I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,
no more war horses in Jerusalem,
no more swords and spears, bows and arrows.
He will offer peace to the nations,
a peaceful rule worldwide,
from the four winds to the seven seas
(Zechariah 9:10 The Message)
Despite humanity’s noblest attempts to find another way, wars continue to plague our world. Our attempts to find another way, through international organisations and treaties, education, and the raising and equalisation of living standards, have had some success, but other, older agendas continue to rise up. The brutal lessons two global wars taught us in the 20th century have so far helped us avert a nuclear holocaust, but many local and regional wars continue, much as they did for our ancestors.
Today, as Australians and New Zealanders, we live in comparative peace. That does not mean we disregard those who are caught up in war. Our countries do what they can to prevent war, often through diplomatic channels. Our armed forces and some of our police participate in peacekeeping. They assist militarily in some regional conflicts. They also prepare for our own defence should that be needed. As individual citizens, and as a church, we can offer safe places of refuge to people whom war has driven from their homes.
Our faith also tells us that there is another, higher way, the way of Christ. He has defeated the evil in us and in the world that causes war. We believe that Easter, which we celebrated so recently, changes everything. God’s kingdom is breaking into the world, and we believe in his reign of peace.
This Anzac Day I am grateful to Lutheran pastor and current serving Australian Army Chaplain Ken Schmidt, who has prepared the following message and prayers for our reflection.
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
On 25 April 2016, I led an Anzac Day dawn service for 300 highly trained Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) soldiers about to leave for a six-month tour of duty supporting efforts to defeat Islamic State in Iraq. As the lone chaplain for Anzac forces deployed into Iraq at that time, it was my duty to provide pastoral care, ministry, encouragement, comfort and support to everyone in that contingent.
Emotions welled up inside me as I led that dawn service in the dark, remembering all those who had served and died for our countries in wars past.
Remembering the devastation, death and destruction caused by war.
Remembering the pain, suffering, anguish, isolation and loneliness of those at the front line, and the toll on loved ones back home.
Remembering those who returned home, often physically and mentally broken, and the ongoing cost to individual lives, families and society for a generation or longer.
Yet I was also moved to remember and reflect on the amazing power and meaning of such vital truths as faith, hope and love, written on the faces and embodied in the minds, hearts and lives of the soldiers (both men and women) standing in front of me. I wondered what motivated them to offer themselves and their lives in service of their nation, well aware of the risks and the price paid by others who have gone before them.
But while leading the prayers that Anzac morning, I also remembered that the greatest battle between good and evil ever fought in this world took place on Calvary, when God offered up his own Son, and died for us all. All the anger, evil and hatred of humanity, which at first seemed triumphant, were not enough to overpower the amazing love of God for this world, to redeem it and reconcile it to himself. That message of the Gospel is still today our only true comfort, hope and strength, through all the dangers, perils, and uncertainties we experience, wherever we are in the world.
This year, consider attending an Anzac Day dawn service somewhere near you. The transition from darkness into light, the quiet solemnity of the morning, the clinking of medals, the crunching of boots on the pavement, the haunting bugle sounds of the Last Post and Reveille, and the cacophony of bird sounds at dawn together produce a profound and moving setting for personal reflection and remembering—yes, about sin and its devastating results, but also about the wonderful incarnational love of God found in human flesh.
Please pray at this time for
- Peace in our own hearts and lives, as well as for peace within our families and communities
- Peace in war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen and Myanmar. Because the extraordinarily complicated situation in Syria has the potential to escalate into a much bigger conflict involving its neighbours and global superpowers, we pray that the leaders involved will act calmly and prudently, and work determinedly towards diplomatic solutions that will lead to lasting peace and the rebuilding of lives and towns.
- Our national leaders who decide whether to deploy our armed forces into areas of conflict
- Members of the Defence Forces of Australia and New Zealand and their families
- All who continue to suffer and have been physically and mentally broken by war.
Padre Ken Schmidt, Army Chaplain
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