Luke the Evangelist

University of St Andrew’s
Sunday 18 October 2015, Revd. Dr. David Coulter QHC CF
St Luke The Evangelist

Readings: 2 Tim 4: 5-17 and Luke 10: 1-9

Text: 2 Tim 4: 17 “The Lord stood beside me and gave me strength….”

One of the great heroes of the RAChD is The Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy VC. He was Vicar of a place called Hutton Roof near Kirby Lonsdale and was widowed in June 1914 the same month that the Archduke Ferdinand was killed in Sarajevo which lead to the outbreak of the First World War. Initially and despite his best efforts Theodore Bailey Hardy tried in vain to enlist into the chaplains department and eventually tried to volunteer as a stretcher bearer. But in the summer of 1916 he was called up and was commissioned aged 51 and in the next 2 years was awarded a VC; DSO and MC for valour, dedication and selfless commitment to soldiers.

His VC was earned on 3 April 1918, serving God by caring for his men. His biographer writes:

“As the battalions re-grouped and counted heads in their original line, there was no sign of Theodore Hardy. The padre was missing – as dusk approached and speculation grew that the man they had called the “unkillable” would not be returning, a small figure was seen coming out of the wood from amongst the enemy lines. He had spent the day lying within ten yards of an enemy machine-gun post comforting a wounded man and now had come back to ask for a volunteer to go with him to recover the man….despite this ordeal, Hardy would not rest, as the citation continues: “throughout the day the enemy’s artillery, machine-gun and trench-mortar fire was continuous, and caused many casualties. Notwithstanding, this very gallant chaplain was seen moving quietly amongst the men and tending the wounded, absolutely regardless of his personal safety.”

“The Lord stood beside me and gave me strength.”

Theodore Bailey Hardy died from wounds on this day 18 October 1918, in a Field Hospital on the outskirts of Rouen and is buried along with 6 other Army Chaplains in St Sever Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

In September 2013 Pope Francis compared the Church to a Field Hospital. In an extended interview he said:
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up.”
Today’s Field Hospitals especially the large multidisciplinary Complex Trauma Teams like that which operated in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan are high tech advanced trauma and resuscitation facilities better than most General Hospitals where life saving surgery can be performed. Overall 98% of those who made it alive to Bastion survived and the care that they received in those crucial few hours from battle field to field hospital enabled them to join that unique fraternity – the “unexpected survivors” of Afghanistan.

The Camp Bastion Hospital is a long way from Surgeon Commander Rick Jolly’s “Red and Green Life Machine” set up in a sheep sheering shed during the 1982 Falklands War let alone the limitations of medical capability and capacity in WW1. Medics see the best and the worst of human life and experience and hold images and pictures in their minds eye of those they have helped in their hour of need. The Regimental Collect or Prayer of The Royal Army Medical Corps asks for God’s blessing upon all those who serve in the RAMC: “that by loyalty in hard service after the example of Saint Luke the beloved physician, we may be found faithful in ministering to those that need…”

In 2012 Dr Mark de Rond noted: “In the first seven days at Camp Bastion he saw 174 casualties brought into the military hospital. Six were already dead and 23 needed amputations. The small state-of-the art hospital uses more blood products that all of Scotland.”

His Chaplain Father Paul McCourt writes “as a chaplain to the sick, the wounded and the dying I have found in them and in the staff who care so carefully for them, a glimpse of the divine presence of God.”

“The Lord stood beside me and gave me strength.”

The physical and mental intensity of battle, particularly one as violent and destructive as Iraq or Afghanistan, and the thrill of surviving it, creates in the soldiers mind an expectation that what follows will be proportionally as rewarding. A small part of this is physical, the thought of beer, romance and home but much more is to do with the heart and the head, the desire to succeed and be courageous, to not let your mates down is as potent and real on the battlegrounds of Iraq or Afghanistan as they were at Waterloo. It is difficult to quantify and frequently impossible to find. But is one of the reasons that some ex-servicemen find it difficult to settle back into civilian life.

What is Pope Francis getting at when he compares the Church to a field hospital in a war zone? I believe he wants us to remember that our faith comes at a price and is demanding perhaps even wounding when it cuts to the very heart of our being. But no matter how deep the trauma the Church should be there to help. To get alongside people wherever they are and to guide them back into a place of safety and peace. It is beholden for the Church to get its hands dirty (sometimes even bloody) and to go where the people are rather than wait for them to come knocking at the Church door. As Pope Francis suggests you have to start from the ground up. To show that God loves and God cares and that in every case it is possible if we have the faith, hope and trust to ask him to come and stand beside us and give us strength.
Padre Mark Davidson a RN Chaplain points out in a recent book: “War exists where human relationships have been torn apart. It is a weeping wound inflicted when a community or nation chooses ideology over tolerance, greed over justice, violence over negotiation. War creates a rent in human and spiritual relationships. The resultant void challenges Christian claims to divine power and love, suggesting that God is either ineffective or absent, and that humanity is beyond redemption.”

“The Lord stood beside me and gave me strength.”

When we look upon the world stage or listen to the news there is so much pain and suffering and some challenging if not seemingly insurmountable problems. The threat of Islamic State and the Refugee Crisis immediately come to mind. It is very easy to stand back and do nothing and to blame others. In every place and in every age there are situations where there is trouble; bitterness; war and conflict. But thank God that there are people who are ready; willing and able to engage in conflict and who will take risk and put themselves in harms way to stop evil and do good.

There were 453 killed in Afghanistan and countless others with life changing injuries. There were 3 soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross but only one, Lance Cpl Josh Leakey VC, lived to receive it in person. Less well known perhaps are the many examples of moral courage where one soldier puts him/herself in serious danger to save a colleague.

Capt Dave Wiseman was wounded and owes his life to the actions and prayers of his Fijian Corporal:

The first round was so close I felt it whistle past my head; the second floored me. I had no time to react. It smashed into my shoulder like a sledgehammer, pulverising bone and tissue. It travelled through my chest, snapping my ribs like matchsticks and macerating a lung. I was picked up by the force and flung several metres through the air, spinning like a ragdoll.
A Fijian Lance Corporal dashed to help:
‘I lay there looking up at the sky, struggling to breathe. The pain in my chest was becoming unbearable and I was dizzy as hell….i felt useless and helpless…. The Fijian soldier, Manny, ‘lay across my body, using his own armour as a shield for my unprotected body….and started to pray. He recited the psalms: ‘….and ye though I walk through the shadow of death I shall fear no evil….’
‘He repeated the Lord’s Prayer over and over. There was not much else he could do for me medically, but I drew from his great strength and I moved my lips in time with his own, though I did not have the breath to keep up with the words. I reached under him and weakly held the gold crucifix my Aunty Jane had given me before I deployed to Iraq. I held the icon in my bloody fingers….

“The Lord stood beside me and gave me strength.”