DON’T FORGET ME
This is Remembrance Sunday. It’s not exactly a religious celebration but it is nonetheless a very holy day. In fact, in my mind after serving for almost thirty years as a Padre in Canadian Forces, except for high holy days like Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost, it might be just about the most holy day of the year. It is a holy day of remembrance.
I was struck by that thought as I was reading the passage from Job that I shared with you a few minutes ago. In this chapter Job relates a series of woes that have befallen him. He feels as though his friends have forgotten about him and at times it almost seems as if God has done the same. Job, a man of great faith and conviction, does not want to be forgotten. He wants to know that his life has been lived for a purpose, that it has been for a reason. And so, in Job 19:23-24 (NIV) he pleads: “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!”
Job wants people to remember his words. He wants them to be written on the scroll. And then he wants them etched in lead with an iron tool. And finally he wants them to be engraved in rock. Why does he want this? Because he doesn’t want people to forget. He wants his words to be remember forever. And so he wants them to be made as permanent as they possibly can be: written on a scroll, etched in lead, engraved in rock. “Don’t forget,” he says, “Don’t forget.”
One of the phrases that we use on Remembrance Day is Lest We Forget. It means the same thing. The people who fought for our freedom in the Afghanistan, in peacekeeping operations, in Korea, WWI, WWII and all of the other conflicts right back to the War of 1812 do not want us to forget them and their sacrifices. And neither should we. For their causes were just and their sacrifices were great.
But why do they want us to remember? It isn’t for glory. That’s where some people get it wrong. People who have served in the military are not using Remembrance Day to pump themselves up, pound their chests and talk about how amazing they are. For them, it’s often a very quiet and somber day. They spend time in memory and reflection. I know what I do. I think about all of the men and women with whom I trained. I remember going where they went, doing what they did, experiencing what they experienced. I remember them talking about their families and their hopes and dreams. I remember the ones whom I saw in hospital because their legs or their arms were gone or, even worse, their will to live was gone. I also remember the ones who suffer from emotional and psychological wounds, hearing about their anxiety and fears that they would never feel normal again. I remember the ones who did not come home, the medic who used to laugh with me in my office, the warrant who taught me to defend myself just in case the Padre got himself into trouble. And I remember David who used to ski with us in Espanola before enlisting and going to Afghanistan. His mother worked at the vets down the street where we took our pets. David never came home. I think about the doors that I knocked on, often early in the morning, to tell parents or wives that their loved ones had paid the ultimate sacrifice. And I remember the processions down the Highway of Heros from Trenton to Toronto, the route that all of our heros take on their final journey home; the flags draped on the overpasses and the people lining the road on both sides. We don’t pound our chests and look for glory. We simply remember our friends, living and dead, with whom we shared so much.
Our military personnel want to know that their sacrifices were not in vain, that their work means something to the rest of the nation. And it doesn’t matter if they were in combat at the pointy end or whether they were in the support trades in the second or third echelon. It doesn’t matter if they stayed on the ground, sailed in ships or flew in the air. They all contributed and they all made a difference.
They want us to remember so that we will stay vigilant in the future and stand guard against the oppression of the Hitlers and Stalins of the world. So that we will be ready when the Taliban or El Qaeda hit with their next cowardly terrorist attack. So that the very brightest and best of the next generation will find the courage to put on the uniform and serve their country with honour and distinction.
Veterans want us to remember. That’s why most veterans do not want Remembrance day to become a statutory holiday. If it was then, for many students, it would just be one more day to go shopping and that’s not what Remembrance day should be about. As it is, the schools do programmes and presentations so that children and teenagers will learn about the sacrifices of their parents, grandparents and great grandparents and remember.
DO NOT BE ALARMED
Paul also reminds us of something else in his second letter to the Thessalonians. He speaks about the coming of the Day of the Lord. It’s the day when Jesus will return in glory to begin the task of completing the kingdom work that he began when he first walked the earth 2,000 years ago. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NIV) says, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.” What does that mean? No matter how you want to interpret it, it means that we will not experience the second coming until after there is more suffering in the world. That may not be what we want to hear but that’s reality.
Jesus affirmed this in other places. In Matthew 24:6 (NIV) he says, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Wars and rumour so war. In verse seven, he speaks of nations against nations and famines and earthquakes. All of these things, Jesus says, are coming. So do not be surprised.
He also said something else which is most interesting. He said to not be alarmed. “Even though you hear of all of these things,” said Jesus, “do not be alarmed.” Why not? Because Jesus is coming back. Evil will have its day. Injustice will reign for a season. But it will not last. In the end, Jesus wins. He always does. That’s the message of the Gospel. All of our trials and all of our struggles are only temporary. Better days are coming, they always do, either in this life or the next, if we are patient. We have to know that even though we don’t know what’s going on, God does. And even when things don’t seem to make sense to us, God will still fulfill the purpose for which he put each and every one of us on earth. So do not be alarmed.
I know that is easier said than done. I know that everyone goes through difficult times. Been there, done that too. No one gets to live a perfect life. When people go through tough times I often tell them the same thing. When you’re stumbling through the valley of the shadow of death, you think that it will never end, that you will always be there. But you won’t be. The valley ends and once more you are safe. I tell people that when they are in the valley they don’t know how they are going to get through it. But two years from now they will to look back at those difficult times and be able to see how they overcame. They will recognize the people and the things and the faith that got them through. They will see the light and they will find peace.
