Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day


Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was the author of that famous poem “In Flanders’ Fields.” It would seem that as a person he had some qualities well-worth emulating.

First off: “The family were Scottish Presbyterians and John McCrae was a man of high principles and strong spiritual values. He has been described as warm and sensitive with a remarkable compassion for both people and animals … John McCrae attended Sunday morning services regularly at St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Montréal.”

Secondly: A century ago on 4th August, 1914 war was declared on Germany – 100 years ago this year! Like many brave Australians, the Canadian John McRae deployed to the battlefields in Europe. Just before he departed he wrote to a friend: ‘It is a terrible state of affairs, and I am going because I think every bachelor, especially if he has experience of war, ought to go. I am really rather afraid, but more afraid to stay at home with my conscience.’ (Prescott. In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, p. 77)”

“The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae's closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, John McCrae gave them a voice through his poem.” http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/history/first-world-war/mccrae

Lieutenant Colonel John McRae would have been very familiar with Psalm 23, the well-known Shepherd’s Psalm.

First, a brief word on accents. As a Scots-Canadian where would have McCrae placed the accent in the following, “The Lord is my shepherd”? Perhaps he might have said, “THE LORD is my shepherd.” Or maybe “The Lord IS my shepherd.” Or “The Lord is MY shepherd”? Or was it “The Lord is my SHEPHERD”? We see then that accenting certain words may help us to better express ourselves!

Second: When McCrae wrote the words, “In Flanders’ Fields the poppies blow between the crosses row on row” he could have had the words of Psalm 23 in mind, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Think about it: Graves in Flanders’ Fields, soldiers lying down in green pastures. Picture it: Red poppies in green fields, Flanders’ Fields. Rest in Peace!

Third: in his second stanza he wrote, “We are the dead … Loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders’ Fields.” There’s that picture again, soldiers lying down in green pastures. As McRae looked out over these fields he must have thought of those comforting words of the Shepherd’s Psalm, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

And fourth and finally: Where he says at the beginning of the third stanza, “Take up our quarrel with the foe” he could have had the following words of Psalm 23 in mind, “
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Enemies. Foes. War. Conflict. Quarrel. Death. None of us likes these things, but what are we to do in the face of evil? Lieutenant Colonel McCrae summed it up for most if not all of us where he wrote, “I am really rather afraid, but more afraid to stay at home with my conscience.” Even so, he could say with comfort and confidence, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Why? Because the LORD was his shepherd! How about you? Can you say “The Lord is my shepherd”? And where, as an Aussie, would you place the accent?

Let us remember the fallen, those who lie in Flanders’ Fields as well as those who died in the other wars since then. They fought for the type of peace, justice and freedom we enjoy here in Australia.

(Above image from Internet)

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