Remembrance Sunday is a time when we remember, with somber gratitude and thankfulness, those men and women who gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. It is a day which should never be forgotten and one we have a responsibility to pass onto the next generation.
Does this mean that we are supporting war? I don’t think it does. Remembrance Sunday is a time when we recall those who gave their lives and remember why it was they did what they did. It’s a time to remember the horror of war, especially world war, and to vow ‘never again.’ It’s a time to dedicate ourselves anew to living in such a way that we don’t break faith with those who have died, and continue to die, to bring peace to the world.
It’s sobering to be reminded that 10 million military personnel died during the first World War and that 22 million military personnel, along with 28 million civilians, lost their lives in the second World War. Even more sobering is the fact that more than 140 million people have died, or been injured, as a result of war since 1945. In fact, in the past 72 years, over 210 million people have been killed or maimed as a result of war. And it’s because of this unacceptable loss of life that it’s right that we remember those who fought for our freedom and its right that we honour their sacrifice. As the Kohima Epitaph rightly reminds us:
When you go home, tell them of us and say; for your tomorrow we gave our today.
Some people believe that Remembrance Sunday, as a religious observation, is outdated and it should no longer be practised. Some say that the time for remembering wars long since past isn’t relevant anymore and that we should just get on with living our lives in the present. But that misses the point of Remembrance Sunday altogether because it suggests that honouring the memory of those who died is honouring the kind of actions they found themselves having to make in the midst of a struggle that, in the end, none of them really wanted to be a part of – but believed they must be – if others were to dwell in the freedom and in the peace that God wants us all to have. Jesus said:
Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.
These familiar words from John’s Gospel chapter 15 verse 13 are often used on Remembrance Sunday and whilst we remember those who sacrificed their lives, and those who put themselves in harm’s way, we must understand that mankind can only do so on an individual basis for their family, or collectively for a country. Jesus, we believe, made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the whole of the world.
There is a special service on Remembrance Sunday (12 November) at Emmanuel Church, Laindon Road, at 9.15 am (lasting 40 mins) when members of the Army Cadet Force and Royal Air Force Air Cadets join with us, before we gather, with the Royal British Legion, Churches Together in Billericay and representatives of many of our community groups, at the War Memorial in the High Street at 10.50 am, for an Act of Remembrance. May I encourage you, even if you are not a regular church attendee, to make a special effort to join with us on this most poignant of days?
A Prayer for Remembrance Sunday
Ever-living God, we remember those whom you have gathered from the storm of war into the peace of your presence; may that same peace calm our fears, bring justice to all peoples and establish harmony among the nations, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is a copy of my article for the November 2017 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’
Service sheets will be distributed by Street Pastors on the High Street on Sunday 12 November.