Inner Circle

 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Dear Inner Circle,


Exactly a year ago, I stood in the battle field of Fromelles, France. Fromelles was of particular interest to me because there was such shedding of Australian blood there. I’m not sure if bloodbaths ever have redeeming features, but this particular battle it seems, was designed to achieve nothing other than a distraction. It was hoped that this battle would prevent Germany from sending large numbers of their soldiers south in preparation for the massive culmination to be known as the Battle of the Somme. The plan failed. Fromelles was so poorly executed that Germany quickly recognised it as a decoy and moved their troops south anyway. Some of the soldiers killed at Fromelles had fought at Gallipoli but many were fresh from Australia with no fighting experience. I stood for ages in front of the grave of Private John Gordon, who enlisted in his older brother’s name, and who had landed in France in June 1916 and died on this field a month later. He was fifteen years and ten months old.


Very few Australian families a hundred years ago could imagine, let alone visit, the places where I stood last year. At Pozières, near the famous windmill sight, I found you could wander into any of the peaceful-looking fields, which were at the time freshly ploughed, and fill the boot of a car with shrapnel if you were so inclined. One hundred years later and still the ground is peppered with metal, now twisted and muddy, but then white hot and cutting through flesh like a butter knife. How many thousands of Australian people had wished to have stood where I stood, trying to understand what kind of circumstance robbed them of their boys, husbands and fathers? Many times, I stood quietly and shut my eyes as if I was communicating with thousands of Australians now gone, to say, “This is where it was”. Standing in peaceful fields, it’s hard to imagine soldiers deafened by artillery night and day without a break, wet, muddy and waiting for an order to march into a hailstorm of machine gun fire. Yet, I was there, standing on this very ground.


At the famous little café near Polygon Wood, I met up with an Australian couple who were about to look for the grave of a great uncle. Johan, the proprietor of the café, is a man who has built his life around the history of Australian soldiers. He has an extensive collection of relics and he has been responsible for many important finds through his own archaeological activity. Johan was able to tell the couple from which direction their great uncle would have come and the point at which the fiercest battles took place. He offered to help the couple find the headstone of their loved one and they invited me to come along too. The Australian woman had not met the great uncle whose grave she sought, but his legend lived in her family for generations. They were not religious people, being careful to tell me that they, “didn’t believe”. It was one of those awkward moments that abound in my life where I’m sure God has no interest in whether someone believes or not, and yet it seems to be somehow important for a person to declare their lack of faith. We found the grave of the great uncle and to the surprise of us all, it was a highly emotional moment. It was almost as if this man had laid in this field for one hundred years, cold and lonely and waiting for some family to come. They asked me to say a prayer to the God they didn’t believe in, and as I prayed, something way beyond belief possessed us. What an honour to have shared this moment.


ANZAC Day absorbs me in all kinds of emotional conflict. I read recently of a fourteen-year-old soldier killed on Lone Pine and I was left wondering if he’d ever heard of Turkey, or if he wondered why a boy from Australia would seek to defend the British Empire by shooting Turkish people who had attacked no-one. I can’t bear any talk of “The glorious dead” and yet when I hear, “Lest we forget”, my soul is arrested into stunned silence. Unless we remember, an appetite for war can grow like a cancer that kills without any warning symptoms. It worries me that the two men with the worst haircuts in the world could easily bring on a conflict that would send young Australians off to unimaginable deaths, while they sing bright songs and naively worry that “all the fighting might be over before they even get to the battlefield”. How easily we are whipped up by our leaders into attitudes of ‘us and them’ and we forget that a dead German, a dead Turk, and dead Vietnamese, a dead Afghani, a dead Iraqi, a dead Korean, is just as tragic as a dead Australian.

Lest we forget.


