Today is Remembrance Sunday. This event happens each year on the Sunday closest to the 11th November. The 11th, Remembrance Day is also known as Armistice Day. On the 11th November 1918 at 11am, the Armistice was signed marking the end of the First World War. It was supposed to be a war to end all wars, something we never wanted to see repeated. Yet only a little over 2 decades later and the same nations went back to war in response to the Nazi onslaught of Adolph Hitler.
Since 1945 there has rarely been a period when there hasn’t been some horrific conflict, terrorist struggle or civil war going on. For much of the later 20th Century we experience the Cold War, an absence of military conflict between super-powers but a conflict all the same with stalemate due to the presence of nuclear weapons and many localised conflicts between third parties acting as proxy for the main conflict.
Since 2001, we have seen major conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The ongoing refugee crisis reminds us of the horrors faced by many in recent years and going back further to the Balkan conflict. This year we have been reminded that there are other threats to life as we have sent people to a new front line, doctors, nurses and carers have been engaging in a deadly struggle to contain and subdue the Coronavirus pandemic.
And so we remember. Each year, the act of remembrance is carried out in quiet, simple dignity. People wear poppies sold by the Royal British Legion to help support veterans of conflict. A 2 minute silence is observed at church services and poppy wreaths are laid at war memorials. Even in the midst of a pandemic, we will find ways to observe this remembrance.
We remember because conflict has meant that so many people have given up their lives to protect others and to seek to bring about lasting peace. We are grateful and honour their memories.
We remember because there are people today continuing to live with the scars of conflict. These include physical scars, lost limbs, burn wounds etc. However deeper still are often the emotional wounds, ongoing grief for lost family members and comrades, recurring nightmares and PTSD. Sadly around the world many who are called up find it difficult to return to civilian life and end up experiencing homelessness and other challenges. So as well as remembering and honouring their service, we pray for them for deep, lasting healing and for comfort.
We remember because we pray to God trusting him to bring and preserve peace where there currently is conflict. We remember with thanksgiving for the relative peace and comfort we have enjoyed.
We remember because there is one who fought a greater battle and paid the ulitimate sacrifice. The Prince of Peace came into this world to defeat our oppressor, our captor and bring eternal spiritual peace. At our service on Sunday, we will take time to take communion in remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Lest we forget.