What does it mean to take up our cross? Some suggest that little annoyances are our crosses to bear. But Jesus isn’t simply talking about little hardships. He is asking his disciples, along with the multitude who came to hear him, to give sacrificially for the sake of the gospel. For some it means being willing to sacrifice their very lives. Today, we remember those who were willing to take up this kind of cross. To bring the gospel of peace and justice; of healing and kindness to our world, what does God require of us today? What cross is God calling us to bear?
34 Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
This is the Gospel of Christ.
Thanks be to God.
Remembrance from Brookside Cemetery
I am standing in the Brookside Cemetery Field of Honour, where all Veterans receive the same level of recognition, regardless of rank, race, religion or creed while being commemorated individually. It was opened in 1915 when the Daughters of the Empire requested that the City set aside a section of the cemetery for the interment of Veterans returning from World War I. The Brookside Field of Honour is one of the largest and oldest Military interment sites in Canada. Considered Canda’s most significantly designed Military Field of Honour, Brookside has more than 11,000 Veterans, Service Men, Service Women, and War Heroes interred alongside each other, with all interments marked by the Military Grey Barrie granite upright monument.
As I walk through the monuments, I’m struck by sobering seas grey granite that seem to go on forever…
- Epitaphs: Love Endureth; Lest We Forget; Rest Weary Heart, Rest All is Forgiven and Past
- Mostly Privates, but sprinkled throughout are Corporals, Gunners, Sappers. One Captain and a couple from the Chinese Labour Corps
- mixed ages—19, 20, 21 with many older and one 15 year old
Jardine’s Lookout—story inscribed on a stone in the Field of Honour
In the early hours of December 19, 1941, “A” and “D” Companies of the Winnipeg Grenadiers of Canada fought to stem the waves of Japanese troops attacking the strategic high ground on Mount Butler. After a vicious struggle, the Canadians became divided. “A” group was driven downhill to Jardine’s Lookout, where Company Sergeant Major John Osborn took charge of about 65 Grenadiers of “A” Company. Hand grenades were thrown at his group. Osborn responded by flinging these back at the enemy. One grenade was thrown which he could not pick up in time, and after shouting a warning, he threw his body over it, thus saving the lives of several comrades. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for military valour in the British Commonwealth.
As I walk through the gravestones, I ask where God is in all of this. I am reminded of the gospels telling us to talk up our cross and follow Christ. I stand here beneath the cross honouring those who died in World War I. For some, taking up the cross does mean being willing to sacrifice their own lives so that the rest of us may have freedom to live and love in peace. Taking up the cross means to be willing to make both large and small sacrifices for the sake of others. It means to support those who continue to serve as peacemakers. It means to never forget the sacrifices of others and be willing to catch their torch from their falling hands and continue to shine the light of truth, justice and peace regardless of the cost. This is one way to understand what it means to take up our own cross.
We are living in sobering times these days. Yet they give us but a taste of times so much more sobering. We tell the stories of these much more difficult times lest we forget.
I remember the story of John McCrae, who buried one of his best friends, Alexis Helmer, killed in 1915 in the Second Battle of Ypres. As he stood over his friend’s burial mound, he noticed that red poppies had already begun to grow amongst the roughly hewn crosses. The following day, while seated in the back of an ambulance, John gave voice through pen to all who lay in Flander’s Fields. .was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.
In Flander’s Fields by 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.
After Ray M. plays The Last Post, let us all stand in silence to remember those whose lives were lost for the sake of peace, justice and freedom.