That prayer comes from The Armed Forces Prayer Book, first published in 1951 for use by members of the Armed Forces during the Korean War. Those who served this country have been on my mind all week.
Ellen and I just watched the movie, The Monuments Men, based on the true story “of a group of men and women from thirteen nations, most of whom volunteered for service during World War II who had expertise as museum directors, curators, art historians, artists, architects, and educators. Their job description was simple: to protect cultural treasures so far as war allowed.”
To jump into a war to protect and save cultural treasures, is an amazing thing; the willingness to lay down one’s life for the good of the world, as so many soldiers did. As I thought about the sacrifice so many made, I ran across these thoughts from the author Parker Palmer on Facebook, putting all of our lives in perspective.
“Every wisdom tradition I know urges us to cultivate active awareness of our mortality — because keeping that simple reality before our eyes enhances our appreciation of life, even when things get tough. It also increases the odds that we will come to some new resolve about how we want to live.Parker Palmer asks the right question – How then shall I live? Have we made of our lives something particular and real, or are we instead sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
For example, how might things change if more of us regarded every person as "a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth"? Closer to home, what might happen for me and others if I myself held everyone I met in such respectful regard?
As you hear this poem, ask yourself a simple question and take some time to ponder it: "How, then, shall I live?" -> When Death Comes by Mary Oliver
“I don't want to end up simply having visited the world.” Is a beautiful line of M Oliver poem.
The men and women who served during WWII and for 6 years after in MFAA, understood their lives in connection to the beauty and majesty of that cultural art, archives and treasures… they knew how to live because they had a mission…
“While we must and will win this war, we should also remember the high price that will be paid if the very foundation of modern society is destroyed. They tell us, “who cares about art?”. But they’re wrong, it is the exact reason we are fighting, for culture, for a way of life.”While this is a quote from the movie & not any of their actual words, I find it helpful, because it speaks to what they did, for their lives connected to the art & artifacts they were trying to save, and that they too had a part to play in saving civilization.
There was a hero in these efforts who risked her life. Her name was Rose Valland, a French museum employee who covertly kept track of where the Nazis shipped stolen artworks. Valland worked in the Jeu De Paume museum in Paris during the Nazi occupation, which was used as the German base of operations for the looting of Europe's art treasures. Unknown to the Nazis, Valland spoke German, and used her knowledge to record their entire operation, and when the last trains were trying to leave Paris with the last of the stolen art, she informed the resistance who were able to stop them. Rose Valland's bravery and skill, as well that of the hundreds of civilians who served in the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section, risked everything in the cause of art. Because of them, civilization's artistic heritage survived the devastation of World War II.
How then shall I live?
Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. I will not leave you orphaned; In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.”It is the promise that Jesus gives to us, that we will not be left as orphans that the Holy Spirit will abide with us in our time, in all that we do.
It is that trust and hope, that guided the life of St. Paul, who in our reading today, speaks to the inhabitants of Athens from the Areopagus. Using their own place of worship, he connects them with the faith that he has been called to tell them about.
“For `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, `For we too are his offspring.' Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."Their worship is now connected with Jesus, for the one they worship is not to be found living in shrines made by human hands, they are to find the one who was raised by God from the dead. Not in gold, silver or stone, but God who became one of us in Jesus. It is our heritage today.
Be it on a battlefield in Europe or on Mars Hill in Greece, be it in our homes, our places of work or school or play, even today out there as we watch a parade, the question still remains, “How then shall I live?” We remember today those who knew what they were to do with their lives and we honor them. In our lives may we accept the gift that Jesus gives so that full of the Spirit, we can see our lives full of amazement, taking the world into our arms, just as Jesus did, so that at the end of our days, we do not wonder if we truly lived but indeed, know we did.
Come Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth our Advocate, fill the hearts of your faithful & kindle in us the fire of your love and You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.