Summary: I never want to miss an opportunity to preach the Gospel - especially when asked to speak at Remembrance Services.
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.