This is a copy of my talk given on Remembrance Sunday 2022. My Bible Readings were Psalm 46:1-11 & John 15:9-17.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes heroes are the unlikeliest of people. Some heroes are tough; Some heroes are young; Some heroes take risks; Some heroes are fearless; Some heroes never give up; Some heroes are unusual; Some heroes are fast; Some heroes break the rules; Some heroes are bizarre; Some heroes are indestructible; Some heroes sacrifice themselves …
Those definitions could sum up the men and women we remember this morning couldn’t they? Ordinary people, unlikely heroes, who were prepared to give their lives so that others might know freedom.
What Makes A Hero?
There is a difference, isn’t there, between heroes and superheroes? Superheroes have extraordinary powers- like Spiderman or Batman or Superwoman. They can do things which ordinary people like us cannot do.
Sometimes heroes are the unlikeliest of people. Heroes are ordinary people. They can be tall or short, fat or thin, fast at running or slow at walking, good at maths or good at music, builders or accountants- you name it, and you could find a hero there.
Heroes are ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Those members of the Armed Forces who went into battle in the war were ordinary young men, coming from farms and factories, shops and offices, homes and families just like ours but they offered their lives in the hope of saving their country.
John 15:13, Jesus said: Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. And whilst it’s right to remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we might live in freedom, we must understand that mankind can only do that on an individual basis for their family, or collectively, a country. Jesus, however, made the ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the whole of the world.
Then there were those left behind who could not fight but who were still determined to play their part in the war. The farmers, those working in the mills and down the mines and in the shipyards and the land Army (Queen).
Yet few, if any, of those have been recognised with a medal for the part they played. But they were still heroes, just like both my grandfathers who worked down the mines.
In the old comedy series, Dad’s Army, you see ordinary people living in a seaside town during the Second World War: the bank manager, the butcher, the undertaker, the stupid boy, the women in the voluntary services all giving huge amounts of time and energy to what they called the war effort. Yes, they made silly mistakes, which make us laugh today but they also showed courage, ingenuity, comradeship – far more than in normal times – as these amateurs set out to protect their town from the threat of enemy army invasion.
We are now living through a time of huge crisis. Not are we just coming out of a global pandemic, with the war in Ukraine we’re closer to a European War than we’ve been since 1945. We have a utilities crisis and more people living in poverty than ever before and more and more Foodbanks are opening every week. It’s quite depressing, isn’t it?
All of these things threaten our long-term health, our livelihoods, our homes, our families, our communities, our mental health and even our faith.
As Psalm 46 reminded us: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea … nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; the earth melts …”
This period of time in which we are now living will go down in history as the great pandemic and in 50 years’ time people will be looking back at us and what we did and how we coped.
Who’s Your Hero?
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. My heroes: as a child, I wanted to be all sorts of things: Astronaut (Neil Armstrong); Train Driver (Casey Jones); lift the FA Cup for Sunderland; English Rugby Union captain.
Who’s your hero? Who are our heroes? Who are the people who are protecting us – our health, our families, our places of work, our schools? Who are the people who are simply helping to make us feel better, who are making us smile, who are keeping us hopeful? Think about the heroes in your life today and say a thank you to them when you get the chance.
Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Not all heroes wear capes. A recent survey of children in the UK says their most heroic role is, not film stars, pop stars, sportsmen/women or celebrities but parents followed by nurses then Firefighters and the Armed Forces. The list also included Police Officers, Paramedics; Teachers etc.
Parents are rightly recognized for the sacrifices they make in the dedicated service of their children. Parents give lots of love and care and will often go without for their children. Nurses, Police and Fire-fighters risk their lives every day responding to calls for help. They work as a team, often putting those in danger before themselves. Members of the Armed Forces have been recognized both for their role as peacekeepers in countries across in the world, and for the sacrifices many have made in defending our nation.
When we think of heroes, we always think of other people don’t we? Perhaps some of the people we’ve thought about this morning. But have you ever thought that you can be a hero no matter who you are?
But how can we be heroes? How can we be the kind of people that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look back on and say ‘Thank-you. Well done, people of 2022’?
It is not easy, is it? When every day seems to bring more bad news. When you have to keep making plans and then tear them all up again. When you cannot do all the things you love. When half the people in the media say we are getting things right and the other half say we are getting things wrong and our politicians seem in such disarray.
If I am going to be an ordinary person doing any kind of extraordinary thing, then I am going to need some serious back up. I am going to need God on my side. God can do extraordinary things with ordinary people like us.
Right now, the world badly needs heroes:
- We need people who are ready to make a really big effort-an extraordinary effort to move us from a bad place to a good place.
- We need people who are kind to each other at school and in the workplace.
- We need people to use social media wisely and spread inspiring and funny things rather than spreading hate.
- We need families who take care of each other and respect each other’s needs.
- We need people working faithfully at their jobs, where they can and how they can.
- We need people who will smile cheerfully and exchange greetings even from a distance.
- We need to encourage each other in faith and in community.
It sounds very ordinary but there will be days when it will take extraordinary effort and when we have to be reminded to “be a hero.” But today we are honouring the ordinary men and women of the past who became heroes by doing extraordinary things to save their homes, their families, their nation, their world.
And so, on this Remembrance Sunday, can I encourage all of us to commit ourselves afresh to living in the way that God meant us to live – in freedom and by doing all that makes for peace.
And as we thank God for those heroes who gave their lives for peace, let us ask Him to make us heroes in our time, moment by moment, day by day. In the words of David Bowie: