The Tale of Joseph's Coat
This innovative tale was told by Colin Gibson in his sermon on Apr 22, 2006, and cleverly used to illustrate the good news of transformation inherent in the Easter gospel.
Honour the dead, our country’s fighting brave,
honour our children left in foreign grave,
where poppies blow and sorrow seeds her flowers,
honour the crosses marked forever ours.
Weep for the places ravaged by our blood,
weep for the young bones buried in the mud,
weep for the powers of violence and greed,
weep for the deals done in the name of need.
Honour the brave whose conscience was their call,
answered no bugle, went against the wall,
suffered in prisons of contempt and shame,
branded as cowards, in our country’s name.
Weep for the waste of all that might have been,
weep for the cost that war has made obscene,
weep for the homes that ache with human pain,
weep that we ever sanction war again.
Honour the dream for which our nation bled,
held now in trust to justify the dead,
honour their vision on this *Anzac Day:
peace known in freedom, peace the only way.
Music: © Colin Gibson © Shirley Erena Murray 2005
Music script available email@example.com
* or ‘solemn day’
Let me tell you a story. This hymn was not written in a vacuum. It is dedicated
to, and written because I remember my two uncles, Norman and Jack Ferguson,
who set off with the other Southlanders of their kind to join the Otago Regiment
as volunteers at the beginning of World War 1.
Norman was 21, Jack 20. Their elder stepbrother, Neil, had already served in the Boer War, and my guess, according to my mother (their only sister) was that they couldn’t wait to get away from Invercargill, to see more of the world and have an ‘adventure’. That adventure was centred on Gallipoli, which they both survived, Norman invalided out and Jack never willing to describe what he had seen and experienced. Uncle Jack lived in our household all my student days, went marching on Anzac Day but never spoke about the war. I inherited his Gallipoli medal.
Later in my student days, I went to a Student Christian Conference in Wellington, where one of the speakers was the Rev. Ormond Burton. He was a broad-shouldered bear-like man, of impressive physical character. He became known as one of New Zealand’s best known Christian Pacifists.
He had landed at Gallipoli as a medical orderly, having enlisted as a volunteer aged 21, and was described as ‘a gallant, even foolhardy soldier”. By the end of that war, having served right through it and refusing home leave, he had been wounded three times, been decorated by both the British and the French, and promoted to Lieutenant.
But after this war, he became an unabashed propagandist for pacifism. Due to his outspoken and charismatic speeches in the Basin Reserve and elsewhere, especially in the Church, he became a prime suspect to the Government, as a stirrer. He was treated despicably, and imprisoned for most of the war in Napier Prison, in solitary confinement, isolated from other colleagues who were pacifist.
(His story, and many other stories that relate to conscientious objectors in NZ, is told in a book by historian David Grant, called ‘Out in the Cold’. It is a wonderful read and an important resource for any library.)
Ormond Burton made an enormous impression me, even though I did not know half of what a hero he had been. I could not imagine writing a hymn for Anzac Day which did not give an honoured place to those whom other NZers treated very brutally for their sincere beliefs.
I consider peace to be the prime issue we must deal with – from the horrors of world wars to the impersonal, but no less ghastly waste of human life by nuclear explosion and the missiles still screaming in Iraq.
Whenever you sing this hymn, don’t focus only on the past - think of what you can do for positive peacemaking in your lifetime, and respect those who will never commit themselves to killing another family’s son or daughter in warfare.