Sharing Our Stories

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Remembrance Sunday
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 78: 1-7
My friends, I beg you to listen as I teach. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.
Psalm 78:1-2 (CEV)

LEARNING FROM THE PAST

George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher who died in 1952 once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Variations of this have been coined throughout the years. Among them are, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and, “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeating their mistakes.” There are lots more but, regardless of the version, they all carry the same basic message which is; if you take the time understand your past, you are more likely to have a better future.

How true that is. Those who study their history are more likely to learn from it. They are more likely to make good, considered decisions and choices. And they are much more likely to avoid doing the same dumb things time and time and time again.

The Psalmist writes these words in Psalm 78:1-2 (CEV): “My friends, I beg you to listen to me. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.” In some ways, he is warning the people of Israel of the very same concerns that were expressed by George Santayana.

God has laid upon his heart the absolute need to pass on the stories of faith from one generation to the next. That notion is confirmed in the next two verses. Psalm 78:3-4 (CEV) says this: “These are the things we learned from our ancestors, and we will tell them to the next generation.”

The key point is this. We are people of faith because our ancestors had the courage and good sense to share their Christian faith with us. If they did not share their faith, most of us would not be Christians today. It was a kind of pay-it-forward sort of deal. And here’s the thing; it is now our turn to continue that chain by passing on the faith to those who are coming after us.

There’s a good reason for this. It’s because if we don’t, no one else will. The single most important thing that a parents can do for their children is to lead them to Christ. Other things are important. Education is important. Sports are important. Hobbies are important. A good work ethic is important. There are a lot of important things that children need to learn but nothing is more important than their relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s because while everything else will pass away, that relationship is eternal. That relationship will determine their eternal destiny and so we want to make sure that we get it right.

The Psalmist writes: “My friends, I beg you to listen to me. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.” That’s what he is getting at. He wants to share the stories of faith of past generations in order that future generations will have the benefit of knowing them so that they too will have the opportunity of having a relationship with God. Knowing our national history is important. Knowing our faith history is vital.

NIJMEGEN

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday before Remembrance Day. It’s another day for one generation to tell stories to the next. It is a day to remember the sacrifices and tell the stories of those who gave of themselves in service for this country and to defend the principals in which we believe. They sacrificed themselves for freedom and for peace and to put an end to injustice, tyranny and oppression.

Today is a day to remember those stories, the heroic tales so that future generations will know what they did and why. We haven’t always been very good at that and sometimes we’ve rather taken the whole thing for granted and forgotten the sacrifice of those brave souls.

Not so the people of the Netherlands. Nijmegen is a city in the Netherlands which is situated near the German border. As WWII was drawing to a close, Nijmegen was liberated by Allied troops, mostly Canadian. Now, every year starting on the third Tuesday in July, the people of the Netherlands host a four day march which is symbolic of the final push of the Allies to free the Dutch people from Nazi tyranny.

It’s is a huge event, one of the largest of its kind. Thousands of people from all over the world participate in the four days of walking. Distances range from thirty to fifty kilometres per day so it’s not for the faint of heart or out of shape. Lots of Canadians make the journey. Many Canadian soldiers go and they march with their packs on to remember what the soldiers of a previous generation did.

Along the route are more thousands of people cheering on the marchers. In the crowd and on the streets are thousands upon thousands of children, each of whom is learning why the march takes place, what it commemorates and why they need to remember what the soldiers did. Each generation is learning from the previous generation what happened so that they too can remember and not forget. As the Psalmist writes: “My friends, I beg you to listen to me. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.”

IT’S IMPERATIVE

“I beg of you,” the Psalmist says. He begs the people to listen to him. He has a message and he believes that it is imperative that he shares it with everyone who will listen. Have you ever had something that you felt that you had to share?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is like that. It’s the most important message in the world because its message is not just for this life. It’s for the next as well. Jesus’ teachings don’t just impact the way we live our lives on earth, it also tells us where we will spend eternity.

When the Psalmist writes, “My friends, I beg you to listen to me,” he is expressing the kind of enthusiasm that we should have about the Good News that we are called to share. He knows that he has something vitally important to share. He is intent on telling his story. He is intent on sharing what he knows. He is going to use every opportunity to do his level best to make sure that everyone hears. “I beg you to listen to me.”

That’s the kind of enthusiasm that we need to have when it comes to sharing our faith. The most important thing that you can do for your children is lead them to Christ. You have to understand how important that is. It’s not just about teaching them good morals, strong values and the difference between right and wrong. It’s about showing them the necessity of accepting Christ as Lord of their lives and asking him to sit on the thrones of their hearts.

REMEMBERING THE PRICE OF FREEDOM

The Psalmist writes: “My friends, I beg you to listen to me. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.” We are called to instruct the next generation. In Psalm 78:7 (CEV) he tells the hearers why this was so important. It says, “Then they would trust God and obey his teaching, without forgetting anything God had done.” We share so that future generations won’t forget.

How appropriate that thought is on Remembrance Sunday. It is absolutely vital that we share the stories of remembrance with our children. This is not to war glorified or justify military budgets. It’s so that people will understand that their freedom is not free. It comes with a cost and that cost is not cheap.

