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Remembrance Sunday

By Iain Clements, 18 Oct 2018
A few weeks ago I had a friend visiting, and we spent the day walking from Bridlington to Flamborough head. My friend has a particular interest in historic church buildings, so on our walk we spent some time looking round Bridlington Priory. In the church there was a particularly moving exhibition - to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War, they had placed cardboard cutouts of men in the pews to represent those from Bridlington who had lost their lives in the conflict. Seeing the numbers represented there brought home the human cost of that terrible period of our history.

The 11th November is Remembrance Sunday. As we do every year, we will pause and take 2 minutes in the morning service to stand in respectful silence to commemorate  those who gave their lives for us in the wars our country has fought. There have been some reports recently of universities where poppies have been banned as students believe they glorify war - but this misses the point entirely. These kinds of reports reveal just how cut off our culture is becoming from our history, and how much we take our freedoms for granted 

As we approach this years Remembrance Sunday it is important we do so seriously. It is one of those parts of the year where it is easy to go through the motions. The last minute dash to find a poppy, using the silence to think about the week ahead - those are temptations I am all too familiar with. Yet, remembering is a vital activity which helps us focus our minds. As we have seen on Sunday nights when we looked at what happens at the Lord’s Supper, in the Bible to remember something is more than just bringing it to mind because we may have forgotten it. It is to make what we are remembering central in our thinking and acting. To make sure it has an impact on our life right now.

Although the Bible does not command us to celebrate Remembrance Sunday, there are many ways that taking time once a year to remember those who have died in wars on behalf of our country can help us spiritually, and make the gospel central in our thinking and acting. 

We remember by grieving the effect that sin has had on our world. It can be very easy in times of peace to downplay the effect of rebellion against God. However times of war bring to the surface what is always true - that sin against God always breaks relationships between people made in God’s image. Hate in our hearts leads to war and murder. As we remember we are not naive about the reality of sin still present in our world today. Because we have not been engaged in a world war since 1945 it can be tempting to think that the deeper problems that lead to wars are behind us. However, of all people, we know that is not the case. We should remember and grieve, not just in sadness for the past, but in humility for our present sin. 

We remember by giving thanks for God’s grace in the winning of wars. It is a wonderful mercy that God allowed the World Wars to be won in the last century in such a way that religious freedom, democracy and prosperity was allowed to continue in our country. This was not the case for every country - think of the impact of communism in many countries during the latter half of the 20th century. It is right we give thanks for those things and do not take them for granted. 

We remember by specifically giving thanks for those who gave their lives. It is an evidence of God’s common grace that many people were willing to give their lives to fight for the freedoms we enjoy. In a day where as a culture our “heroes” are often vacuous entertainment stars, it is important to remember what true courage and character looks like. 

We remember by looking back to the cross. As we give thanks for those who gave their lives for their fellow countrymen (and women) our attention should then naturally be drawn to the one who laid down his life for those who were his enemies. The one who died to pay the price for our anger, and hatred, and murder. The one who brings peace not by military victory, but by suffering and death. 

We remember by looking forward to Christ’s return. Thinking about war for any length of time should lead us all to cry out with the prophets and the Psalmist “How Long O Lord.” Although we do not know the precise answer to that question we do know that there is an answer. There is a day coming when: 

“He shall judge between many peoples and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.”

This will not come about through the efforts of politicians, or through the work of international bodies like the UN. It will only come when the risen Lord Jesus Christ returns, and brings with him the new heavens and new earth. We have a great hope - and his name is Jesus. On this Remembrance Sunday let’s looks forward to his return.