The Sign of the Poppy and of the Cross

BLCF: cross and poppy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

The Sign of the Poppy and of the Cross’

© November 9, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin Nov 9, 2014


Announcements and Call to Worship – Reading of – In Flanders Fields; Prayer

Reading of ‘In Flanders Fields’ – By Lt. Colonel John McCrae, Canadian Army



Opening Hymn #1: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty; Choruses

Scriptures: John 8:1-11, Luke 4:1-13, Luke 23:32-43 

Prayer and Tithing – Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

Brief Message by Steve Mickelson: The Sign of the Poppy and of the Cross

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to BLCF, for our annual meeting, where we will review the year in activities in BLCF. But, first as Remembrance Day will occur the day after tomorrow, I would like to begin today’s lesson by sharing with a few observations about the sacrifice of our Lord and that of soldiers in the Great War and subsequent conflicts.

It was just a few short weeks ago, in an act of domestic terrorism, an unarmed Canadian army reservist Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot dead  as he stood guard at the National War Memorial. This brought a flood of reaction, mostly patriotic and supportive, specifically to Corporal Cirillo and his family and to Canadian soldiers, in general.

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The National War Memorial

Perhaps more disturbing were other comments by some ranging from “what do you expect when Canada makes war on Isis or Muslims” to “Cirillo was only a reservist who was not in a combat zone and therefore did not deserve a hero’s funeral.”


I suppose the victims of the World Trade Center’s attack on 9-11-2001 deserve to be ignored as well, since New York City is not a war zone and most of those who died were non-combatants! Perhaps the cynics are unaware that most of the soldiers who died in the Great War, (aka World War I), died not in battle but from the effects of the Spanish Flu Pandemic, including the author of the poem In Flanders Fields, Lt. Colonel John McCrae. And in his poem, McCrae did take some liberty in his prose, as the graves were marked not just with crosses, row on row, but headstones in that war and subsequent battles bear the inscriptions and the markings of soldiers bore markings indicating a variety of faiths and creeds, including Jewish, Chinese and Hindu.


But this war, just like any other had moments of grace, such as occurred on Christmas 1914:


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Perhaps no term better captures the horror of World War I than that of No Man’s Land, the forbidden turf   between the opposing trenches.  In both myth and reality, it became a space in-between that was associated with the journeys from sanity to madness and from life to death.  A place of churning soil, singing bullets and suspended time, it exposed human vulnerability in the Machine Age.

On December 25, 1914, however, No Man’s Land was briefly transformed into a meeting-ground for erstwhile foes.  German troops, used to celebrating Christmas on the evening of the 24th, had smuggled Tannenbaum trees into the trenches and serenaded their British counterparts with “Stille Nacht.”  The next day, thousands of troops exchanged photographs and souvenirs; shared bully beef, cigarettes, jam, sausages, chocolate and alcohol; and engaged in other activities.  In a few places, soldiers who had been barbers in civilian life offered free haircuts to those on the other side.  A German juggler gave an impromptu performance.  There are accounts of soccer scrimmages, including one in which Saxons laughed uproariously when gusts of wind revealed that their Scottish opponents were clothed in their kilts alone, and one in which the ball deflated after catching on barbed wire.  There was even a joint memorial service with the bilingual saying of the 23rd Psalm as a prelude to the burial of those who had fallen earlier in No Man’s Land.

Accounts of the significance of the Christmas Truce differ.  British soldier and war cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather described it as “just like the interval between rounds in a friendly boxing match.”  For Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, a father who lost his son to the fighting, the truce was “one human episode amid all the atrocities which have stained the memory of the war.”  For a particular Austrian soldier billeted near the front lines, it was an abomination that “should not be allowed.”  His name: Adolf Hitler.  In succeeding years, artillery bombardments were ordered by commanding officers on Christmas Eve.

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The amazing aspect of this truce in 1914 was that the two opposing armies took time to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, to play together soccer and even to exchange gifts. It is too bad that those who see war as the only response to a disagreement cannot learn from this event. Ironically the commanders for both sides did not allow such an amicable truce to take place in subsequent Christmases.

