Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey —
Some Sundays feel magical to me and this past Sunday was one of them. As I reflected on what made it so, I realized there were many things. I was passionate in sharing the message about Armistice Day and waging peace, not war. The energy of love in both services was palpable. We welcomed new friends and there was a woman sitting on an aisle seat that I kept looking at, knowing that I knew her but couldn’t pull up her name until she was leaving. In the moment she came toward me, her name came to me and I realized I hadn’t seen her since before we left Unity of Greater Portland in 1994. She was part of the community that we were leaving and now, 24 years later, she appears. The frosting on the cake was the fellowshipping that was happening in Unity Hall where every table was full, and people were feasting on great food and great connection.
The message on Sunday was a history lesson on how Armistice Day got changed to Veterans Day. Sunday at 11 a.m. was the cease fire that ended World War I known as the “Great War.” The word “armistice” means “an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time.”
By an act approved on May 13, 1938, November 11 became a legal federal holiday, dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day. Unfortunately, “the war to end all wars” did not, and the United States was soon embroiled in World War II and then the Korean War. In 1954 Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day.
I shared in the message about a new book written by Michael Messner called Guys Like Me: Five Wars, Five Veterans for Peace. The book tells the stories of five veterans from World War II through the Iraq War. All have dealt with the trauma of war and all have become lifelong peace advocates. Their stories contain their paths to reconciliation with former enemies and to their own personal healing from trauma and from what Messner calls “the deep moral injury” they carry from having killed other people, sometimes in great numbers.
His grandfather, Russell Messner, was the impetus for this book. He was a World War I veteran. I am not going to tell you the whole story as you can listen to it; however, here is one quote that says it all. Messner tells of wishing his grandfather Happy Veterans Day 35 years ago and this is what his grandfather said, “It’s not Veterans Day; it’s Armistice Day,” his grandfather angrily retorted. “Those damn politicians went and changed it to Veterans Day so that they could keep having more wars.”
Messner went on to say many veterans of World War I and other wars were, and are, staunch advocates for peace. “One of the reasons I wrote Guys Like Me was because I wanted to make these veterans’ voices and stories more visible to the American public,” Messner said. “I think this is a particularly important time for their voices to be heard, especially in light of our government’s efforts to radically increase our already huge military budget, as they continue drone warfare and military occupations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
Veterans for Peace groups across this country are advocating to bring back Armistice Day and celebrate it for what it was meant to be: to wage peace and not war.
Next Sunday we will be in celebration mode as we express great gratitude to all who contributed to our new roof. At the 10 a.m. service we will be having a special recognition for all the blessings this community has experienced over this last year, followed by our traditional Thanksgiving Lunch. If you are planning to stay for lunch – and we hope you are – please bring a pie or dessert to share.
You are a blessing.in my life.
Rev. Patricia Bessey