Magazine article The Christian Century

Veterans and Stewards

Magazine article The Christian Century

Veterans and Stewards

Article excerpt

I REMEMBER the solemnities of Armistice Day when I was a young boy. Who could forget that on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 o'clock in the morning, the armistice to end the "war to end all wars" was sounded? The carnage of a foreign conflict fought "to make the world safe for democracy" was stopped. We didn't always know where Flanders Field was, but we were moved by the poppies and the crosses which grew out of its soil. We were not altogether certain what the issues were that drove the most civilized nations of the world to the barbarities of bayonet, gas and trench, but we all knew somebody who knew somebody who went and fought "over there," and some of these men, now quite. long in the tooth, would have places of honor at the head of our little morning parade. Wreaths would he laid for fallen comrades, taps would sound and flags would remain at half staff until noon.

I serve a church built as a memorial to the dead of that war. Hardly a decade passed after the dedication of the Memorial Church to this noble purpose before World War II burst upon us. The names of those dead adorn the walls, now joined by the dead of Korea and Vietnam.

For some, this place is a monument to the waste of youth and human life, a rebuke to the folly of those who, while they should know better, construct a world in which only violence answers violence. For others, this is a place consecrated by noble sacrifice and high ideals. November makes us all anxious about the quick and easy answers we are inclined to give to the question, "Well, which is it?" We know that the worship of country is nothing less than idolatry, and we know that our citizenship is in heaven. We also know that we must fight evil where we find it, and that in St. Augustine's words, earth--or our corner of it--is but a colony of heaven.

Thus we must do what we must where we are with what we have. In an age that too much worships "clarity," perhaps a healthy dose of divine ambiguity is not a had thing. It may not serve to keep us honest, but it certainly will help keep us humble.

One thing about which scripture is not ambiguous is the subject of money, and most of us turn, w th some anxiety, to considerations of money on November Sundays traditionally devoted to stewardship. …

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