One For Remembrance Sunday
In Memory of Gordon Gentle By Rev. Dr. John Mann July 2004
Shock - denial - sorrow - anger. These are the feelings too deep for words. Yet we have come here today to somehow try to put our words together, to somehow grasp the words that will help us to grasp our thoughts and emotions and to offer them up to God. To offer them up because the shock, denial, sorrow and anger are too heavy a burden to bear.
Usually when at a funeral we offer a tribute to a person's life, the first 19 years are described in a sentence or two. When a young man is killed at the age of 19, no amount of words seem enough to contain his life. Gordon Gentle was born on 23 December 1984. He was in every sense a typical boy. If you wanted to find him, look up, because he was most likely climbing a tree somewhere. He attended school at Bonnyholm, Crookston Castle and HillPark. One day when he was around three years old, Gordon traded his brand new outfit to the ragman for a balloon. Later on he and his mates built the shed, the ultimate boy's fort that they added onto and improved over the years. His sister said the smell of his feet was enough to clear the room.
But he loved his sisters and felt like their protector. He loved a lot of folks and he was the kind of lad who made friends easily; the kind of lad that's easy to love. He was his granny's boy. He loved his gran. He was his mommie's blue-eyed boy. He thought he was a stud, and he knew he was handsome. He knew how to eat, gaining the nickname "refrigerator." As a growing boy his typical greeting upon entering the house was,"what's for eaten?" Gordon took great pride in being godfather to baby Steven. He took great pride-in his military service. He planned a career in it. On the 28th of June, 2004 while doing his duty, Gordon was killed in action.
The prophet Isaiah spoke words of hope; that the day would come when people would turn their weapons of war into instruments of peace. Since the prophet spoke those words, "they shall beat their swords into ploughs,"many empires have risen and fallen. Each new empire puts its hand to the sword for the sake of empire, and sometimes in the mistaken belief that war will make peace. "This time we'll get it right," they say. "This time will be the exception to the testimony of history."
When the elders dream of war, it's the young men and women who die. Because part of our task here is to offer up to God our anger at Gordon's death, I want to put my anger into words, and then to hand it over to God. It won't just go away, but the act of letting it go, is a crucial step in being free of it. I am angry at the political leaders who created this war. I am angry at the politicians who themselves have never personally experienced the horror of war, yet who so easily have sent others into that horror. I am angry at the political leaders who in the pursuit of empire have sacrificed the lives of honorable people; and who see that sacrifice as an acceptable loss. I am angry at the political pretext for this war. The misinformation, the lies that were put forth as justification. Those who are truly responsible for Gordon's death will in all likelihood never face justice in this life. I want to believe that if there is a God in heaven, then there will be justice, because I want someone to pay for Gordon's death.
Only God may judge who is ultimately responsible. I may only admonish. To those whom I would say are ultimately responsible, President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, I have only three words to say and may they someday be inscribed upon the tablet of your hearts, "shame on you." That is how I describe my anger. But anger is like a sword. We pick it up and carry it as the motivation, the justification of the battles we fight. Yet God calls us to turn our swords into ploughshares. I must, we all must turn our anger into the motivation for peace. Otherwise, we live only to repeat the never ending cycle of violence and war.
May God in his mercy grant us freedom from anger. Gordon now joins the ranks of fallen soldiers. His name will be inscribed on the roll of honor of men and women who have given their lives in service to their country. He will forever remain 19 years old. Because of his unfortunate death, his name will always be a name we honour. The only way that his sacrifice will not be in vain, is if we the living, live with hope. Hope that someday we might catch just a glimmer of the promise of peace. That we might hear just an echo of the sound of the implements of war being turned into the instruments of peace.
In living with hope we must work for peace. And for those of you his friends, his comrades, someday when you are old, when you have lived a full life, visit his grave. Tell him of your life. Tell him that your life was worth living. Remember to thank him.
Yes I know it's cheating, as the sharp eyed amongst you will have spotted I didn't write the above. Why! the word cunt isn't used once! Anyway I will not have Remembrance Sunday go unnoticed, so I'm having a bit of a military fest on any blogs I'm involved with. I realise everyone is sick to death of the Iraq war, but I can't think of a better time to get angry again than Remembrance Sunday. I would have hoped by this stage in history we'd all spend this Sunday laughing like drains at the very idea that anyone would be foolish enough to go to war to settle their differences. Sadly we haven't progressed much. I only hope that when Prime Minister Tony is standing at the Cenotaph tomorrow, he fully realises what he's done. I will not be holding my breath though.