Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross

BLCF: Always & Forever - Lest We Forget

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross’

© November 8, 2015, by Steve Mickelson

Based On a Message Shared at BLCF on November 11, 2012

BLCF Bulletin November 8, 2015

BLCF: In_Remembrance

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #671: God’s Love and Ours (1 John 4); Prayer

Opening Hymn #99: Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners; Choruses

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Today’s Scriptures: John 15:10-13, John 16:23-33, Ephesians 2:13-18

BLCF: In Flander's Fields

Let us pray…

The lesson for this Sunday is a study of two symbols of remembrance of sacrifice on our behalf: the poppy and the cross.

I stand before you with one of these symbols, the poppy, pinned above my heart, while illuminated behind me is the other, which is the cross.

This Wednesday, we will have an opportunity to observe, with the aid of the poppy, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, signifying the anniversary of the Armistice that was signed in 1918 to end World War I, ironically called “the war to end all wars”.

Today, the date is called Remembrance Day in Canada and Britain and Veterans Day in the United States. For us, Remembrance Day is a day where we remember all who died not only in this war but in all other conflicts, to both preserve and protect our democratic freedom and way of life in Canada.

We, in the Christian Church, also have a symbol no less important. It’s the Cross of Jesus. One of His great sayings is:

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends’- John 15:13  (ESV).

And that is what Christ did for us.

BLCF: No Jesus No Peace

Two great symbols of sacrifice are the Poppy and the Cross.

What is so special about a poppy on Remembrance Day? Why not use a pansy? Scarlet poppies grow naturally in conditions of the disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century, transformed the bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as the First World War raged through Europe’s heart.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts. Here are McCrae’s words:

In Flanders Fields – John McCrae

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.

When fighting ceased in 1918 the mud of the battlefields was allowed to rest. Nature began to restore the landscape. Before long, the wildflowers grew and bloomed, including the poppy. The colour of red reminds people of bloodshed and the sacrifice by millions of brave soldiers of their lives. And so the poppy became the symbol of sacrifice.

It is a known fact that people are creatures with the capacity to forget personal pain and suffering. Otherwise, women, for example, would be less likely to have more than one child, after having experienced the labour of the first and all of us would be unable to cope with the loss of loved ones. With the passage of time, the memory of the harsh reality of death diminishes and fades with each successive generation, becoming little more than the image of faded photographs or hollow words to a nearly forgotten poem.

That is why it is important to take a minute of silence to reflect and pray for those men and women who sacrificed their lives both in a distant place and time and in times current so that we may enjoy a relatively free and safe life today in Canada. We read the poem ’In Flanders Fields’, where see that even in the deadly field of battle, God transforms the trenches of death with a tapestry of red flowers and the song of meadowlarks, providing the promise of hope reminiscent of that given by His rainbow and dove with the olive branch after the great flood.

On this Remembrance Day, let us also remember the fallen innocents in past conflicts as well: the civilians who were killed in wars and conflicts, as well as the persecuted victims of purges and holocausts. And, we should remember the families of the fallen, for the pain of the loss of a loved one. Finally, we honour those who returned from battle and war, with the memory of death and destruction etched in their memories.

Some of you may still remember a member of our congregation, our friend Leo, a kindly brother in Christ, who sought to share the love of Christ with his brothers and sisters. I remember, when I had applied to work as an operator at the TTC, Leo commented to me, that after the World War II, he was hired by the TTC and trained to drive a street car. He remarked that as a result of the war, the stress of driving was too great for him, and he left the TTC to work as a carrier with Canada Post.

At Leo’s funeral, the chapel was almost evenly divided between sad, grieving uniformed postal carriers, members of the military and police officers on one side of the chapel; with happy Christian believers on the other. While the former mourned the death of a friend, the latter celebrated the fact that another Christian has gone home to be with Jesus at the Lord’s Resurrection.

While Leo did not give his life in war for his country, he did give his life as a living sacrifice unto his Lord. We see that the poppy represents the mourning for those who sacrificed themselves in battles, police actions and conflicts, which continue to this day. By contrast, Jesus gave his life as the final sacrifice for our judgment for sin, which we celebrate and observe continuously, by means prayer, song, Scripture and with the regular observance of Communion.

The poppy reminds us of the sacrificed lives in battles over the years past, present, and future. By contrast, the cross reminds us of the Lord’s single act of sacrifice and love for all generations, past, present, and future, John 15:10-13 (ESV):

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

BLCF: Love-God_Love-People

The cross symbolizes not only how Jesus sanctifies us from sin, but it is also a symbol of God’s New Covenant of eternal life and is an emblem of His love for us. We are implored to take heart and find joy in the Lord’s gift to us, which are the rewards for our faith, John 16:23-33 (ESV):

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

I Have Overcome the World

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.[a] 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Footnotes: a. John 16:27 Some manuscripts from the Father

In addition to the cross, we are instructed by the scriptures to remember the sacrifice of Jesus through the act of communion, until Jesus returns. This points to the main difference between the soldier’s sacrifice to give us freedom as Canadians and Jesus’ sacrifice to give us freedom from sin, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of the resurrection. It is our responsibility as members of Canadian society to honour the soldier’s sacrifice for a peace from a war that is temporary, as long sin exists, we will continue to have war. As believers in the resurrected Christ, our trust and faith in our Savior’s sacrifice which does not end sin, but the consequences of sin: judgment and death, Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV):

