This weekend, as we draw to mind the sacrifice of others and the place in our own lives of armed conflict through our nation's remembrance of veterans, my mind cannot but be drawn across the waters to other parts of the world. As we will worship together in peace this Sunday, people in Israel, in Ukraine, and also in Myanmar, Yemen, and a string of sub-Saharan African countries, will face yet another day of conflict and loss. If the 21st century has taught us anything, it has taught us how thoroughly interconnected our lives are in the world we share. Indeed, a conception of the world grounded in our theological tradition draws us to an even deeper understanding of our mutual belonging. Through the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, all life is intertwined. Theologically, being part of one another is not so much a choice but an existential reality.
Another way of saying this is simply to ask: 'If you are stuck with me, and I am stuck with you, what are we going to do about it?' If all of us belong to all of us, then what are Israelis and Palestinians, Russians and Ukrainians, Rohingya Muslims and Myanmar soldiers - and all those locked into ever diminishing cycles of violence - to do about the fact that in the final analysis they remain part of one body within the love of God?
There is no easy answer to that question. Conflict in all its forms demands that we not settle for whatever the loudest or most persistent voice in our ears or in front of our eyes happens to be saying. Instead, let us be people rooted in compassion and empathy, willing to listen for the nuances that only ever emerge when we linger by another human being long enough to hear the many contours of their griefs and losses, as well as their longings for a better world than this.
This Veterans Sunday, let us all hold onto that hope for a better world, not because such a hope is easily realized, but because we must be people who know what it is to hope. As a prayer I grew up with says it with more eloquence I ever could, 'May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world. Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us, so we and all your children shall be free'.