Wednesday, November 28, 2007

From My Workbench - Ruined WW2 House

Ruined house model in 20mm (roughly HO or 1/72nd scale) by Sentry Models (AT06 Detached Ruined House), ordered from RLBPS (Bob Bowling). The house is a single resin casting, except for the bit of flooring on the second level. Enjoyed good service from these folks, would order more from them.

The figure beside it is a British officer from AB Miniatures.

Here's another view:

Hmm, hope that Brit officer noticed the German machine gun on the other side of that building!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A US Army Chaplain in Iraq

Military chaplains: a Presbyterian pastor patrols with his flock of soldiers in Iraq
Army Capt. Ron Eastes carries a big responsibility - but no weapon - in his 'ministry of presence' with the 82nd Airborne.

By Lee Lawrence | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor


Read the complete story from the Christian Science Monitor.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

From My Workbench - Ruined Factory Model

I am finding that I love modeling scenery as much as I love painting soldiers. I think miniature wargaming has the potential to combine the best of model railroading with toy soldiers to produce visually satisfying results. So that's the theory.

Here's a model in progress. It was originally a Walther model railroad kit, which I wanted to turn into a ruined factory in some war-torn town. The complete story of its creation can be seen here . When finished, the roof will be removable to place chaps (20mm or HO or 1/72nd scale) inside. The details inside are bricks that I chopped up out of foamboard (too big, I think) and the debris and green machine thingy are scraps that my friend James gave me from his auto-parts plant. Much work to do but it's coming along nicely.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Sermon for Remembrance Day

Sunday, November 11, 2007, Grace and St. George’s

Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ (Luke 20:38)

This morning I want to offer a few comments about remembrance and hope. These two things are important to today, of course, but they are also important to the faith which gathers us here week by week, year by year.

Today is a day of remembering. It’s not about remembering specific events, because there is no one alive today who can remember what it was like at Vimy Ridge or Passchendaele. In a few years more, a decade at the most, there won’t be anyone left alive who can remember what is like at Dieppe or what it felt like to be caught in the flak and searchlights over Germany. All we can do is remember the people who went before us to these terrible places. We can remember the people we knew – parents and grandparents – and we can remember the ones we didn’t know, the ones who are just names and strangers to us.

Why do we remember? The reasons are complex. We remember them because their lives were significant, and because the loss of their potential, so many who died so young, can never be fully appreciated. We remember them to do them honour, because they gave what Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address called “the last full measure of devotion”, paying the ultimate sacrifice for those they loved and for we who came after them. We remember them because it is our responsibility to remember them, because we owe them. If we decided to cancel November 11th and just forget about the past, we would be the less for it. Our society would somehow be diminished if we abandoned Remembrance Day.

These are good reasons to remember, to be sure, but I think the third and most important reason we remember is because of hope. We have the hope, again to quote Lincoln, that “these dead did not die in vain”. We have the hope that their deaths made the world a better place. We have the hope that peace and freedom are great gifts, to be defended if necessary, but never to be squandered or abandoned needlessly. We have the hope that we have learned from history, and that things will work out for the better. If we did not have hope, Remembrance Day would be a tragic event, nothing but the naming of victims, and history would be a trap that humans are forever caught in.

Christians are people called to remember and called to hope. God calls us to remember – to remember him and to remember that we are his people, and to remember the way God wants us to live. God also calls us to hope – the hope of Christ’s power and resurrection, the hope that we can change and that the world can change, and the hope that we will be saved. We believe in memory and hope because we believe that these things come from God. A God who created the world must surely remember everything and everyone in it, and a God who sends his son to save the world must surely have hope for the future. We see both these things clearly in today’s gospel.

In today’s reading from Luke, Jesus has finally reached Jerusalem. Not everyone agrees with his preaching and teaching, and not everyone agrees that Jesus is the Messiah, the one sent by God to save his people. A group called the Sadducces set out to challenge him. The Sadducces were Jews who did not believe in the resurrection. As far as they were concerned, once you die, that’s it. Game over. They challenge Jesus with the riddle of a woman who in turn marries seven brothers in accordance with a Jewish law called Levirate Marriage According to this law, if a man died, it was the brother’s duty to take his sister-in-law in marriage, and he was to name the firstborn after his deceased brother, “so that his name may not be blotted out of Israel” (Deut 25:5-6).