Even though there will be a day of reckoning, our Lord came to the world to put an end to sin and judgment, rather than an end  to sinners, as we see in our first Scripture passage, John 8:1-11 (ESV):

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

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Jesus was able to persuade this angry mob not to stone to death a women by pointing out that giving such a punishment should only be reserved whoever is “without sin”, who technically would be Jesus, alone. But them Jesus said: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more”, which parallels the reason that the Lord came to the world, which is to provide a way for us to avoid the judgment of death for our sins, as long as we confess our sins and endeavor to not sin, and to follow the Way of the Lord. And as followers of Christ, we must endeavour to “go, and from now on sin no more.”

But as soon as the Holy Spirit fell upon him, Christ was also tempted by the devil to sin against the Father in Heaven , as we see in our next Scripture passage, Luke 4:1-13 (ESV):

The Temptation of Jesus

4 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,     and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, 

to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,     

lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

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We see that Jesus did not give in to temptation from the devil, but we see that Satan planned to tempt the Lord again at an “opportune  time,”  which I believe came while Christ was suffering his own crucifixion, as we see in Luke 23:32-43 (ESV):

32 Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 33 And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments. 35 And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him,[b] “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him,[c] saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 23:34 Some manuscripts omit the sentence And Jesus… what they do b. Luke 23:38 Some manuscripts add in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew c. Luke 23:39 Or blasphemed him

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This brings to mind the old film portrayal, where a person has a little devil standing on one shoulder whispering temptation into one ear, while a small angel stands on the other shoulder whispering restraint in the other. In this Scripture verse, one of the criminals exhorted to Jesus to give into the temptation to save himself and the others crucified beside him gives a remark not too different to what Satan said on the precipice in Luke 4:9-11 (ESV):

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’

In Luke 23:39, we see another tempting exhortation, where the Lord is urged to save himself. Again the Lord resisted the temptation in order to take upon himself our collective punishment for our sins, so that we will not die from sin:

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”


One criminal wants the Lord to save him and the other criminal asks for forgiveness. By his death, Jesus brought both to those who confess and believe. No one else needed to suffer God’s judgement for their sins or fear death, for eternal life and the God’s Holy Spirit is given.

We should note that at the very  beginning and the very end of the Lord’s ministry is framed by temptation by the devil. In both instances, Christ resisted temptation. As followers of Christ, we may anticipate that the devil will try to tempt us away from God’s grace, just as he had tempted the Lord. Let us remember the sacrifice of Christ and preserve his gift of salvation.

On this Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the sacrifice made on our behalf, by the soldiers whose death in that war may have saved us and others. But in time, history records other wars and conflicts which come, where others to give their lives for our freedom and way of life. Unfortunately no war, not even the Great War, is the final conflict; the war to end all wars. As long as hate and conflict exist, other wars and conflicts will come, and still the cause of these conflicts, which is sin, remains.

But take heart, the battle over sin is already won. Jesus is the victor and there no longer needs to be another sacrifice made for our sins. Jesus made the final sacrifice. All we need is to accept Christ’s sacrifice and accept him as our Lord and Saviour.

This Remembrance Day, may we honour the sacrifice made by others on our behalf by wearing a Poppy over our heats, being mindful that while the war ended, it did not put an end to wars in the future. At the same time, let us walk the righteous path of believers in Christ and honour the Lord’s sacrifice which put an end to the judgment from sin and gave us the final and complete  victory over death.

Let us pray…

Luncheon Served: Prayer (Grace):

Dear Lord, thank you for this food.                                                                                                                                                       

Bless the hands that prepared it.                                                                                                                                                        

Bless it to our use and to your service.                                                                                                                                              

And make us ever mindful of the needs of others.  

Through Christ our Lord we pray.                                                                                                                                 

 – Amen

Presentation of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Annual Report for 2013 by BLCF Board

Closing Prayer and Benediction

Let us pray…

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:24):

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

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