MCpl Byron Greff was killed in Afghanistan in 2011 not long before Remembrance Day. He died when a Taliban terrorist drove a car loaded with explosives into the side of a NATO bus killing seventeen people including two children in yet another act of cowardice. In total, 158 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice during the Afghanistan campaign. Every Canadian casualty in Afghanistan has his or her unique story. That is just as true of MCpl Greff’s as any other. Canadians soldiers had recently pulled out of Kandahar where they had a combat role and moved to Kabul where they took on a new roll, not as front line troops doing patrols in the countryside, but as teachers and mentors to the Afghan National Army.

As a member of the Canadian Forces myself during that time, I remember watching the news the night that MCpl Greff was killed. I heard one politician say, “We were told it was going to be safe. We were told that our soldiers would be in classrooms teaching with desks and blackboards. We were told that it would not be like it was in Kandahar, that our soldiers wouldn’t be in any danger.” As I listened to that guy, my blood started to boil just a little bit and I thought, “Buddy, do you have any idea what you’re talking about?” You can’t train soldiers in a classroom. Sure you can teach them the theory but you can’t make them a soldier by sitting them at a desk.

What that politician on the news didn’t understand is that MCpl Byron Greff was willing to put his life on the line in order to train others to be good soldiers who in turn would put their lives on the line for others. He was willing to die for what he believed in. I’m not trying to get down on politicians but how many of them are willing to do that? Or to bring it closer to home, how many of us are willing to do that? How many of us are willing to die for what we believe? That’s not an easy question to answer.

MCpl Greff’s story is one that needs to be told to future generations. I’m sure that it will be. I’m sure that his wife will tell their children. I’m sure that his family will tell their children and grandchildren so that they will know what their uncle did. His home town of Lacombe, Alberta will know because there is a memorial set up that town to honour his sacrifice. I should also mention, by the way, that MCpl Greff’s was also the last Canadian soldier to die during our mission to Afghanistan.

The Psalmist writes: “My friends, I beg you to listen to me. I will give instruction and explain the mystery of what happened long ago.”

Remembrance Day happens on Wednesday of this week. One of the biggest Remembrance Day events in the county is in Essex. This year, of course, is going to be a bit different because the Legion, like everyone else, has to follow social distancing measures. But there will two service. The one in Essex begins just before 11:00 a.m. and Cottam starts at 1:00 p.m. At those services, we will be passing our stories from  one generation to the next. We will remember that freedom is not free. It comes with a price and it is often paid in blood, the blood of men and women who have found the courage to put themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others. We need to remember those stories and tell them to future generations so that they will know and they will understand the sacrifice, why it was made and why it is now and always will be important.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Holy God, your ways are not our ways and your thoughts are not our thoughts. You look towards a higher vision and purpose. We often struggle to understand your path for us. When we are unsure of the way, enable us to walk in the confidence of faith. Help us to trust in you for you are trustworthy in all things. Strengthen us by your Spirit that we may touch others for the cause of Christ.

We come to you this day with thanks in our hearts. We give thanks for the men, women and, sometimes, children who gave of themselves and their lives for the cause of freedom, justice and peace.

We offer our thanks for those who died for us. We also pray for those who survived the wars of the past but are still haunted by the images of what they experienced. We pray for comfort and healing for all.

We, also, lift up in prayer the many millions who are living in war torn regions even today. The world is full of refugees, people fleeing political and social violence. The world is full of needless hunger, caused by the greed and power of a few.

In the midst of so much suffering, we find the veterans, the soldiers and peacemakers who put their lives on the line in the hopes of saving innocent people and ending the unnecessary bloodshed. We remember the Canadian military personnel in various places around the globe. Protect them and bring them home safely to their families and friends.

In all things, bless us. In all things, keep us. In all things guide us, in Jesus’ name.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Heaven and Earth, God of the sunrise and the sunset, God of the highest mountain and the deepest valley, hear our prayers as we come before your throne of glory. Declare your message to us and grant us the courage to listen. May our listening turn to action. May our actions touch the hearts of those who need to hear your voice. We put our trust in you knowing that it is well placed in your gentle and caring hands.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

November 8, 2020 / Remembrance Sunday

SCRIPTURE

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

CALL TO WORSHIP

Let us open our minds to God’s teaching and tune our ear to his word.

Let us listen to the stories of the faith of our ancestors and share our stories with our children.

We put our trust in God.

We worship the one who gives us life.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Heaven and Earth, God of the sunrise and the sunset, God of the highest mountain and the deepest valley, hear our prayers as we come before your throne of glory. Declare your message to us and grant us the courage to listen. May our listening turn to action. May our actions touch the hearts of those who need to hear your voice. We put our trust in you knowing that it is well placed in your gentle and caring hands.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

God of Mercy and Light, forgive us for walking in darkness of our own making. Forgive us for not being ready to receive your love. Forgive us when we move in the wrong direction and away from your word. Forgive us and help us to share. Forgive us and help us to shine. Forgive us and help us to shelter those in need. Light a pathway for us to follow, O God of all Creation.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God is patient and kind, gentle and loving, slow to anger and quick to laugh. God’s love overflows the deepest sin. Be assured that, when we repent of our sin, we are forgiven. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we are invited to share in the everlasting life.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

You have trusted us with a great abundance, O God. You have blessed us with immeasurable gifts. Not only do we bring our tithes and offerings to the table. We also bring our whole lives asking that you would sanctify us and our gifts for the work of your Holy Kingdom.

COMMISSIONING

The world seeks light amidst the shadows. Jesus calls us to shine in the darkness. May we, in our lives, be examples of God’s love.

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