Reader: Paul Barker. audio begins with the scripture passage; sermon begins at 4:25

Remembrance Day   Texts: Psalm 46; Romans 12: 1-3, 11-21

In some ways, this is just another day -- if ever there is such a thing.
Though it quickly becomes something else as we allow the scenes of the killing fields to enter our minds. But who of us want to go there? And yet there is something essential about our going there, for in our breaking open is the path to healing. There is no healing through denial. There is no change of heart or mind or stance through denial, but the same thing over and over and over again.

It would seem that as we recognize the magnitude of the horror, the scale of the devastation, as we are in touch with the ever-widening destructive ramifications of war, surely that would be enough to
set us on a different course. Surely.
And yet, it hasn’t. What are we doing still on track for sending arms to Saudi Arabia?

You have to wonder what’s wrong with us? What will wake us up? What on earth will it take?

There is something about understanding --deeply appreciating-- the power of fear in our lives …the power of fear to separate us, to bend us out of shape, the power of fear to override our capacity for reason, our ability to see what’s real, to think creatively, to act humanely. When we are in the grip of fear this is what happens to us.

So you can see, can’t you, how staring into the horror --that alone-- actually isn’t going to do it for us. In fact for some it may only escalate our fear … fear born of hopelessness --what hope have we if this is the madness we’re not only capable of, but capable of repeating.
So the deeper question may really be how do we find our way in the face of our deadly fear?

I want to read you a poem by Anita Barrows. Don’t hear it as an answer to that question. Hear it as a something far more powerful. Hear it as an offer, a response, to a cry for help we’re too terrified to utter …

And I would travel with you
to the places of our shame

The hills stripped of trees, the marshes grasses
oil-slicked, steeped in sewage;

The blackened shoreline, the chemical-poisoned water;

I would stand with you in the desolate places, the charred places,
soil where nothing will ever grow, pitted desert;

fields that burn slowly for months; roots of cholla & chaparrala
writhing with underground explosions

I would put my hand
there with yours, I would take your hand, I would walk with you

through carefully planted fields, rows of leafy vegetables
drifting with radioactive dust; through the dark
of uranium mines hidden in the sacred gold-red mountains;

I would listen with you in drafty hospital corridors
as the miner cried out in the first language

of pain; as he cried out
the forgotten names of his mother I would stand
next to you in the forest’s

final hour, in the wind
of helicopter blades, police

sirens shrieking, the delicate
tremor of light between

leaves for the last
time Oh I would touch with this love each

wounded place  [1]

Hearing that alongside “the Beloved is our refuge and strength, a Loving Presence in time of trouble” and I don’t know about you but I hear the “I” of Anita’s poem as the voice of God. I hear the assurance of an unspeakably generous solidarity, a merciful and empowering solidarity that lends the courage we need to not just face our fear but to pass through it.  I hear God’s longing to be taken up on the offer … if only we would stretch out our hand to the Love that is already there, already here, to go with us deep enough to find light.

And we wonder about the relevance of spiritual communities when it seems our deepest need -- the world’s deepest need-- is to re-connect with the infinite Heart of Love. … not just the concept of Love but the power, the living presence that empowers us to move toward not away from the object of our fear.

There’s been some pretty powerful conversations around here on Wednesday night … these soulful Wednesdays. Bev was telling me about someone in the Song of Faith group last Wednesday relaying the story of Daryl Davis … you can listen to the interview with him through the archive of CBC’s Out in the Open radio show. [2]

Daryl Davis is a black man and, among other things, a remarkable musician … he’s an absolute wizard on the piano. He tells the story of playing one night in the Silver Dollar bar when a white man comes up to him and tells him it’s the first time he’s ever heard a black man play like Jerry Lee Lewis. Daryl tried to explain to him the black origin of Jerry’s style but the man doesn’t believe him -- can’t believe Jerry Lee Lewis would learn anything from black people. But he’s so fascinated with Daryl he invites him to sit down at his table and have a drink with him and talk with him. “This is the first time I’ve ever had a drink with a black man,” he says to Daryl. Daryl’s floored and asks him, “why?” Eventually it comes out he’s a member of the Klu Klux Klan.
Before the conversation is over he gives Daryl his phone number. “I want to know the next time you’re back playing at the Silver Dollar-- I want to bring my friends,” as in his Klansmen and Klanswomen.  There they were every Friday and Saturday night he was playing there. And at the break, Daryl would join them at their table -- those who’d stick around when he’d come close -- and he’d talk with them.

He tells the story of one conversation with high ranking Exalted Cyclops as he was called. “They say all black people have a gene within them that makes them violent,” this man announced to Daryl.
To which Daryl replies, “how do you explain that? I’m as black as they come and I’ve never done a car-jacking, a drive-by.”
Without any hesitation whatsoever he came right back with “your gene is latent -- it hasn’t come out yet.”
Totally blown away, Daryl finds it in himself to say, “They say all white people have within them a gene that makes them a serial killer.” “What?!!” the guy says.
“Well name me 3 black serial killers.” He couldn’t name one.
Daryl names one for him … “so just give me 2 then.” He couldn’t think of any. So then Daryl goes on to rhyme off the names of 7 or 8 people. “They are all white serial killers. So, son,” he says, “you are a serial killer.”
“What are you talking about? I’ve never killed anybody.”
“Your gene is latent … it just hasn’t come out yet.”
“That’s stupid,” Exalted Cyclops says.
“I know it’s stupid,” laughs Daryl … “but it’s no more stupid than what you just told me.”
He got very quiet … “I could tell, says Daryl, “in his head the wheels were spinning out of control.”
In five months this man left the Klan.
In fact Daryl’s had hundreds of conversation with Klan members … and over 200 have left the clan.

There it is, isn‘t it … what we heard in that excerpt Paul read this morning …“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.”

Before the interview is over, Daryl is asked what have these conversations taught you about hate? “You cannot hate the hate out of a person,” he says. “You cannot beat the hate out of a person … but you can love it out of a person. Only light can drive out the dark. You don’t combat hate with hate.”

It may seem like a long way from the killing fields to the Silver Dollar bar …and of course in some very real ways it is. But not when we’re talking about the power of fear to over-ride our capacity for reason, our ability to see what’s real, to think creatively, to act humanely.
But we’re also talking about the possibility of love casting out fear.

So I want to jump this morning to all the cenotaphs all across the country. Thousands upon thousands of people gathered to remember. To remember loved ones; to remember the horrific loss of life, the pain that’s left behind in its wake, the loss of enormous potential. Today we give ourselves to remembering.

And there’s more for us to be about, isn’t there.

What if every person who shows up today to remember what if every last one of us also rose up against the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia?  What if we refused to be bought by the rhetoric about jobs and we found a way to express to our political leaders our support of those who would thereby be out of work … whether that’s by increased taxes or retraining programs. What if we found it in ourselves to embrace a whole new take on the cost of living … a different cost of living, where the pain will not be eased by the money we spend on ourselves but by the way we spend ourselves for others and the way we value life.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds,” St Paul urges us.

How far is it from the cenotaph, from this place of remembering, to a different kind of world?
It’s a big move. “Therefore my friends, I implore you by God’s mercy to offer your very selves to God … to the one who says ‘I will go with you’ … the one who says to us “be still and know that I am Love.  Awaken! Befriend justice and mercy. Do you not know you bear my Love? Who among you will respond?”

In communion with all those who gather across the country today, let us rise, in body or in spirit, to hold this time of silence in which to remember and to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit would show us.

[1] Anita Barrows, Psalm, in We are the Hunger

[2] CBC, Out in the Open, Fighting Hate with Friendship October 19, 2018