Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Woodbine Willie

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 -- Week of Last Epiphany, Year One
Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, Priest, 1929
Shrove Tuesday / Mardi Gras

To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 950)
Psalms 26, 28  (morning)        36, 39 (evening)
Deuteronomy 6:16-25
Hebrews 2:1-10
John 1:19-28

  Tonight our Youth are throwing a big "Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras" party for the parish, 5:30-7:30.  $10/$5 -- pancakes, bacon, gumbo, jambalaya, vegetarian red beans and rice, vegetarian gumbo; adult beverages available; great entertainment from the kids.  Proceeds help support the Robert R. Brown sessions at Camp Mitchell for people with physical and/or cognitive impairments.

We read in John's gospel "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness."  It is John the Baptist, portrayed as the forerunner of the Messiah.  He baptizes with water.  The one who is coming will baptize with Holy Spirit.

We have a new commemoration today in our proposed calendar of "Holy Women, Holy Men."  G. A. Studdert Kennedy was an English priest who volunteered to serve as a chaplain to soldiers in the First World War.  He too was "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness."  The soldiers along the Western Front knicknamed him "Woodbine Willie," an affectionate name given him out of appreciation for his spiritual comfort, and for his signature act of handing out Woodbine cigarettes to the wounded and dying.  He won the Military Cross when he rushed into no man's land at Messines Ridge to help wounded during the fighting. 

Kennedy was a fine poet.  He published what he called his "Rough Rhymes" about his war experiences in two books in 1918 and 1919.  Here is his gracious and moving account of the men who gave him his nickname:


THEY gave me this name like their nature,
     Compacted of laughter and tears,
A sweet that was born of the bitter,
     A joke that was torn from the years.

Of their travail and torture, Christ's fools,
     Atoning my sins with their blood,
Who grinned in their agony sharing
     The glorious madness of God.

Their name!  Let me hear it -- the symbol
     Of unpaid -- unpayable debt,
For the men to who I owed God's Peace,
     I put off with a cigarette.

The war left him with a strong conviction in support of pacifism and of Christian socialism.  In later life he worked for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, whose mission was to present the Christian faith to industrial workers.  Kennedy's work in that venue was also nicknamed -- "Dog-Collar Democracy."  He published many sermons and poems, and his writing continues to have a powerful influence on the pacifist cause.  Among those who credit Studdert Kennedy with inspiring their work are Jurgen Moltmann and Desmond Tutu.

I am often struck by how many of those who return from warfare and combat become pacifists.  If their influence were stronger, we might not have wandered so mindlessly into a foolish invasion of Iraq as our nation's uncreative response to the attacks of 9-11.  I am so thankful for leaders like Desmond Tutu who boldly confront violence and injustice with powerful acts of non-violence, and who raise up the social implications of the compassion, love and justice at the heart of Jesus' teaching.

I find I am not a pacifist.  I believe that strong nations like the U.S. should intervene with force to deter things like genocide.  I wish we had acted more promptly in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990's; I wish we had found the will to prevent genocide in Darfur and Sudan. 

Too often, however, we exaggerate threats and overreact, as we have done toward a small, insignificant criminal organization like Al Qaeda and toward a thoroughly contained and deterred little despot like Saddam Hussain.  I wonder.  If our president and leaders in 2001 had been veterans of conflict, would they have been so dead set to find an excuse to make a war?  Maybe not, if they were more familiar with people like G. A. Studdert Kennedy, people who know the reality of war, and who urge more creative, non-violent responses for our problems.



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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