Summary: A talk for Remembrance Sunday. Today we remember Jesus and we remember the sacrifice of our armed forces. In order to be peace-makers we need to be changed by God in prayer.
The date 9 November 1989 is etched in history as the day the Berlin Wall came down. But was it actually a prayer meeting held exactly one month earlier that made the fall of the Wall inevitable?
Ignoring death threats and huge banks of armed police, thousands gathered at St Nicholas Church in the East German city of Leipzig on 9 October 1989 to pray for peace. The congregation then joined an estimated crowd of 70,000 on a protest march against the country's communist regime.
It was the largest impromptu demonstration ever witnessed in East Germany, but this was no spontaneous flash mob. It was the culmination of years of weekly prayer meetings organised by Christian Führer, the pastor of St Nicholas.
Sometimes I find Remembrance Sunday talks harder to prepare for than any other. So by including this talk in our series of talks on prayer I have perhaps made it harder for myself; but I believe there are some important principles for prayer that we can and must bring to bear on days like this – and indeed every day.
In a little while we will approach the Lord’s Table and we’ll remember Him. It is the greatest act of remembrance that we engage in as Christians as we recall and give thanks for the sacrifice made by Jesus for us upon the cross – giving his life on behalf of us; shedding his blood as the price for victory over sin and death. In ways we find hard to comprehend he died so that we might find life and peace with God.
Today, as near to 11 a.m. as we can; and tomorrow at 11 we remember the sacrifice of our armed forces in the two World Wars and many other conflicts since.
We recognise the horror of war, we look forward to the day when war will be no more, we pray for the peace of Jesus the Messiah to come soon; and we pray for the men and women of our armed forces.
This week three Royal Marines were on trial over the murder of an injured Afghan insurgent. One was declared guilty. The others were cleared; and it led me to ask a question, “What does it take, Lord, for war, conflict, killing and even murder to cease?” Ultimately it is about the response of people, indeed the whole world to God. The day will come when every knee will bow and declare Jesus to be Lord and on that day war will be no more, sickness and dying will be brought to an end; but before that day every time that individual men, women and children bow the knee and submit to God conflicts are changed. Recognising and being open to a life changing and life transforming relationship with God through his Son Jesus Christ changes everything!
Mosab Hassan Yousef is the son of one of the founder members of Hamas. For years he assisted his father Sheikh Hassan Yousef in his political activities but everything changed when Mosab accepted instead the teachings of another Middle Eastern teacher – the Lord Jesus. Mosab now lives in America and teaches that the only way to peace in the Middle East is to love your enemies. His relationship with Jesus has changed everything.
Earlier this year I enjoyed reading the autobiography of Tass Saada. The title of his book pretty much says it all, but I thoroughly recommend reading it: ‘Once an Arafat Man: The True Story of how a PLO sniper found a new life’. As with Mosab Hassan Yousef it was when Tass Saada came into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus that he abandoned terrorism and became a peacemaker; and we need peacemakers in all walks of life – government, Trade Unions, families, churches, communities, the UN, etc..
Today we remember the sacrifice of Jesus and we remember the sacrifice of members of our armed forces; but is there more? I believe there is, because God wants to change hearts and minds today in every situation where there is harmful conflict; and just in case you’re wondering – we each have a part to play!
Stephen Cottrell the Bishop of Chelmsford came to speak to our Men’s group Forging Men recently and during a question and answer time afterwards he was asked about Prayer. In particular he said that prayer is a way in which God changes us. In fact he says that prayer is much more about what God says to us and the ways in which God changes us; and if that is true then we – my friends in Christ – need to be a people of prayer; changed by God, listening to what God wants to say to us, and acting upon it.
Let’s listen as Bishop Stephen compares prayer to sunbathing, pickling onions and filling up with petrol: (Note to the Reader you can find the very helpful video clip using this link: http://youtu.be/3TYLJc3Hq6Y?t=57s)