As we approach Remembrance Day each year, I think it’s important that we to ask ourselves, what exactly are we remembering, and why are we remembering? If the poppies that we pin to our clothes are to have any meaning other than as fashion accessories, I think we have to ask ourselves these questions.
Remembrance of a sacrifice should inform the way we live, remembrance of a sacrifice should shape the life of our community, remembrance of a sacrifice should shape the larger narratives of which we choose to be a part. Thus, as a Christian on Remembrance Day, I not only think back on the sacrifices offered by brave men and women in all ages in service of their country, but I think back on the sacrifice of God, because more than anything else, the story of the crucified God is the story that shapes our lives as Christian people. More than anything else, it is the story that shapes the community of all faithful Christians, and above all it is the narrative of which we a part.
In Christ Jesus, God made the ultimate sacrifice: of giving up the power of his divinity for a time, walking amongst us, getting to know us as human beings, feeling our pain and the suffering of our condition, and finally offering Himself on the cross that we might live.
As Christians, I think we can also agree that while war is sinful, sin also exists in the world we live in, and because we live in the world, there are also times when we must fight, however reluctantly. The Second World War generation is sometimes called the greatest generation because they resisted the great evil of Hitler and the Nazis. Many of our soldiers came home from Afghanistan suffering in mind and spirit, injuries that we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unlike the Second World War generation, the Afghanistan vets didn’t have a clear victory. They came home wondering if any good came from the suffering that they saw there, or from the suffering they saw by the things they themselves had to do in combat.
So, our soldiers and veterans have spiritual needs that may need more than just a poppy or a yellow ribbon. They need to be reminded of God’s love, they may need God’s forgiveness for the terrible things they may have been required to do in wartime.
Here are three things we can do to support them:
The first is that we can continue to pray for peace. Praying for peace means caring about the world and world politics. As we pray for peace, we need to pray that God will be at work in world affairs, bringing good out of evil, for as Paul tells us, the world, all of creation is groaning for its rescue in Christ (Rom 8:24).
The second thing we can do is pray for our soldiers. Here I mean something that’s harder than just thinking of them as heroes. Our soldiers are complicated, ordinary, frail and sinful human beings. They are just like us, except that they are sometimes called on to do terrible things. So really pray for them. Pray that that they get the strength they need to fight well, and for the wisdom they need to see and do the right thing.
Finally, the third thing we can do is pray for ourselves. As human beings we are subject to all the sins which cause war - vengeance, anger, prejudice, fear of the other, unthinking and shallow patriotism. Pray for the courage to reach out to others, for the strength to forgive and for the courage to do the hard work of love that Christ calls us to. Let’s thank God that we live in a rich and peaceful place, untouched by war.
Let’s pray for a spirit of generosity and love to share what we have, the example of Canada, with others. And let us pray that tomorrow and every day thereafter, we may always remember, and never forget.