Summary: Let us not forgot the price of freedom
Remembrance Day – Memories
War often brings out the good in people, in a way that we could never imagine.
One such man was Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)
Maximilian Kolbe was a Roman Catholic priest, who was put in a Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz for his faith.
In the camp, he would share his meagre rations of food with those around him who were hungry.
There he encouraged the other prisoners to forgive their persecutors and overcome evil with good.
One day a man in Kolbe’s block escaped from the camp and so all of the men from that block were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand there all day - with no food or drink.
At the end of the day, the man that had escaped was not found.
So the Nazi commandant told the assembled prisoners that ten men would be arbitarily selected to die in the starvation cell - in place of the one that had escaped.
One of the men selected was a polish sergeant, Francis Gajowniczek.
He begged to be spared because he was worried that his family would not be able to survive without him.
As he was pleading with the commandant, Maximilian Kolbe silently stepped forward and stood before the commandant.
The commandant turned to him and said asked him what he wanted.
Kolbe pointed to the polish sergeant and said, "I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children to care for."
The commandant stood silent for a moment in disbelief.
He then allowed the sergeant to go back to his place in the ranks and Kolbe took his place in the starvation bunker.
Every day the guards came and removed dead bodies from the bunker. However instead of being greeted with the usual sounds of screaming and cursing, all they heard was Kolbe and the others in the bunker singing hymns and praying.
After two weeks, the cell had to be cleared out for more prisoners. Only four prisoners were left of whom Kolbe was one.
And so on August 14, 1941, Kolbe paid the ultimate price, dying by lethal injection.
And what you might ask became of the polish sergeant, Francis Gajowniczek.
He lived another 53 years dying on 13th March 1995 at the age of 95.
But he never forget Kolbe.
After his release from Auschwitz, Gajowniczek spent the next five decades honouring the man who died on his behalf.
Just before he died he said that
“as long as he . . . has breath in his lungs, he would consider it his duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe."
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 the sea or walking in a meadow.
Many of us can recall the time when you fell in love, got married, & had children.
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 Day 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.
It reminds us that the peace that we have enjoyed for the last 50 or so years here in Great Britain was not bought cheaply.
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
The Bible is a book of Memories too.
There we can recall God’s goodness to his people starting with the stories of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Old Testament.
There we remember – in the New Testament – the story of God sending his own Son Jesus into the world to bring mankind back into a right relationship with God - culminating with the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf on the Cross