REMEMBRANCE DAY SERVICES
I guess with people knowing that I have served in the Armed Forces it’s not so surprising that I am often asked to take Remembrance Day Services. I don’t have a problem with this; in fact to me it is a privilege to share with both military personnel and veterans on what for them is a really significant occasion. It’s a time they want to remember and pay respect to those who having made the ultimate sacrifice in war are no longer with us.
Remembrance Day is of course the time set aside nationally to reflect, a time to remember, a time to mourn those who gave their lives in the First and Second World wars so many years ago; although for some people I speak to it may seem like yesterday. In fact in some of the churches I speak the older members often have very vivid memories of fathers, brothers and uncles killed in the war or of those who came back home badly scarred by their experiences and physically maimed from battles.
I find Remembrance Services tend to work out best if you follow the more traditional Order of Service of Remembrance; the introductory Welcome, a typical service Hymn ~ “Eternal Father, strong to save”, and then the Act of Remembrance ~ speaking the poignant words can bring a lump to your throat:
“They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
A traditional reading of John Chapter 15:12~17 is often followed by a lone bugle playing “The Last Post”. This also can be an emotional moment for everyone, especially at one particular church where we decided to have the trumpet player sound the bugle on the steps right outside the Church. As we were opposite the local town pub we certainly attracted quite a lot of attention! A reverent Silence is followed by those age~old words:
“When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow, we gave our today”.
With a final trumpeting of “Reveille”, the Lord’s Prayer, the national anthem “God Save Our Gracious Queen”, notices and offering, perhaps another traditional hymn “O Lord My God! When I in Awesome Wonder”. I then get to preach the word! But I consider this is my opportunity to speak whatever the Lord wants me to say to those who are there, always bearing in mind that this is perhaps one of the few occasions that some may ever actually came to a church. It’s an opening to share the Good News ~ as woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! It’s then traditional to finish with (I think you have got the picture now that we have quite a lot of tradition to follow here!) with another Hymn maybe “O, God Our Help in Ages Past”. I then pronounce the Blessing with the sincere hope that the service has been respectful but also that I have not missed the opportunity to preach the Gospel to those God loves so much He sent His dearly loved and most precious Son to die for.
2. THERE WILL BE WARS
As I started to re~edit this sermon I had forgotten that this sermon was put together when the War in Afghanistan had just started. It seemed so strange as we have now moved onto the War in Iraq and of late the War on Terror. Truly Jesus warned us there will be wars as in plural. Sadly our world always seem to be at war ~ with little real lasting peace. Although it’s seems such a long time ago when this sermon was specifically written to remember those who lost their lives on September 11 after the planes crashed into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, it would not seem such a long time ago for those who lives have been affected by those tragic events ever since and are daily living with the consequences. And can we really forget those awful events captured live on film or the moving phone calls made to loved ones before the planes crashed. No, I don’t think so and nor can those people who lost family and friends who were so precious to them.
The strangest thing to me is what was written about the War in Afghanistan still stands for the War in Iraq, and probably for the wars yet to come. After all it is still valid to debate, discuss and raise many points about the military action that started in Afghanistan and subsequently in Iraq. For example who isn’t still talking about the two sides of those caught up in events that are taking place so many miles away; those risking their lives taking part in the military campaigns and their loved ones and families, and those caught up in a war most neither seem to understand or want. Yet sadly this is probably always the case in any war.
3. HEAVENLY PLACES
So as for when this sermon was first written, and for the present time, and perhaps for the time yet to come, lets take a step back. Or better still a step up ~ to sit with our Father in Heavenly places. To take comfort from the One who is always in total control.
Let’s remind ourselves as the Psalmist said:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters” (Psalm 24:1~2).
Let’s get a heavenly prospective
· To take comfort,
· To receive His peace.
· And gain strength to keep pressing on towards the goal, to keep on praying, caring and sharing Jesus with whoever we come into contact with.
One of the inescapable reactions to all that has happened and is happening, is often a feeling of fear. Yet Jesus says:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. (John 14:1)
Why can Jesus say this?
· Because He is in control even if circumstances say otherwise – He is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” Rev 1:5)
· He holds “the keys of death and Hades “ (Rev 1:18) ~ there are no Hands more qualified or safe to hold those keys.
· He is Alpha and Omega “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last, I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! “ (Rev 1:17 – 18)
Maybe you have picked up on the fear that those who do not know Jesus are expressing. Or maybe you are just simply afraid. Fearing that:
· No one is in control.
