Over my time off, I finally finished a book by Peter Fitzsimmons called Fromelles and Poziers. I built up some serious muscles simply holding it up to read.
The battle of Fromelles, which happened 100 years ago on July 19th was one in which my Grandfather’s division was involved . Most of the 14th Brigade and his 14th Machine Gun company were killed or taken prisoner that night in an attack, that to many of us today, would simply seem like folly or more accurately, the meaningless slaughter of nearly 2000 Australia boys and men.
Through this battle I was left an incredible legacy – the legacy of my grandfather – who survived. When I checked his war records – I found when he was released from an English hospital in June 1916, after suffering a bout of pleurisy – he went AWOL for a few days. By the time he returned to Barracks his comrades had got on the ship to go to France and the Western Front. It appears – via the record entry – that he caught up with the decimated Brigade and Division two days after the battle.
He came home at wars end, got married, raised a family and I am here today preaching God’s word because he came home.
Similarly, a survivor Lieutenant John Ridley came home and became a street preacher and made a lasting legacy in preaching to another young man – Arthur Stace – who began writing the word ‘Eternity’ around the streets of Sydney. Dave Hatton was a relative of that same John Ridley.
Around Anzac Day, we often talk about legacies – legacies of sacrifice, commitment and yes – love. A legacy, as the dictionary describes it – is a ‘benefit’ or a ‘gift’ – something that is handed on and handed down to others to secure their future.
This was certainly the hope for the ‘war to end all wars’. But as I have sometimes said legacies are small or large, but much of the time, they are unexpected.
Today’s readings are both from the common lectionary for this week and interestingly the section from John 14 and Revelation 21 are often read at funerals.
Indeed our own dear Phyllis was insistent and had spoken to many people to ensure that John 14 was read at her funeral.
Many of you have been impacted hard by her death and the hole that it has left in our lives. We honour that grieving even as we honour her life.
Nevertheless, we too, must be grateful for the legacies she has left us, which were permeated by her faith in Christ – legacies also of sacrifice, commitment and yes – love. Our lives are enriched by her legacies, just as the wider community has been enriched by the life and example of people like Ridley and Stace and Buchan.
But there is something we should always remember – for a legacy to be worth of the name – it also has to be received by us, taken up by us if you like – incorporated into us and in turn handed on by us.
The great legacy we read about in John Chapter 13 that we are to forward is the example of Christ’s love.
This love[also spoken about in ch.14] ends up with us as the beneficiaries of a place in Heaven with Jesus who prepares a room for Phyllis, for George, for Arthur, for John and for you and me.
Our passage from Revelation, reminds us of the gifts still to come – but it also resonates heavily with those of us who live between the Alpha and Omega – between the giving of a legacy and the final outworking of that legacy, where there continues to be tears, and mourning, and crying and pain.
But, even in the messy middle, between the Alpha and Omega we are given glimpses of the joy and love and grace and peace at the end points, by the legacy of self-sacrificing diggers and the legacy of love by people such as Phyllis Maud Saunders.
Let’s pray this beautiful prayer written by John van der Laar.
How deeply you have loved us, Jesus;
how willingly you stepped into our experience,
how completely you empathised with all that we endure.
Teach us to love as you have loved us.
How sacrificially you have loved us, Jesus;
How completely you gave yourself for us,
how courageously you suffered for our sakes.
Teach us to love as you have loved us.
How restoratively you have loved us, Jesus;
how generously you share your life,
how extravagantly you make yourself available to us.
And we thank you for believing
that we could learn to offer such love
to each other.