The Sadducces I think are like people who go to a funeral and say, “Well, Joe’s dead, he was a good guy, but he’s gone and the best that we can do is remember him”. As far as they are concerned, the best we can hope for is to be remembered by having our name and our memory continue in our descendants, which is the purpose of Levirate Marriage. If God intended to do something as radical as raise people from the dead, he wouldn’t have given this law to his people. The women in the riddle wouldn’t have needed to remarry, because her first husband would be alive again on the day of resurrection. For the Sadduccees, God is either trapped in history or he has lost interest in it. Their God has set things up a certain way, cleaned his hands, and said “this is the way it’s supposed to be, muddle along as best you can.”

But as I said, we are people of hope because we believe that God isn’t finished with history. God isn’t content with the way things are. God will change things for the better. Jesus tells the Sadducees something that human categories like marriage will change in heaven, so their question is irrelevant. We will be changed into “angels and .. children of God, being children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:37). We don’t really know what Jesus means by this. Certainly it tracks with what St. Paul says elsewhere about how human categories like gender, race, and social status will no longer count in God’s new creation (see Galatians 3:27-28), but other than noting this continuity I think it’s vain to speculate too much about what this might mean. All we can be sure of is that we will be made new, and made better.

Personally what I take comfort from is what Jesus goes on to say. “And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’” (Luke 20:37-38). Take a minute to let that sink in. God is talking about his memory. He is saying that in his eternal memory, all of us are alive – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the seven brothers of the woman in the riddle.

It would be like God saying to me “I am the God of Michael Peterson, and of his father Allan Peterson, and his father Arthur Peterson, and his father …”. Now I knew my father, but after his death I realized that there were many things about him I didn’t know and would never know. My grandfather Arthur was dead long before I was born, and I only new a few things about him. I have only the vaguest idea of who my great-grandfather knows, and likely never will never know more. I can try as best I can to pass what I know of them on to my children and, perhaps, my grandchildren, and give them the few mementos that my father left to me. But memories fade, stories are lost, and I have no guarantee that those to come will remember Arthur, or Allan, or Michael.

Likewise we who gather today face an impossible task. We can try to remember the dead of our wars as best we can. We can do wonderful things, like the project this year of giving each schoolchild who went to Vimy Ridge the name and details of a Canadian soldier who died in that war. We can talk to the veterans while they last, and capture their fading memories. We do the best that we can, but we know, as our hymn today reminds us, that “time like an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away”. Not so with the mind of God. We have the promise in the words of our gospel that God will not forget us.

Let me close by asking you to try, if you can, to let go of one image and replace it with another. Try to let go of the traditional image of God’s memory, the image of that big book at St. Peter’s desk where all of our misdoings and mistakes are kept for the day of judgment. Think instead of God remembering all of you that is important – who you loved, the best that you can be, your fondest hopes and greatest dreams, your most selfless moments. Think of God holding these things clearly in his mind, as clearly as your best and brightest memory of your childhood summers, and brighter still. Finally, think of God calling these memories forth on the day when he will recreate the world, creating you anew, as something angelic, a child of the resurrection. On that day none of us will be forgotten. We will be remembered, fully and gloriously, along with our grandparents and their grandparents and all the names on every cenotaph across this country and overseas, to stand with those in the graves marked “A Soldier Known Unto God”. For surely that is our best and brightest hope, that each of us is “known unto God”.

©Michael Peterson+ 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

All Saints Day Children's Program, November 1st, 2007

On November 1st, St. George's of Middlesex Centre, one of the churches I serve, played host to the Deaner of Medway's All Saints Children's Day. This event is one of a series of events organized by deanery youth ministry coordinator Heather Brown. Medway deanery offers two events a year, one on All Saints Day (1 Nov) and one at the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, and takes advantage of Ontario legislation that excuses children from school to attend a day of religious instruction. Because this was All Saints Day, we thought we'd take advantage of the host church's name and tell the story of George and the Dragon using crafts, drama, stories and games. A video of the event, shot by Heather Brown, can be seen here. There are digital pictures and captions as part of my Facebook site. A video of the event, shot by Heather Brown, can be seen here.

A script and outline of part of the day's events is posted below. You are more than welcome to use it or adapt it as you see fit.

