Summary: A reflection on war and how we should give thanks for the sacrifice of others who have given their lives for our peace and reflecting on the Ultimate Sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross. There is a short resume on the life of Nurse Edith Cavell.

Remembrance Sunday 2015 at WSG

I would like to focus our thoughts this morning on one verse from Ps 46

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength

A very help in trouble”

Our mind is that unique gift that reminds us that we are made in the image of God.

The ability to remember is a wonderful gift that God has given to us.

In a flash you can be a child again, skimming rocks across a pond, or walking in a meadow.

Many of us can recall the time when you fell in love, got married and had children all over again.

You can remember – because those memories that are fixed in your mind.

And time cannot rob you of those - so long as your memory continues to function.

Some of our memories are happy and we can recall wonderful experiences.

But some of our memories are sad and we may weep.

The problem, though, is that sometimes memory fails us. Sometimes we forget.

For that reason alone, I think that the Remembrance Sunday Service is one of the most important services in the Church’s calendar, after Christmas and Easter.

Because it helps us not to forget why we have the freedom that we enjoy today.

This time one hundred years ago we would have been into the second year of the First World War.

And it was 70 years ago that the Second World War ended.

But Remembrance Sunday It is not just a reminder of those who died in the First and Second World Wars - important as they were.

It is also a reminder of other conflicts that our armed services have been in

The Korean War

The Aden and Malayan Emergencies

The Falkland War

The Cyprus Conflict

The Northern Ireland Police Action

The 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars

The Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts

And it gives us an opportunity to say “Thank you” for the sacrifice that so many made - so that we in the United Kingdom can enjoy peace

It is appropriate too to come to a Christian Church to hold a service of Remembrance because the Church building should remind us of the greatest sacrifice of all

For in the New Testament we read of the story of God sending his own Son Jesus into the world to bring mankind back into a right relationship with God.

And to do so Jesus made the Ultimate sacrifice on our behalf on the Cross.

It is the sacrifice that we recall every Easter.

For it is more than simply the remembering of the life of a good man

Rather through it, we are reminded how GOD wants us to live

The rules that God has given us for living - are not rules to curtail our enjoyment of life.

Quite the contrary – they are given – as Jesus

said: so that we may have life and life in abundance (Jn 10:10)

Try and imagine playing a game of football with no rules. It would be chaos!

So it is with us when we fail to remember the rules of life that God has given us.

Jesus gave us two great rules to govern life in our society, The first was this.

To “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (Mt 22:37)

The second was to “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22:39)

Let us go from this Remembrance Day service resolved to make these commands the goal of our lives.

The American poet George Santayana, once said

"Those who do not learn from history - are doomed to repeat it."

In war many people found their faith – others lost it.

Other have become an inspiration to us

One such person was Edith Cavell, who was executed just over 100 years ago on 12th October 1915.

Edith Cavell was a 49 year old nurse, the daughter of a Norfolk vicar, who had lived and worked in Brussels for eight years.

Her early career had been as a governess but having qualified as a nurse she soon rose to prominence not only as a most capable and humane practitioner but as a person with great organizational and leadership abilities.

A follower of Florence Nightingale, Edith accepted an invitation from the Belgians in 1907 to run a training hospital and she set about establishing a new standard of nursing, and a professional class of dedicated nurses, in a country where that occupation had been the preserve of nuns.

In August of 1914 she was holidaying with her mother on the Norfolk coast when war was declared and in spite of the protestations of her family insisted on returning to her post.

That was typical of her devotion to duty, a quality most evident in the months following when Edith and her staff worked ceaselessly to save the lives of all wounded soldiers, allied and German alike.

She also involved herself in a dangerous endeavour to smuggle wounded British soldiers across the border into neutral Holland and it was this that was her undoing. The Germans became suspicious and taking full advantage of Edith’s naiveté told her, quite falsely, that two of her colleagues had confessed.

At that point she did too, and in July 1915 was found guilty of treason under the German penal code.

(my thanks to Charles Booth Rector of St Mark’s and All Saints, West Parley)

One of my predecessors at the parish Brooksby, Stirling Gahan which was one of the 15 parishes in Diocese of Leicester before coming here was the Anglican Chaplain in Brussels at the time of Edith Cavell’s execution.

And it is from Stirling Gahan that we have an account of Edith Cavell’s last days

He wrote this:

On Monday evening, October 11th, I was admitted by special passport from the German authorities to the prison of St. Gilles, where Miss Edith Cavell had been confined for ten weeks.

The final sentence had been given early that afternoon.

To my astonishment and relief I found my friend perfectly calm and resigned.

But this could not lessen the tenderness and intensity of feeling on either part during that last interview of almost an hour.

Her first words to me were upon a matter concerning herself personally, but the solemn asseveration which accompanied them was made expressedly in the light of God and eternity.

She then added that she wished all her friends to know that she willingly gave her life for her country, and said: "I have no fear nor shrinking;

I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me."

She further said: "I thank God for this ten weeks' quiet before the end."

"Life has always been hurried and full of difficulty."

"This time of rest has been a great mercy."

"They have all been very kind to me here.

But this I would say, standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough.

I must have no hatred or bitterness towards any one."

We partook of the Holy Communion together, and she received the Gospel message of consolation with all her heart.

At the close of the little service I began to repeat the words, "Abide with me," and she joined softly in the end.

We sat quietly talking until it was time for me to go.

She gave me parting messages for relations and friends.

She spoke of her soul's needs at the moment and she received the assurance of God's Word as only the Christian can do.

Then I said "Good-bye," and she smiled and said, "We shall meet again."

The German military chaplain was with her at the end and afterwards gave her Christian burial.

He told me: "She was brave and bright to the last.

She professed her Christian faith and that she was glad to die for her country."

"She died like a heroine."

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

War can bring the worst out in people but it can also bring the best out of them too.

TODAY let us give thanks to God for the sacrifices THEY all made that has enabled us to come here today in PEACE