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White Stones.

Rembrance Sunday

©2103 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Audio file

Many of you have seen them. Perhaps you’ve been to Vimy Ridge in Normandy. Perhaps you’ve watched your boy-child suddenly robbed of his wooden toy-gun-play innocence by the starkness of these white stones, and his dawning realization that each stone marks a life lost to war.

Perhaps you’ve stood with your throat constricting at the ravaged serenity of the sweeping meadows of Arlington. No cotton plantation now, but instead a harvest of white stones, farther than the eye can see.

Perhaps you’ve stood quietly to the side with respect, while a Veteran, beret proudly on his head, a 70 year old tear dripping off his nose, stands to attention, honouring fallen comrades forever young as he grows old.

Perhaps this is the sight that hits you in the gut. A soldier younger than your children, kneeling at the fresh cut-stone for his buddy, his sister, his brother, cut down in this year’s conflict.

Whether we’ve touched them or not, we’ve all seen them, and others like them. These white stones. Too many white stones.

We don’t all feel the same when we see them. Some will feel the stirrings of respectful pride for the ‘sacrifice’ made for freedom. Some, are caught by lineage, on the so-called ‘enemy side’ of remembrance, but no matter whose white stone, or grey one, or cross, or star, or crescent, each one signifies a life lost to war.

Some of us will just ache with sadness. Some of us will weep. Some of us cannot do the heart’s arithmetic and fathom the widows, orphans, and childless parents, the untold wreckage of family and friendship that these, all these, white stones signify.

Whatever honour, whatever remembrance, whatever dignity we owe, human to human, to these white stones, for the sacrifices of war, – and we do – we cannot, seeing these white stones, think of war as anything other than horrific. Anything other than the graveyard for broken dreams, broken promises, broken lives.

I wish to goodness, to God, that not another white stone need be cut and laid anywhere in the world again. I wish to goodness, to God, that there will be no more unmarked dying places of unknown soldiers and civilians in untold conflicts around this planet.

I wish to goodness, to God, our prayers for peace in Syria, the Congo, Egypt, Afghanistan,Korea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan,… our prayers for peace and justice wherever insurgencies, civil wars, skirmishes, drug wars, and  wars of attrition against indigenous peoples, wars of words, and ideologies, close to home and the other side of the world would be prayers that are answered with more than a promise.

I wish to goodness, to God, that this statue, of the sword being beaten into a plowshare, be not merely an icon to an unfulfilled dream, but instead a beacon, a clarion call, a rallying point for nations and nameless ones to dare to end war with the making, the forging of peace.

I wish to goodness, I wish to God, I knew how. I wish I knew what to do, what to say, to make the difference.

But perhaps there are no words. And for a moment, no better action than our silent attention.

To stand, and with our still silent bodies, to remember all those bodies stilled and silenced by war.

Shall we?  Let us stand. And weep for the world at war.

(Stand. Moment’s silence)  (Silence with choir singing “Weep for the Dead” last verse)

Be seated.

We weep for the dead. We weep for the world at war. And we covenant with goodness and with God to put our lives and dreams into making  real God’s ancient dream where swords, and guns, and nuclear warheads are beaten, smelted and demilitarized into pruning tools, and plows for planting. We covenant with goodness and with God to work for a world where schools for children replace child soldiers. To work for a world where an economy of justice and global sustainability, and protection of the vulnerable will replace the graft and grip of trans-global military industrial complexes. To work with our life blood for justice and freedom for humans of every tribe and race and religion.

How else can we answer, and remember, and honour all those white stones?

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