On this Father’s Day I remember and honour my father. He was a simple peasant on what today might be not much more than a hobby farm yet with that piece of land he was able to feed six children and provide endless adventures—greater than any theme park!

I remember that there were occasional unclarified boundaries between farms when fences were made or land was cleared yet my father, even though he was not a socialite, always had good relations with the farmers whose land bordered ours. They lived side by side with dignity and respect. Now, in retirement there is no land to be worked and dad finds more time to “talk across the fence” at the local coffee shop.

Neighbourly relations are not something to be taken for granted; it has not always been so and it is not so in all places of the world. But our powerful leaders of nations can learn something from simple peasants.

The Protestant Reformation occurred in a time of spiritual, economic, political, and social upheaval. Along with fresh winds of the Spirit blowing during this time, there was also unfortunately a lot of unnecessary blood spilled. Various jurisdictions in central Europe proclaimed their territories as either Protestant [Reformed or Lutheran] or Roman Catholic, and it seemed that the only way they could think of to resolve differences was to take up arms.

In June of 1529 the Catholic canton of Zug and the Reformed canton of Zurich lined up for battle in the beautiful pastoral countryside of Kappel in northern Switzerland. As the neighbouring peasants who were conscripted into the army squared off, it seems some of them began to recognize those on the other side as fellow human beings—neighbours. They began to wonder, “Why are we killing each other? We farm next to each other… why can’t we all just get along?” They decided to have a peace treaty signed with a meal. The Catholics from Zug brought the “milchsuppe” [milk soup] and the Protestants brought the bread; they ate together and went back to their farms. A marker stands there today on that spot to mark this occasion.

Unfortunately, two years later the leaders on both sides became antagonistic once again. There were accusations and killings and war was again declared. The great reformer and leader in Zurich, Ulrich Zwingli, was killed in the second battle of Kappel. Also unfortunately, rivalries between Catholics and Protestants have continued in the centuries since then.

How are we doing today? There have been some historic meetings in the last few decades where apologies have been made, forgiveness granted, and reconciliation has begun, involving Catholics, Protestants, and Anabaptists. Some of the old animosities and rifts between Christians are indeed melting away. As a peace activist has said, “Let the Christians of the world at least agree not to kill each other.” And as Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” Sigfried Bartel, a WW2 veteran turned peace activist, said, “It’s impossible to love someone while you’re pointing a gun at them.” Instead, let us eat and drink together; it’s a good way to build a relationship and maybe even avert a war. That gracious conversation at the coffee shop between retired farmers may be more profound than we realize. Happy Father’s Day, dad!

 

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