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Remembrance

September 24, 2011

I read the headlines and watch the news and what do I hear? What do we all hear. “Wars and rumours of wars” – “Earthquakes and famines”. I read the headlines and watch the pictures, the people. But most of the time I am sad to say that I am unmoved. It is not the end of the word, it is just more of the same. I hear of too much horror and switch off. Sometimes you have to or you would just go mad.

But not always. Sometimes we need to stop and force ourselves to listen, to listen to the names, see the faces. That is what we are doing here today. We are redressing the balance or at least some of it. We are remembering, we are remembering sacrifice, suffering and pain, but also heroics, bravery, loyalty, goodness and integrity.

I should take time to remember after all my family, at least the men in it, seem to have had a lot to do with the forces. One granddad was injured so he couldn’t join the navy with his brothers but his brothers went down with the HMS Hood. My father was a PT instructor, my step father was in the air force. And then, then there was my other grandfather who fought in Afghanistan.

All that time, all those friends that he lost and we are back in Afghanistan once again. It makes you wonder;

History repeats itself;

Has to – no one listens.

Now I can honestly say that I hate war, I hate the very thought of war. Violence brutalises the human spirit. But I can also see that we are a naturally violent and brutal species, we human beings. We naturally kill and hurt one another. So we need violence, or the threat of violence to stop the worst in humanity. That’s why we have a police force. If you are a true pacifist then you could never even call the police. National law and order is a fragile thing that sadly, sometimes, needs violence or the threat of violence to hold it together.

We need violence to stop the worst in humanity. That is why we have armed forces. That is not to say that all wars are right. Politicians, generals and civil servants all can and do make mistakes. They are also human and prone to fits of prejudice, and revenge. But sadly, we need our police and our armed forces. Sadly, I think wars will remain with us. And we need the brave to fight with us and for us.

This all might shock you. I don’t yet know you well enough to know. My words are not intended to shock or hurt – only to help us to explore the reality of God in a fallen and broken world. A world of wars and rumours of wars.

When we turn to the Old Testament there are plenty of wars. And no one seems to have a problem with calling on God as the God of war to rise up and save His people by destroying their enemies.

The Old Testament even has a name for this aspect of the God that we worship, translated the name is “the Lord of Hosts”. It’s a name that is used a lot in the Bible. And the “Lord of Hosts” is a translation of two Hebrew words, the first is Yahweh, and the second is the Hebrew for “armies”. So the “Lord of Hosts” is “Yahweh Armies”. Yahweh – the holy name of God, so holy that no Jew would ever say it aloud. Yahweh and “armies”, a strange combination, we don’t feel comfortable any more with saying God and armies in the same breath. But we humans are violent at times and it sometimes take violence to stop us doing our worst – and God seems to be fully aware of that fact.

So we turn hurriedly to the New Testament. And we look for comfort. We never find “little Jesus meek and mild”, but we do hear about forgiveness, we hear about the meek inheriting the earth, we learn about the love of God in the person of Jesus. Jesus who was taken by soldiers and killed in our place – we learn of the love that is willing to lay down its life for a friend and even for strangers.

There are still soldiers in the New Testament and there is still plenty of violence. But there is also hope that this is not the end of the story. That we can work for peace. But I still think that at times the New Testament hints that we may have to fight for our peace and security. Just think – Jesus wandered across Judea and Samaria for years. Lawless lands full of bandits, thieves, robbers and men of violence. So he and the disciples can’t have been a push-over. They must have had to defend themselves on their travels or else we would probably never have heard about them – They would have been beaten and robbed and probably killed.

Then think of that time when Jesus was preparing to face the cross. An act of non-violence, but we read that some of Jesus’ disciples had swords, serious and expensive weaponry. And Jesus, when commanding them to put away their weapons, adds the statement that if it were the right time to fight then he would have called on God his Father, “Yahweh Armies” who would send legions of angels to fight for him.

So we are turned round again. We have a hope for peace but that hope is in the middle of the fight for law, order and all that is right. Sometimes we must forgive and lay down our lives, and others we must fight.

We do our best to follow God amidst the contradictions of life. But, whatever the rights or the wrongs we have to remember war. It is wrong to forget; its wrong to try and brush the nastiness under the carpet.

I remember the family that came back. I think of what might have been if I had been well enough at 18 to join up as I had wanted. Who knows? – only God, and he isn’t saying.

We may have mixed feelings about war and the leading of our God. But, we need to remember so that brave men and women of the past are still valued and honoured.

Sometimes we need to stop and force ourselves to listen, to listen to the names, see the faces. That is what we are doing here today. We are redressing the balance or at least some of it. We are remembering, we are remembering sacrifice, suffering and pain, but also heroics, bravery, loyalty, goodness and integrity. Heroics and bravery of soldier and peace-maker like.

We hear of wars and rumours of wars. And we need to remember, we must remember – so that brave men and women today are supported through the horrors that their bravery carries them to. We remember to support the work of the Royal British Legion as it seeks to offer practical help to the injured and the families of those who have died. To remember to support “Help the Heroes”.

We remember.

We need to remember. And we will remember them!

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