Morning Session
Facilitator talks about the importance of saints. We believe as Anglicans that saints are role models – they teach us how to be Christian. By their example, we learn what it means to live the kind of life that God wants us to live.
Today we are going to have a visit from a very special saint, St. George! And here he is now!
Voice off:
Left, right! Left, right!
Marching off, to the fight!
Gotta be strong, do what’s right!
Gotta love God with all my might!
Left, right! Left right!
Company ...... HALT!

Looks around, surprised.

Well, hello there!
I say, I’ve been marching for a long, long time.
I could use a bit of a rest.
Do you mind if I take off my armour
And sit down for a visit?

My name’s George. How do you do?
They call me SAINT George, but really, George is fine.
And what are your names?

So pleased to meet you.
They told me you were studying ME.
And they told me that this church is named after ME!
Fancy that! Isn’t that kind of you!
I say, I would love something to eat.
May I please have one of those cookies?
Thanks awfully! How nice. Very tasty.
So, what would you like to know about me?

The children might ask, or be prompted to ask George to talk about his life.

My life? My goodness, that’s a long story and it’s rather hard to tell.
You see, I’ve been around for such a long time, there’s a lot to remember.
I guess I should start back in the year 400!
That was a long, long time ago.
I was a soldier in the Roman Army.
As a soldier I had to be brave and strong and ready to fight.
But, I was also a Christian.
I believed that Jesus was our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God.
And that was hard, because in those days,
If you were a soldier, you weren’t allowed to be a Christian.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian.
Perhaps it’s hard for you, when you’re friends don’t go to church
And you can’t be them them when you’d like to on Sundays.
Well, one day they found out that I was a Christian.
They said, George old boy, you can either give up this being Christian business,
Or, well, if you don’t, we’ll just have to chop your head off.
My goodness, that was a hard choice.

What did I do? Well, it was simple. I said I would stay a Christian.
Even if they chopped my head off.

Was I scared? I should say so. I was scared stiff.
But you see, I remembered what the Bible said
About having faith and putting on the armour of God.
I knew that I could trust God and he would protect me.
No matter what happened.

Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?
You see, saints are hard chaps to kill.
We’re God’s reminders.
Whenever someone is scared,
Whenever someone wonders what’s the right thing to do,
Whenever someone needs a good example, they can look to us.

Years and years later, some soldiers from England heard about me.
They heard about my fight with the dragon
And they brought my story back to England.
They made me the national saint of England.
That’s why my red cross on a white shield
became part of the British flag.

What dragon? My goodness, THE dragon.
Have you never seen a dragon?
Well, the dragon has lots of different names.
Some people call him the devil, some people call him Satan.
The important thing is, the dragon is whatever is bad.
Anything that goes against God’s plan for the world is a dragon.
Anything that tempts us to do bad things,
Anything that tries to get us to love ourselves more than other people,
Anything tries to get us to put ourselves ahead of other people,
That’s a dragon.
I fought the dragon many times.
I always chased him off, but he always came back.
I’m always ready to fight him.

That’s my story, and that’s why,
Whenever people remember me and tell my story,
They talk about St. George and the dragon.
If we go into this church that is so kindly named after me,
I bet that we can see some pictures of me and the dragon.
Let’s go look, shall we?

That was very interesting, wasn’t it?
Did you know that you too can be dragon fighters?
That’s right! All of us Christians are dragon fighters.
When we were baptized, our parents and our godparents
And the whole congregation in church that day,
Promised that they would teach us to fight against
Satan, the devil, and all the bad things in the world.
So that makes us dragon fighters, doesn’t it?
Our family and our church family promised to help us
To grow up to be dragon fighters.

Now, as dragon fighters, how are you going to fight the dragon?
What sorts of things would you need?

Those are all good answers.
I have some more answers, from the Bible.
In a book of the Bible called Ephesians, Paul
(Paul was also a saint, a good fellow, Paul)
Writes this advice for dragon fighters.

