An address given at the Parramatta ANZAC Day 2021 dawn service.
On the 17th of May 1942 in a small mountain town in the heart of Austria my Grandfather, a recently ordained Lutheran minister by the name of Martin Kirchschlager, received his conscription notice into the Wehrmacht.
He was not made a padre, a chaplain, as we might have expected for a man in his position. Instead he was made a soldat. A soldier. A private. An ordinary infantry man. No doubt the reason for this surprising treatment was that Martin was a member of what was known as the Confessing Church. Those Christians in Germany who refused to accept Adolf Hitler’s claim that everything should be subject to him, including the church.
The Confessing Church took their stand because they were clear that it is God and God alone who truly rules, through the Lord Jesus Christ. And they were able to take their stand with courage because of truths from the Bible that we’ve already heard this morning.
Our first song today, God is our strength and refuge, is tightly based on Psalm 46, an ancient song itself found deep in the Scriptures; the heart cry of the nation of Israel who found herself constantly surrounded and beset by enemies.
But they knew the great truth about a very great God who they were confident would win the final victory, even if the short-term future looked very insecure.
This past Friday morning I was speaking to an old digger from the Blacktown RSL. He told of the visits he would make to primary schools and what those very young children would ask. He spoke of one little girl who posed him the simple but profound question “what is war”? And his response was very wise. He said to her, “it’s like when there is a bully at school who is hurting people. And so you have to stop them. And that’s what we do”.
And of course you need force to do that. You need power. You send the army in to forcibly stop the enemy, to make still those who would exalt themselves over other nations.
And so it is with the true and living God. Our good God, our holy God, is not a weak God. There will be a day when he will finally stop all evil. Here’s how that truth is expressed in the words of Psalm 46.
Psa. 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5 God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
8 Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Martin Kirchschlager was sent to war to die because he opposed the tyranny of Hitler. He ended up picking cotton in Texas, a prisoner of the Americans who captured him outside Tunis in 1943. The Americans, of course, were the cornerstone of the alliance that also opposed that same tyranny.
Their victory was not quick but it was inevitable. So inevitable in fact that Martin’s daughter, my own mother Karin, tells the stories of GI’s who arrived in the spring of 1945 to that same small mountain town in the heart of Austria. And she also tells of the relief felt by so many that peace had arrived. A rest, a long-awaited stillness, that was so obvious that even a little four year old girl could understand it and still remembers it almost eight decades later.
Since then more wars have been fought. More nations have been in uproar. More bullies have been opposed. More kingdoms have fallen.
It can seem that war will never end. But Psalm 46 teaches us something different. That there will be a day when God will finish all evil. It is inevitable. And the Scriptures go on to tell us that God has a commander for this final battle. The Lord Jesus Christ. Later in the Bible the book of Revelation considers this final moment and, with it’s own particular style, describes Jesus in this way:
Rev. 19:11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. … 14 The armies of heaven were following him,…
As dawn breaks here we remember those who have fallen and those wounded in so many ways. We also recognise the need to go to war to oppose the bullies and the tyrants not least so that little girls both today and eighty years ago can experience peace. The Bible teaches us that that’s the right thing to do.
But we’re reminded as well that it is God who will finally do away with all evil. And so we’re called to ultimately to put our trust in him
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
And his victory is inevitable.