Thanks for being part of our inner circle,


Graham

Rev Graham Long AM

CEO & Pastor

The Wayside Chapel

www.revgrahamlong.com

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Previous Inner Circles

2017

20 April: ANZAC Day

13 April: Easter

6 April: Captured By A Face

30 March: I'm On Ice

23 March: Another Day At The Office

16 March: A Good Start To The Day

9 March: Permission To Be Human

2 March: Every Life Celebrated

23 February: Surprised By Joy

16 February: Wayside Isn't A Place, It's An Activity

9 February: Heavy With Meaning

2 February: The Danger of Stability

26 January: Australia Day

19 January: Wow

13 January: The Joy of Being Useless

2016

22 December: Miracles in the Messy

15 December: A Season for Demons

8 December: Soul Restorer

1 December: Holy Ground

24 November: Opening Presence for Christmas

17 November: On Our Best Behaviour For a Day

10 November: A Seismic Shift

3 November: Outcomes by Accident

27 October: Wow! Look How Far You've Come

20 October: Moving Toward Our Destiny

13 October: A Tribute

06 October: Risk and Sacrifice

29 September: Wisdom in Unconventional Places

22 September: It's What We Do at Wayside

15 September: The Joy of Being Wrong

8 September: Turning Toward Love

1 September: The Power of Weakness

25 August: Words as weapons

18 August: Wattle become of us

11 August: Precious and fragile

4 August: A wave from Wayside

28 July: Understanding bedlam

21 July: Time for some straight talking

14 July: Holy ground

7 July: Sowing in tears, reaping with shouts of joy

30 June: A bit of banter about Bondi

23 June: My cup runneth over

16 June: Injecting some joy

9 June: At the end of the line

2 June: Lots of perspiration and a touch of inspiration

26 May: Swimming against the tide

19 May: Every 7 days but not weakly

12 May: I once was blind

5 May: A place to belong

28 April: Lest we forget

21 April: I've seen into the abyss

14 April: Colourful language

7 April: Poetic licence

31 March: Happy in the Cross

24 March: Easter

17 March: A party mix

10 March: The intimacy of everything

3 March: An unusual look

25 February: He ain't heavy

18 February: Tears of laughter and sadness

11 February: Wisdom is a tricky business

4 February: A wave from The Wayside Chapel

28 January: Some long distance loving

21 January: No time for judgement

2015

17 December: Last note for 2015

10 December: Sanity Clause if coming to town

3 December: It's all about the presence

26 November: The joy of not knowing

19 November: The curse of perfectionism

12 November: To speak is to act

5 November: My cup runneth over

29 October: Prophet and loss

22 October: Finding yourself in a magical team

15 October: A silly question

8 October: Surprised by the joy

1 October: Being dead right

24 September: A day by the Wayside

17 September: It's a gold rush

10 September: The psychology of onions

3 September: Life comes from without

27 August: Surprised by the beautiful

20 August: Light shining through the cracks

13 August: A matter of balance

6 August: Recognising a gift

30 July: Your weakly note

23 July: 'A thing' from the Wayside

16 July: The future is calling

9 July: In love with some Dame

2 July: Better days ahead

25 June: Something funny, something beautiful

18 June: Seeing what's there

11 June: Amazing mates

4 June: There's a time and a place

28 May: The weight and the joy of being a neighbour

21 May: You're invited

14 May: Laughing, lying and loving

7 May: The awesome in the ordinary

30 April: Wayside light

23 April: Priceless gifts, freely given

16 April: Good news from the Wayside is great news

9 April: Awesome

2 April: Easter by the Wayside

26 March: Thankful for little things

19 March: A few minutes in the cross

12 March: Seeing what isn't there

5 March : A tour like no other

26 February: Tough love

19 February: Puffing or building

12 February: The two shall become two

5 February: Chest pains

29 January: Shear joy

22 January 2015: Fully alive

15 January 2015: Blessed interruptions

8 January 2015: A glimpse of glory

2014

18 December 2014: Christmas hat in hand

11 December 2014: A little season of goodwill

4 December 2014: There was nothing silent about that night

27 November 2014: It's not about feeling better

20 November 2014: Gathering Moss

13 November 2014: Love the land, love the people

6 November 2014: The power of presence

30 October 2014: Paralysed by presence

23 October 2014: The joy of sight

16 October 2014: The best medicine

9 October 2014: Who would have guessed?

2 October 2014: There's no such thing as a terrorist

21 August: Saving souls

14 August: Squeaking out

7 August: A time for turning

31 July: You're okay

24 July: Happy tears

17 July: Let's aim higher

10 July: Gristle and good

3 July: The joy of not knowing

26 June: If not now, when? If not me, who?

12 June: Longing for riches

5 June: When you least expect it

22 May: Finding home

15 May: Flying

8 May: Tests, triumps and tissues

1 May: Skuse the French

24 April: Lifting the curtain

17 April: Collective love

10 April: Cardiac arrest

3 April: Awe struck

27 March: You're invited to something special

20 March: Rather a prohet than a loss

13 March: It's all happening at the wayside

6 March: Love makes all the difference

27 February: What goes around

20 February: The joy of being empty handed

13 February: Loving the growth spurts

6 February: Mighty glad to be back by the wayside

23 January: Some criminals have class

16 January: Wonderful surprises

9 January: Ready, set

2013

19 December: Thanks for an awesome year

12 December: Mission and wishin'

5 December: The ups and downs and all is well

28 November: Kissed by the community

21 November: Our cup runneth over

14 November: A revelation from wayside

7 November: When excrement happens

31 October: I am therefore I think

24 October: We are surrounded by heroes

17 October: When you least suspect

26 September: A wayside wobbly

19 September: Knowing a gift

12 September: Advancing at the retreat

5 September: A little dose of good

29 August: Fighting with a feather

22 August: The boom is just beginning

15 August: True riches

8 August: Small is beautiful

1 August: Sensitive people miss all the best views

25 July: A whole lot going on at wayside

18 July: Kings Cross a place of courage

27 June: Holy ground

20 June: You cannot take what can only be given

 

 

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