the beaches of Gallipoli and began laying down their lives for the sake of others. At a time like this it is tempting to glorify war. There was nothing glorious about World War The way we squander resources even human life in wars, is one compelling reason I believe in original sin. However I also strongly believe we are made in the image of God. Even when we are at our worst we can still do the most wonderful things. We can give our lives for the life of others. We give thanks for and honour that today. We also reflect God’s image when our heart breaks over lost life, suffering and destruction.
In servicemen and women laying down their lives for others we see the image of God & we honour and remember this. God is like a shepherd who cares so much for his sheep that he or she is prepared to lay their life down. God is the one called Abba by Jesus. The word which means “Dad” or “Daddy” rather than the more formal “Father” which we tend to use. This Dad’s heart breaks when he sees our sin, our suffering and our death.
The reason we honour the ANZACs and all those who have followed is certainly not because war is glorious. It is true that in World War 1 and particularly on the shores of Galipolli a significant part of Australia’s identity was forged. But think of the cost? What is worse is the nature of that particular war. War is not glorious. It is always wrong. You would think that humanity would have learned by now. We do not celebrate or honour the Glory of war. Indeed in my view war is proof enough that there is something seriously wrong with the human race. (Original sin)
What we honour instead is I believe what the Bible regards as the image of God. From John 10 we hear that God is like a shepherd who will lay down his life for his sheep. Although we are profoundly sinners we are also made in the image of God. That image may be broken and tarnished but it is still there and because of it even in the horror of war it shines out. Perhaps in war it shines out all the more and is more easily seen. In the australian ideal of “mateship” a true mate is someone who will sacrifice, Give of themselves for the sake of others. The writer of John’s Gospel believed Jesus was the pre-existent word of God. In some sense God. So when Jesus speaks of himself being the Good shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, the Gospel writer believes this is the character of not only the man Jesus but of God.
In all wars World War 1 there was significant hand to hand combat. Mates laying their lives down for mates was an everyday occurrence. We see this in many stories but perhaps nowhere more than in the story of Simpson and his donkey. Simpson of course loses his own life, in saving the lives of others bringing the wounded and ill from the battle field and the trenches. This is what God did in Jesus, risking his life that we might live. If Jesus had taught in Australia after the Great War or if Jesus had been speaking to a group of Australians at that time, he might have described himself, as the Good stretcher bearer, or the mate who draws the enemy fire that others might live.
But there is a further and a deeper reason that we honour the fallen which reflects the image of God. It is the image of God as a parent, a Father/Dad who’s hear breaks over our suffering and death. Because this image runs all through all the Gospels I think sometimes we miss the significance of it. It’s there in today’s Gospel and reading and in the reading from the first Letter of John. God is the Loving Father, who sends his Son, who willingly of his own accord chooses to lay down his life for his brothers and sisters, for the children of every nation, the sheep of every fold. It is clear that God is a loving Father who will do and give anything to bring his children home and let them know that they are loved.
In John’s letter Jesus is referred to as the Son ,and we are referred to as brothers and sisters. One of the repeated ideas of this letter is that if God is a Father who loves us so dearly, then we should love one another. We ought to lay down our lives for one another, the writer says. We should believe in the name of Jesus and love one another, our brothers and sisters.
When I think about all the very young men who died at Gallipoli and later in France & Belgium I reflect that if I had got married in my early 20s then most of those young men who died could easily have been my sons. To look at it another way, today Jack read our Bible rthink of Henry, Adam and Chris. If this had been 106 years ago they may be dying, injured or pinned down ond the shores of Gallipoli. If God is our loving Father who regards every person as his beloved child, as Jesus revealed God to be, then these young men who died, and all who have died young because of the horrors of war are our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters, our husbands, our wives, our Dads and our Mums.
We honour them and remember them primarily, not because they fought bravely though most did, or because they are an important part of the story of our nation, though they are, we honour them because we would not want our children, or our brothers to suffer the horrors of war. This is the image of God in us, that we know because of Jesus that we are the children of God, that we too have been given a loving parent’s heart. If this is true then such lives must be honoured and remembered as a parent remembers a child whose life was cut short and the tragedy of war must never be forgotten. Lest we forget.