Saying what is just in the face of a tyrant
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia.
In the church’s calendar we are in the middle of Easter, which lasts for 50 days. The events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday invite us to reflect on all our attitudes, behaviours, hopes and beliefs that lead us, from living life to the fullest; from loving the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind by loving our neighbour as ourselves. We are invited to leave all these at the cross to die with Christ so that Easter Sunday might dawn with new hope, new attitudes, new behaviours and beliefs that lead us and all to life.
This Thursday we remember St. George. While George is the patron saint of England, he was not British. He was born into a Christian family of Greek decent in Palestine in about 280. He followed his father to be a tribune in the Emperor’s body guard. In 303 the Emperor Diocletian ordered all soldiers to sacrifice to him as a god, and if they refused for them to be put to death. George refused the order, and went to the Emperor to tell him that the order was wrong. He was tortured and put to death. His grave is in Israel and he is remembered today as the patron saint of all Palestinians. A Muslim saying about St. George states that the righteous act is to say what is just in the face of a tyrant. George challenged the Emperor’s attitudes and beliefs that deprived so many others of life. And he willingly paid the price.
In the coming week we remember the centenary of the landings at Gallipoli, and the Battle of Gate Pa. Both occasions offer us a chance to remember the New Zealanders who died on Gallipoli and the Western Front fighting for the British Empire; and those the New Zealanders who died here defending their land, and the British invaders. There is no doubting the courage and fortitude of all those who fought, especially at Gallipoli and the Western Front. These people were put in an impossible situation. There had never been this kind of war before and the generals were at a loss at how to do fight it. And the ordinary soldiers paid the price. We remember them.
It is still Easter and these commemorations offer us a chance to reflect on the attitudes, hopes and beliefs that led to both the New Zealand Land Wars and WW1. With St. George, a soldier himself, are we able to ask what beliefs so easily lead us to violence, and in the light of the resurrection to look for attitudes, beliefs and ways of behaving that lead to justice, peace and hope for all. We must remember all those who fought and died, and work with God in their name to ensure that no more suffer the same fate.