O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.(The Book of Common Prayer, page 839)One hundred years ago today, at 11 o'clock in the morning, World War I ended. Check out this link to hear what that sounded like.
Wikipedia says that there was a "cessation of hostilities." That gets it about right. There was no lasting peace and there certainly was not justice. People were just sick and tired of war. That is certainly understandable. Yet historians argue that the end of World War I (ironically fought as the "war to end all wars") almost immediately marked the beginning of World War II.
In my experience, soldiers never glamorize war. The ones who do that are the politicians who remain a safe distance from the front lines. By all accounts, those front lines in "The Great War" were pretty awful. Armistice Day would eventually become Veterans Day because, well. it turned out not to be the war to end all wars after all. You don't end war by making war or even with a cessation of hostilities. You end war, as the prophet said, by beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. You end war by doing justice and loving mercy and by committing to the way of peace.
Our yearning for peace is not at odds with honoring the men and women who have served in uniform. It is a lie to suggest otherwise. In fact, it seems to me that the greatest honor we can pay those who have "ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy" is to work for peace and justice by helping to create a world where our children and grandchildren "study war no more." That requires pragmatists and realists, not only idealists. It requires hope, not just wishful thinking. It requires peacemakers, not people who cry peace where there is no peace.
At 11:00 a.m today I will pause to remember those who have served this country and who are currently serving this country in uniform. And to give thanks for the sacrifices they have made and are making. If, in the course of the day, I have a chance to thank a Veteran personally, I will do that. I will also give thanks for their families, who also know the costs of war and of their service.
But I will also say a prayer for peace. Not just cessation of hostilities but for the shalom of God that passes all understanding. And for a peace dividend that allows us to convert the instruments of war into instruments of peace, which is a fancy Biblical way of saying less money from our national budget priorities spent at the Pentagon and more on roads, schools, and healthcare.