Alternative Rememberance Day Reflection

The following piece is the transcript of a speech that two friends of mine, Hadassah and Amaris Maendel, read for an Alternative Rememberance Day ceremony on Sunday, November 14. Hadassah and Amaris are members of the Fairholme Hutterite Community and gave me permission to share their reflections with my readers.

The dream for peace 

When I dream of peace, Revelation 21:2  comes to mind: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”… He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Isaiah 2:4 …”they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

The idea of a “New Earth” permeates every facet of scripture. From the prophets of old, to the Gospels, through to Revelation.  According to scripture, the whole cosmos is being set right, a new world is being born in the aftermath of the resurrection. Violence and cruelty have a deadline. In this new kingdom our tears shall be wiped; we will look up with shining eyes onto a renewed earth where all shall be well. The brave humans dreaming and striving—often seemingly in vain—for peace, are actively participating in that renewal. It is to these so-called “peacemakers” to whom Jesus assigns his new kingdom.

We live in a world riddled with injustice. When violence is perpetrated towards another, the sanctity of life is violated. Peace is broken everytime we choose violence, be it force, verbal abuse or bullying to further our agenda. If violence breaks peace by violating the dignity of another then to be a peacemaker is to affirm that dignity. To cultivate a mode of being which is life-giving. Peacemakers are not naive: The peacemaker presupposes and experiences the brokenness and cruelty of the world, yet denounces the idea that such cruelty can be mended with further injustice. A peacemaker turns the other cheek, gives her shirt also, goes the second mile.

Human beings who act in such a way are not acting for the good of America, nor any other nation. The peacemaker cannot even be said to further the aims of Christendom. His work allies himself firmly with a different, more substantial kingdom which starts here and now. Scripture shows us a vision of a new earth, healed and transformed beyond imagining. Those who work for peace are like yeast though dough, they are the ones through which that vision is being established. They have heard the drum beat at the heart of God’s kingdom and now slowly are beginning to dance to its beat. 

How the young adult is working to be a “citizen of change “ for a more just, peaceful tomorrow.  

What does dancing to the beat of God’s kingdom look like? In 1934 in Elm River Community, Manitoba, Jake Maendel noticed that something was decreasing his flock of geese. A few days later, he apprehended a couple of Indigenous men. The police came to inspect, finding the men enjoying sandwiches and coffee in the minister’s home.

“Do you want to press charges?” an officer asked. 

“No,” the minister said, “They are jobless, their families are hungry.” 

“They robbed your geese flock, and you offered them food and coffee?” 

“Yes, and we’ll give them some provisions to take home.”

Amaris and I belong to the Hutterian Brethren or Hutterites. Our people have been living communally as pacifists for 500 years. Hutterites do not participate in war; we have no murder in our history. There is no economic disparity in our communities, our people do not starve and our old are cared for. We are witnesses to a quiet, understated, slow moving peace. We have seen it, we have felt it. Like yeast through dough, it creeps into the everyday mundane activities of community life, displaying—if just for a moment—the possibility of a world where strife and conflict are transcended by neighbourliness, selflessness, mercy, gentleness and shalom. We are witnesses to its quiet stirrings. It is present everytime I encourage the least-skilled player on the volleyball court. Or when Hadassah takes the time to listen to the qualms of a neighbour. It is there when our children run barefoot together under 200 year-old oak trees. 

The beauty of such a mundane mode of existence carries little significance on a world stage. What does it matter if the local chicken thieves didn’t get prosecuted? 

Yet, it is in these quiet moments, on a remote prairie in Manitoba, with the offering of a few sandwiches and coffee which allow us to glimpse true shalom. For an instant we experience Jesus gently wiping our eyes and telling us that all shall be well.

The featured image is entitled “White Poppy Field” by Diane Dean

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