“God is strong and he wants you strong. So take everything that the Lord has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything that the Dragon throws your way. ... Be prepared. ... Take up all the help you can get, every weapon God has given you, so that when it’s all over you’ll still be on your feet. Truth makes the best belt, fasten it tight around your waist. Doing what’s right in God’s eyes makes the best armour, so put that on over your chest. Wear good boots, that make you want to tell how great God is wherever you may go! Faith and trust in God makes the best shield against whatever flames that old dragon spits out at you! Your best helmet comes from Jesus, who died to save us all from sin. Finally, your best sword isn’t a sword at all, but it’s the Holy Spirit that we learn about in the Bible, which teaches us how to be God’s people. And always, always, pray for yourself and for other people, and use prayer as your lifeline to God.”

This paraphrase of Ephesians 6:10-18 is inspired partly by Eugene Peterson’s The Message and is partly my own paraphrase of the NRSV.

So, how does that make you feel?
Do you think you’d be safe with all those things?

So since St. Paul finished by asking us to pray,
Can I pray with you?

Gracious God, thank you that through our baptism,
You gave us the power to be dragon fighters
Through the love of your son, Jesus Christ.
Help us always to be strong to do what is good in your eyes.
And whenever we do wrong things,
Please forgive us and help us to try again and do better.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Well, friends, it’s been so nice talking to you.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about me on my special day.
More importantly, thank you for wanting to be God’s dragon fighters.
I pray that God blesses you and keeps you close to Him always.
And now, well, a dragon-fighter’s work is never done.
That old dragon is out there somewhere
and I’ve got to keep looking for him!
I’ll see you later! Goodbye!

After the visit from St. George the children can engage in crafts or activities.
After a break and before lunch, the Dragon will visit.

Dragon enters singing to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon”
I’m Ruff the Nasty Dragon!
I’m scary as can be!
I love to be mean and ferocious,
And make people frightened of me!

Big and small, short and tall,
I gobble folks up, boots and all!
You’d better watch out!
Better scream and shout!
‘Cuz today I’m here for YOU!!!!

Dragon looks around.

So, whaddya’ think? Are you scared?
I bet you are! I bet you’ve never seen
A dragon as scary as me? Well??

Well, you oughta be scared!
Who do you think I am? Barney the Dinosaur?
Well, I ain’t no nice guy like him.
Fortunately for you guys, today I’m not very hungry!
On the way hear I ate a farmer AND his combine,
And a whole field of cows! So good thing for you I’m full!

Well, almost full. I’ve always got room for a cookie ... or two ... or three.
Gimmee those cookies! . Mmmmm, delicious.

So, what are you guys doing here today? How come you’re not in school?

Saint George? So that’s what he’s calling himself these days, is it?
LOSER George is more like it.
I’ll bet he told you he won the last time we met?
Yeah, I’ll bet he did. I’ll bet he even got folks to name a church after him.
Say, what’s this church called?

Oh, man! That guy! What a nerve.
Well, don’t you BELIEVE a word of it!
The last time we met, SCAREDY George was running away calling for
His mommy!

“Oh, mommy, mommy, save me from the big nasty dragon!”
Saint George. Don’t make me laugh!

Look, kids, let me set you straight. Forget all that stuff.
St. George made it all up later because he’s a LOSER.
Face it, kids, nice guys always finish last.
How do you think I got to be such an important dragon?
By being NICE to people?
Forgetabout! They don’t call me Ruff the Dragon for nothing!
I got this name ‘cuz I’m Rough and Tough!
So remember, kids, nice guys finish last.
If you want to succeed in life, you gotta look out for number one!
You gotta be rough and tough, like me!

Well, kids, enough talk. Gotta run.
So many people to be nasty to, so little time.
Hmm, maybe a cookie for the road.
Say you don’t mind, do you?
Ha! As if you could stop me!

I’m Ruff the Nasty Dragon!
I’m scary as can be!
I love to be mean and ferocious,
And make people frightened of me!

Facilitators use this time to talk with the children about the dragon.
What did they think about him?
Is it better to be loved or feared? What did Jesus say (talk about the Golden Rule, love one another as you would love yourselves.
Talk about the dragon as a symbol of evil Ask children to identify other bad things, other sources of evil in the world (eg, child slavery, internet pornography, use of child soldiers in the third world, violent drug crime in schools, etc What are Christians supposed to think about these things?
After getting some thoughts from children, return to what St. George said about the Ephesians “Whole Armour of God” text in light of our baptismal vows. Our parents and godparents/sponsors promised at our birth to help us become people who would resist evil. Paul in Ephesians talks about the things that help us resist evil – prayer, faith, etc.

