On this enormous island, with its endless coasts and waters, and in this most urbanised of all cultures, the beach occupies a very important place in the Australian psyche, not just physically but also symbolically. We can even speak in Australia of there being a beach culture. But the beach is a two edged sword. It’s a place of delight but it’s also a place of danger. It’s a place of relaxation, freedom, play, even healthy activity, but the beach is also a place where you have to swim between the flags and watch out for skin cancer, to say nothing of stingers and sharks. It is a dangerous place, even a place of death.
On this Anzac morning, and in this cathedral, we see both sides of the beach. We tell a tale of two beaches. There is the beach of Gallipoli. I remember the first time I ever saw it, it was a beautiful summer morning and the Dardanelles could not have looked more idyllic. A classically Aegean scene, and it was almost impossible to think of the horror that erupted there when the Anzacs landed and in the time that followed. However idyllic it might have seemed on that summer morning, it was and in many ways remains a beach of death. A dark and gloomy place. But then we hear this morning of another beach, not Gallipoli but Galilee, where Jesus, risen from the dead, greets an almost disbelieving band of disciples and the beach now is no longer the beach of death but it’s the beach of life. The life that is bigger than death, which knows death, for he was crucified on the dark mountain but rose from the dead and he stands forever beckoning in the morning light on the beach of life. That’s the Jesus who greets us on this Anzac Day.
In the cathedral this morning we do three things. First of all we remember, those who have died in war, everyone does that on Anzac Day, and rightly so. But we also give thanks for their sacrifice, thanks to the God who sacrificed himself so that we might live, a god who is the source of all self-sacrificing love. To that God we say thanks. Not everyone does that, but we do it here and rightly so. But there’s still more, because here this morning we give voice to an Easter hope. This is a moment not just of mourning, but a moment that is full of the hope that’s rich in immortality. Our hope here, to which we give voice, is that those, who not only on the beach of Gallipoli, but in all the theatres of war, which are all the beach of death, that all who have known that dark and gloomy place, in all its horror, with all its trauma, will, beyond death, come to the beach of eternal life, the morning light that never fails. They will come to the shore where there is a Lord himself, over whom death has no more power, who stands beckoning to them and is himself preparing for them a feast, not just saying come and have breakfast and offering bread and barbequed fish but saying to all who have died in battle, “come now finally beyond the darkness into light”, “come to the feast of eternal life”. Amen.
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
April 25, 2014