· Where will it all end?
· Could it even be the end of the World?
These deep fears reveal the need in the human heart that only Jesus can answer. Keep alert for opportunities to sensitively and caringly share The Prince of Peace with others. And for those of us who are His we can have that peace that:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16:33
We can reassure ourselves that we need not fear “though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea”
Why? Because though “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts.” Our God is in total control. He just asks us to Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46).
5. THE GOSPEL
Do you need reassurance in your heart today? Do you need to know Jesus?
Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Rev 3:20 tells us that Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.”
Its an invitation to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour ~ and it’s for now!
Are you confused about the rights and wrongs of what is happening in Afghanistan (and of course now in Iraq)? Perhaps like me you find yourself agreeing with:
· That this is a “Just War” against terrorism.
· Terrorism and those who perpetuate it must be stopped at all costs.
· Those involved in the atrocities of 11 September must be punished – justice demands it.
Then perhaps you equally find yourself agreeing with:
· Bombing a country that has little left to bomb does not seem to be to the answer.
· That innocent people are being caught up in this war – it does not always punish those who committed the crimes in the first place.
· That Afghanistan needs urgent help and emergency food supplies and aid ~ with the refugee crisis, years of drought and even more so with the extreme winter weather imminent.
Whatever the rights or wrongs or even in the middles we should plead for all those caught up in war and that it will end soon.
In the confusion let’s consider some very helpful insights from Jesus in His parable of the unjust judge. Jesus tells us that in contrast to the unjust Judge our God can be trusted to bring about justice for His chosen ones. Maybe more than totally understanding or agreeing with everything that is going on we need to know our role in this:
· To keep praying and not give up ~ day and night if necessary!
Can I share with you some very strategic smart weapons a dear friend once used to great effect, unlike some of the very high tech weapons missing their targets and going astray! She prayed for what God had laid on her troubled heart to pray – in earnest, without giving up. She had been led to pray for Afghanistan ~ and what she prayed made headline news! She shared with me her heart led call to pray that people would desert the Taliban forces – lo and behold on the news that evening that was exactly what had been happening. And in case you think that you have to be someone very extraordinary or special to do this she is a very ordinary, humble widow, with a very extraordinary all~powerful God listening and acting.
· To trust that our God is in ultimate control.
We need the same faith as Abraham who declared at a difficult time for him personally ~ when his nephew and family were going to be caught up in the punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The answer is of course yes!
8. LET’S NUKE THE SAMARITANS!
One thing we can agree on today is that if we have a crime committed against us we all want justice. But don’t ever want revenge! An interesting passage in Luke 9:51 to 56 reveals that James and John asked Jesus if He wanted them to call fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village for not welcoming Him because He was heading for Jerusalem. This reaction is a typical example of those who want to destroy anyone who will not do or believe what they want.
Yet God gives people the ultimate freedom to choose to go their own way or His, to believe in His Son or not. Jesus talks about the freedom the father gave to his prodigal son to choose his own way. Or think of the rich young ruler allowed to choose between keeping his wealth or following Jesus.
I guess there was quite a lot of open hostility between Jews and Samaritans. A history of bad feeling, prejudice, contempt and even hatred. Such is the world we live in today. It seems that every group of people has an ancient hostility towards another, with a deep mistrust and suspicion of those who are different. There would be quite a few who would like or indeed have adopted the Zebedee twin’s desire to exterminate those who refuse to believe or accept their religious beliefs.
On Remembrance Day as we remember those who gave their lives so others would have the freedom to speak and live without tyranny we are grateful for their ultimate sacrifice. It hardly needs saying that war costs many innocent lives. Yet to preserve the precious freedom we are privileged to enjoy today we honour those who defended the individual’s right to choose ~ even at the cost of their own lives.
The Bible tells us we will have wars and even rumours of war but Jesus is coming again. The signs are that His return is near ~ the Judge is at the door. That is our ultimate hope for these times. And although you and I may live in uncertain times, we can have the peace that passes all understanding. It’s Jesus’ personal gift for you and me.
Maybe I have shared nothing new with you today, but as we remind ourselves of these things we can hold them fresh in our hearts. We can so easily become negatively affected by the awful news of what is happening in the media and newspapers. We need to keep one eye on the Bible and what God is doing ~ and the other on the news. We need both for these times. Let the peace of God always rule in your hearts. Whatever!