Tuesday, May 27, 2014

War Is Hell

Yesterday was Memorial Day when we remembered the men and women who died while serving in our Armed Forces.  Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the Civil War to commemorate Union and Confederate soldiers who died during that horrific war.  About 840,000 soldiers fighting for the North and South died (405,500 in World War II).  By the 20th century, Memorial Day was extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.

Yesterday's first reading from Acts brings to mind all the dead and wounded we remember not just on Memorial Day, but every day.  I speak of Lydia:  “On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”  Lydia was a dealer in purple cloth.

Her services certainly would be useful today for making purple hearts of purple cloth – our military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those wounded or killed while serving in the military.   As reported in the May 15 issue of the Cape Cod Times, 4,476 and 2,183 servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.  Our wounded has totaled 32,239 in Iraq and 19,593 Afghanistan – almost 52,000 U.S. men and women, a staggering number.   

In the Gospel of John we hear Jesus say to his disciples:  “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.”  This reminds us all that we must be advocates for the many wounded by urging our government to properly tend and care for these men and women – for their physical and spiritual or psychological needs.  We must testify for them. 

To those who glorify war, we also must speak the truth with courage we receive from the Holy Spirit.  That truth is: war is hell.  This was the testimony given by Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) who succeeded General Ulysses S. Grant as commander of the Western Theater of the Civil War in 1864.   He was an early advocate of “Total War.”  Sherman is quoted as saying to the Michigan Military Academy graduating class in 1879:  “You don’t know the horrible aspects of war.  I’ve been through two wars and I know.  I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes.  I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies.  I tell you, war is Hell!"  For indeed it is.

Deacon David Pierce

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