Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd Remembrance Day Nov. 10, 2019
An old pearl of wisdom, that we think came from Confucius, tells us that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. This inspired Amnesty International to create its symbol of a candle entwined by barbed wire. (light Amnesty candle) The effectiveness of Amnesty letters to governments on behalf of political prisoners is astounding. In 2018, 32% of all urgent action Amnesty cases reported improvement in the condition of political prisoners after letters were written on their behalf. This light of hope dispels the darkness of barbed injustice.
Young men and women across the centuries have been strengthened by this light of hope that can shine in even the most torturous of conditions. They have accepted the cost, even of their own lives, to catch the torch from their falling comrades and continue running straight into the mouth of darkness.
We have so much darkness in our world right now. We can be overwhelmed with poverty and violence right in our city and on our reserves, where children and youth are more familiar with the fear of darkness than the hope of light. We can be overwhelmed with leaders around the world who govern with the tools of fear and division. We can be overwhelmed with medical diagnoses of physical or mental illness. Darkness is all around us and sometimes within us. Often it is all we can do to just keep the home fires burning. We simply do not have the energy or, more likely, the hope to take our little flames of light out into the endless dark. After all, what difference could our one little flame possibly make?
But if you look long enough into the darkness, your adjusting eyes will begin to see shapes and movement. It is not pitch black. Where there are shadows, there must be light. So let us take courage to look into the mouth of darkness, for even there we can find pin-pricks of light lifted high by brave individuals who refuse to hide their lights under a bushel. They are reaching out their torches to us, counting on us to join our lights with theirs. May their courage inspire us to focus not on the dark, but on the light, for in every place of darkness, there is also a brave little flame that may flicker and sputter, but keeps on burning.
On one dreary, stormy evening while camping, I was amazed at the tenacity of our little campfire that kept on burning and burning in the midst of a downpour. I am even more amazed at the tenacity of those determined to keep the flame of hope burning against all odds.
Our gospel lesson calls us, as followers of Jesus, to be the light of the world. There are other lights in this world as well. At a synagogue service a week ago, Rabbi Kliel Rose referred to our interfaith endeavours as one bright light consisting of multiple sources of light. When we see a rocket in the air, we see one brilliant light, but when we look in magnifying detail at its tail, there is a circle of lit rocket propulsions. When they are all work together, the fire of the individual rockets meld into one flame.
This is the power of light that can dispel the darkness. So let us all take courage to hold up our own little lights and shine them together into the face of hate and racism, of intolerance and violence. We will then be fulfilling our duty to catch the torches of those who have fallen before us. They are counting on us to stop doing battle with one another; to stop doing battle with the earth.
They are also counting on us to remain vigilant and keep our lights aflame in the world. We must not take their lives and deaths for granted, for the work of peace is never finished. Albert Schweitzer wrote, “Soldiers’ graves are the greatest preachers of peace.” Those of us who enjoy the loveliness of life are reminded during remembrance services to take up the cause for which others have died. Our light can shine in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.