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

BLCF: may-the-God-of-hope-fill-you-withl-joy-peace

Closing Hymn #81: All Praise to Him Who Reigns Above

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

The Poppy and the Cross: Remembering the Sacrifice

BLCF: Cross and Poppy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘’The Poppy and the Cross: Remembering the Sacrifice’  

©November 10, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Church Bulletin-Program November 10, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Love – John 3 and 1 John 4r of Prayer); Prayer                                              

  Opening Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Let us pray…

Tomorrow is November 11, Remembrance Day. A day where most Canadians wear a poppy on their lapel; possibly recite the poem In Flanders Fields; and then at 11AM, observe a moment of silence. For many of us who had a relative or friend who experienced war firsthand, Remembrance Day is a time to acknowledge the sacrifice of men and women who served their country at wartime, including the millions who never survived to celebrate the peace. The phrase lest we forget is spoken, to which the reply is made they will not be forgotten. At the back of this very sanctuary, we have a plaque commemorating the names of those from this church who served in the Second World War.

I read a posting reprinted from a BLOG in the Huffington Post, where a young lady even though her grandfather served in the RCAF in WWII, wrote an article listing the reasons why she refused to wear a poppy on November 11. Some of the reasons for refusing the poppy included: that it was a symbol that glorifies war or that it illustrates how politicians yield to public demands that they wear this blood-red symbol of battle.

The article describes how the poppy is worn is not a real flower, but a commercially manufactured item, made for corporate profit. In her rant, she complains of a message from a Canadian Legion urging to wait to put up Christmas decorations until after November 11. And the author speculates that if Canada were defeated by the Nazi’s that we would still celebrate Christmas, seemingly to imply that Christ, the Prince of Peace, was really a Lord of War that condoned war! There is no mention of instead of honoring many who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the freedoms often take for granted.

My father, Harry Mickelson, served in WWII as a medic and military band member. He preferred to recall the funny incidents of the war. But between enlisting in the Rainbow Division of the 42nd Infantry of the US Army reserves in December 1940, then being called to active duty by executive action of FDR in January 1941 in anticipation of USA being drawn to the war, crossing through the battlefields across France and Germany, ending in Austria by 1945, Dad’s remembrance of the horror of war was relegated, according to Mom, to the nightmares he had for years after he married 1946.

Dad had little use for John Wayne, Ronald Reagan and the host of other actors who glorified a war that they never saw or experienced firsthand. He cared not to join Legion Halls to relive events, though necessary, were often filled with grief and pain. Though Dad did step forward to testify at the trial of Ernst Zündel, who taught that the Holocaust never happened, providing an eyewitness account of the Dachau Concentration Camp as a first responder, along with photo evidence of the camp. It was for this reason he wore a poppy, so not to forget, then ignore, and ultimately deny the real importance of the sacrifice given and end up in idle speculation whether or not a Nazi victory would end Christmas in Canada!

I read a recent statistic that there currently around 3.2 million surviving veterans from World War II, who are passing away at a rate of around 1,100 per day. Soon there will be no witnesses left to refute the claims those who deny the Holocaust or correct that intent in twisting the events of the war. And unfortunately, the sacrifices of those soldiers and the victims of war may evolve to whether we wear a red poppy or white poppy, to sanitize the events and eventually open the way to new despots and new horrific conflicts in a cycle repeated again and again.

In Christian circles, there are movements to sanitize worship, to remove the cross as it is a symbol of the brutality of the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet, as Christians, we are expected to serve the elements of communion to remember the blood and body of Christ given as a sacrifice for all our sins.

We often here in memorial services for those who gave their lives in war, a quote from John 15:13 (ESV):

 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

But such a quote seems to imply that the Lord approved of war. However, let us read this verse in its full context: John 15:12-17 (ESV):

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.      13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant[b] does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.                                                 

Footnotes: a. John 15:15 Greek bondservants b. John 15:15 Greek bondservant; also verse 20

And what does the Lord say about conflict in general? We may find our answer in James 3:13-18 and in Matthew 5:9:

James 3:13-18 (ESV) Wisdom from Above

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Matthew 5:9 (ESV)

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.      

         Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface

We know from experience, that the sacrifices remembered in ceremonies on November 11, no matter how dear and noble may help to win a battle and war, but do not put an end to war and conflict which seem to be intertwined in human nature because of sin.

But God did provide a solution to the sinful nature of men and women, which is the underlying root cause of war. God allowed the battle against sin and sin’s progenitor, Satan, by allowing the sacrifice of one innocent man: his only son, Jesus on the cross. And by way of the cross, all who believe and admit to sin; who desire to change to the way of the Lord receive the gift of salvation, the presence of the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life. I would like to show a short video to illustrate how we should not forget this sacrifice every day of our lives.

I would now like to present Billy Graham’s message entitled The Cross.

Video from www.findingmyhope.org  The Cross

Let us pray…

Benediction (2 Thessalonians 3:16):

 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.  The Lord be with you all.

BLCF Accept Jesus

Remembrance Day 2012 at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church

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Sunday morning at Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, 1307 Bloor Street West – 416-535-9578 Praise & Worship Service: ‘Remembrance: By Means of the Poppy and the Cross John 16:23-33’  –  A Message Shared by Steve Mickelson with BLCF at 11AM on Sunday November 11, 2012