After lunch, St. George returns for a visit.

Hello friends! Did you have a good lunch?
Jolly good! You can’t be dragon fighters on an empty stomach!

I say, speaking of dragons,
you haven’t seen that old Dragon around, have you?
You have? By jove! I thought so!
My dragon sense was telling me there was trouble nearby?

Look, now that you’re all dragon fighters,
How about we put on our coats and boots
And go see if we can see signs of him?

St. George leads the children outside to look for signs of the dragon.
As they uncover signs, St. George looks wary, strokes his chin a lot,
And says things like “By jove” and “Can’t be too careful” and the like.

After returning to the parish hall:

Well, dragon fighters, you better be careful.
I’m going out for another look.
Remember, if you see that dragon,
Just call for St. George and I’ll be there to help you!

St. George leaves.
Shortly thereafter, Ruff the Dragon appears, singing.

I’m Ruff the Nasty Dragon!
I’m scary as can be!
I love to be mean and ferocious,
And make people frightened of me!

Hmmm, you again, eh? Well, guess what?
I haven’t had my lunch, and those cookies
Weren’t enough to fill me up!
I guess that means I’ll have to eat ...... YOU!!!

The children can be encouraged to scream and call for St. George, who at once reappears.

George: Now see here, Dragon!
Stop trying to frighten those children.
They know all about you and your wicked ways.
You just leave them alone and clear out.

Dragon: Oh yeah? Sez who?
Who’s going to stop me, eh?

George: I’m going to stop you,
Just like I did every other time.

Dragon: You’re going to stop me?
What a laugh! I hope you’ve got
A whole army out there, ‘cuz you’re going to need it.

George: I don’t need an army, Dragon.
I’ve got the shield of faith, the power of prayer,
And the love of Jesus Christ on me side.
You know what the Good Book says?
It says, “At the name of Jesus, every knee shall fall!”

Dragon: Well, THIS knee ain’t falling,
And I ain’t falling for you!
Get ready to be a dragon burger!

Dragon : Owwww, that hurt!
Whad’ya go and do a thing like that for?

George: I was defending myself!
I don’t want to hurt you, dragon,
But I am a dragon fighter,
And you are an evil dragon.

Dragon: But you did hurt me!
Do you think it’s any fun being an evil dragon?
You’ve been having a good time in here
While I’ve been lurking outside all day.
I don’t have any friends.

George: Well, you don’t have to be an evil dragon.

Dragon: Yes I do. I can’t help it. It’s the way I am.
It’s the way I am!
Boo hoo hoo!

There there, dragon, don’t cry. Come on, cheer up.
Look, you don’t have to be an evil dragon.
God didn’t make you to be evil.
God made everyone in the his own image.
That means God wants all of us to be his friends.

Dragon: Even dragons?

Even dragons, if they want to be God’s friends.
Do you know what else the Good Book says?
It says that “Nothing can keep us apart from the love of God.”
That includes you, if you want God to love me.

Dragon: How do I get God to love you?

George: God loves you already.
All you have to do is say after me.

“I’m sorry that I did bad things.”
“Thank you for loving me.”
“Thank you for sending me your son Jesus
To forgive me for the bad things I’ve done.”
“Help me from now on to be your friend
And to share your love with the people I meet.”

Dragon: That feels better.
Do I have to do anything else?

George: Well, you could apologize to these children
For scaring them and stealing their cookies.

Ummm, I’m sorry I scared you and took your cookies.

George: Children, do you forgive Dragon?
Why don’t you give Dragon a hug?

Dragon looks happy, hugs and high fives the children.

George: So, Dragon, how do you feel now?
Dragon: Well, I feel different!
I feel like a new dragon! I like it!
It makes me want to say thank you to God!

George: So why don’t you stay and worship God with us?
We’re going to celebrate the Eucharist now,
And have a meal of bread and wine together.
The Eucharist means “Thank You Dinner.”
So, will you stay for dinner?

Dragon: I think I will!

We close with the Eucharist. While it is being set up, a facilitator can ask the children what they have learned from the event. The children can be reminded about being dragon fighters and resisting evil, but as the dragon’s “conversion” reminds them, nothing is greater than God’s power of love and forgiveness, “For God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16).

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