Military personnel go through the same things as everyone else. They too find themselves in the valley of the shadow of death. And sometimes, like everyone else, the valley seems endless. That’s when events like Remembrance Day help. It helps to know that people remember their service. Even if they don’t know their names they recognize the uniform or the medals or the beret.
Many of you know that I am an ardent fan of the Hamilton Tiger Cats. We actually managed to get to four games this year. They won two and lost two that we attended. They are always lots of fun and well worth the 600 km drive; at least we think so. One thing that the Ticat organization began a couple of years ago was to spend a few minutes in the middle of a game – probably during a TV time out – to honour a veteran or a serving member of the Canadian Forces. One man or woman stands on the field and is announced as the one who is being honoured that day. There are only two reasons – other than a touch down – why everyone stands at Tim Hortons Field. One is for the national anthem. Yes, everyone does stand. The other reason is to honour the soldier, sailor or airman on the field. They stand and the applaud as a sign of their gratitude.
I’ve seen it happen many times now and every time I experience it, it gives me chills because it’s a reminder that people do care and people do remember what the members of the Canadian Forces do and represent for Canada. Those small gestures are so important especially for those who may be walking through them valley of the shadow of death themselves at the time.
Job wanted people to remember him and his words. But the most important verse in Job 19 is in Job 19:25 (NIV) where Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” To know God and to know God’s love is such a valuable asset. To know that God lives and that we are not alone even though we might feel alone can be a source of great comfort. To know that God sometimes walk us around the valley is refreshing. To know that God sometimes carries us through the valley is encouraging. To know that our Redeemer lives is an incredible source of strength and hope and peace.
We need to ensure that we remember the sacrifices of those who bravely and proudly serve our country. Like Job suggested, we need to write it on a scroll, etch it in metal and engrave it in rock. It is the least we can do. Lest we forget.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Loving God, we come to you on this Remembrance Day, thankful for those who have gone before us. We give thanks for what you gave to us through their efforts. We thank you for freedom and prosperity. We thank you for safe homes and the ability to worship in the manner of our choosing. We thank you for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Remind us that our privileges were bought at a cost. The price was paid in human suffering. We give thanks for those who had the courage to offer their lives for a higher purpose. Our debt is great and we seldom truly appreciate the depth of what we owe. Many veterans, men and women, gave so much of their time, energy, relationships, blood and breath. Many still feel the effects of their years of service. How can we thank them enough?
We mourn the horrors of war in all of its destructiveness. We mourn the great amounts of resources that must be amassed for such devastation. We mourn, also, that we as a people seem to have learned little from history. War still occupies the lives of many. Munitions manufacturing is a major multi-billion dollar industry. Countries fight countries. People struggle against one another. Armies collide in a conflict for power. Forgive us God.
We pray for our own troops around the world working in peace keeping and combat operations. We are grateful for their contribution to world peace and their ability to keep warring factions apart long enough and innocent people safe.
Our minds turn to those who mourn this day, not only the ones who have lost loved ones through military service but also all others who grieve, thinking especially of the family and friends of Kathleen Ames and Sylvia Wormald. Bring them your peace, O God.
In our prayers we lift up those who are sick, those with minor colds and flues, and those with more serious illnesses. We remember, especially, Millicent Wormald, Helen Upcott, Jacqui Sequin, Sharon Chalmers and Soham Lane.
Finally, O God, we pray for peace. Peace in our world. Peace in our land. Peace in our community. Peace in our families and in our relationships. Peace in our lives. Peace in our Church. Send your Kingdom into our lives in ways that we will recognize and appreciate, in ways that will make a real difference to the well being of the women and men whom we meet and support. God of Peace, God of Justice, hear our prayers offered in Jesus name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
November 6, 2016 / Pentecost 25 / Proper 27 / Remembrance Sunday
Haggai 1:15b-2:9; Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21 or Psalm 98; 13-17; Luke 20:27-38, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5
CALL TO WORSHIP
Today, we remember the tragedy of war;
We remember the rebuilding that comes after war;
We remember God’s presence with us in all of life;
We remember the peace that we have in Jesus;
Let us worship God!
PRAYER OF APPROACH
God of Peace and Love, we remember with sadness the pain and suffering of war. We remember those who are suffering this minute because of past or present conflicts. We come to worship as a people seeking your peace. Give us to the courage to be peacemakers, no matter the cost. We pray for the day when your love is alive in every heart, and when Jesus’ name is known in every corner of the world. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Mercy, we know that you watch over us, yet how easily we forget about you. When we fail to remember the sacrifices of others, forgive us. When we forget the emotional scars of war left upon the children and the children’s children, forgive us. When we forget that each person on earth is your child and our sister or brother, forgive us. When we forget your love for us and fail to be your instruments of peace, forgive us. We come before you in humble repentance. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
Even when we forget God, God does not forget us. In the midst of our brokenness, we are offered the healing that Jesus brings. When we repent, we are forgiven.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
Remembering the sacrifice of many, we offer our simple gifts to you, O God. May they continue the work of justice and freedom for which our ancestors offered so much. Amen.
As we leave, let us remember the tragedy of war. As we remember, let us rebuild a world of peace. As we rebuild, let us live in the light of Christ. As we live, let us celebrate God’s love.