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Sunday, 12 November 2017 16:25

Remember: There Will Be War No More Featured

Written by
Swords into Plowshares by Yevgeny Vuchetich, 1959 Swords into Plowshares by Yevgeny Vuchetich, 1959

By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service

Concert of Remembrance Poster smallerALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS November 12, 2017)—Like most people I can’t wait for the day when there will be war no more, a time when swords will be made into plowshares (see Isaiah 2:4). With so much turmoil in the world, I hope it comes sooner than later. Until then, we must remember that one-day war will be eradicated and a new habitation of peace—led by Christ—will reign (see Revelation 21-22). But in midst of the waiting, lets be mindful of those that have sacrificed for freedom this side of our final destination— the New Heaven and Earth.

For someone brought up to question combat—having served in an historic peace church, I have strong feelings concerning war. But there’s something even more important than standing against war, and that’s standing up for people—all people, especially those that have paid the ultimate price with their life. And whether one’s conscience, convictions, or contempt calls them for or against war, we must continually remember not to let our particular position get in the way of our love of people: politics, positions, or philosophies, maybe, but not people.

That’s why Remembrance Day is important. Remembrance Day, also known as Poppy Day, is a time set aside by all Commonwealth Nations to remember people who have perished while engaged in an antitype of peace. Inaugurated by King George V in 1919, the holiday falls on November 11th, the day World War I ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.”

St. Johns Cathedral smallerThis Remembrance Day my wife and I attended a special concert at the local Episcopal Cathedral, St. John’s. As part of the 99th commemoration of Armistice, the Cathedral extended the acknowledgment of remembrance to all veterans.

With combined musical ensembles—The Cathedral Choir, Chatter, and the Ensemble of New Mexico—David Felberg and Canon Maxine Thevenot conducted the concert. There were two pieces performed: Ottorino Respighi’s Suite in G for Strings and Organ, op. 58, and Requiem: Missa Pro Defunctis in C Minor by Luigi Cherubini.

Both pieces were beautifully performed, providing solace to a somber—but enlightening—morning. I couldn’t help but to think of my wife’s grandpa, Cleo Boek, who fought in World War II, and my own stepfather, Tom Law, who served in Vietnam. While the music played, I meditated on the reality of sacrifice, trying to follow the Latin words of Cherubini’s Requiem, which, in part, read:

Eternal rest give unto them O Lord;

And let perpetual light shine upon them.

The just shall be in everlasting remembrance…

And, later:

Lord, in praise we offer you

Sacrifices and prayers,

Accept them on behalf of those

Who we remember this day:

Lord, make them pass from death to life…

And when the moment of silence and the ringing of the bells occurred—followed by the final composition, Faure’s Pie Jesu, a hushed silence demanded one to contemplate.

Yes, we are called to remember.

larson smallerBut it was a quotation written in the program that caught my attention the most. The quotation, taken from Jonathan Larson, read: “the opposite of war is not peace; it’s creation.”

A few things ruminated in my mind as I read it. First, is it true? Is creation the opposite of war? And two, who is Jonathan Larson?

The second question is easier to answer. Jonathan Larson (1960-1996) was an American composer and playwright, best known for his musicals Rent and tick, tick..BOOM. The line quoted above is from Rent, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1996.

As to the first question, I’m not too sure. It seems to me that peace is still the opposite of war, for creation can occur in both—war and peace. But when accomplished while bodies are burst into bits, creation is limited to only the living. Creation has a much more profound affect in times of harmony: permanence. Creation fashioned in peace fosters further appreciation for all people, not just for the living.

I get what Larson may have been saying: creation—the act of bringing something new to the world—is important; from death comes life. So too, creation is a reflection of God’s creative act. But saying that creation is the opposite of peace, I’m not too sure; I’d need to deliberate on the thought more.

As a distinction, I wonder what Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918)—author of the poem In Flanders’s Field—would have thought of such a line? In contrast to Larson, McCrae—who died while serving on the battlefield, and upon whose work the metaphor of a poppy is displayed, wrote:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Lieut. Col. John McCrae M.D. smallerMcCrae’s work is as thoughtful as Larson’s quote; both require further reflection. For Larson creation is the opposite of war; for McCrae the opposite of war is faith, keeping the torch alive in the fight against tyranny.

But as I think about it—both McCrae’s poem and Larson’s quote do gesture towards a common thing, though not articulated: they quietly remind us of life. And though I’m not sure if Larson was thinking of the future state of God’s peace when we wrote his line, there is a semblance of truth to his statement concerning creation. And with McCrae’s poem, his metaphor of creation—as represented with poppies, larks, and the sun, remind us of growth, nature, and being. The quote and poem prompt us to desire something singular, something yet realized; they cause us to crave life, and consequently a sphere where life is propagated uninhibited, which requires peace. From a Biblical standpoint, the New Heaven and the New Earth is this: creation—the ultimate existence, one spent with the Life-Maker and others in a community of creativity in an unhindered concord of life.

Picasso Peace Flowers smallerTo say the least, the quote and the poem cause one to think.

As for me—as much as I love creativity, I don’t think creation is the exact opposite of war. Peace is still the antonym of conflict, discord, and combat. And though creation can embody the reality of peace, it’s not quite the reverse. What I do know is that peace is a type of hymn we should sing with all people until the day the Lord establishes a world where war is no more (Hebrews 12:14).

And with this in mind—seek peace with all, and please remember those we’ve lost in past conflicts, but keep one eye on the future when peace will be eternally contemporaneous, allowing creativity to flow for all—the living and the departed. 

Photo captions: 1) A Concert of Remembrance. 2) St. John's Cathedral, ABQ, NM. 3) Jonathan Larson. 4) Lieutenant Col. John McCrae. 5) Picasso Peace Flowers. 6) Brian Nixon.

Brian Nixon useAbout the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, artist, and minister. He's a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA), Veritas Evangelical Seminary (MA), and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.

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