Make A Difference Part 3: Remembrance Day
On Sunday 12th November at our morning service, we continued our series Make A Difference with the topic 'Remembrance Day'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
What am we supposed to be remembering on Remembrance Sunday? The Royal British Legion says this: “Remembrance Sunday is a day for the nation to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom.”
Regarding the poppy, the Legion says this:
• The poppy is a symbol of Remembrance and hope
• The poppy is NOT a symbol of death or a sign of support for war
We can debate the rights and wrongs of individual wars – and individual actions within wars. For example World War 2 is clear cut, I would say, but perhaps Iraq and what’s going on in the Middle East now may be much murkier. But even in WW2… can we really say that every Allied action was right?
We won’t get all the answers but at least let’s be clear that while the idea behind Remembrance Day has always been to remember and honour those who died or were injured in defence of our country and our freedom, what we’re not doing is honouring or glorifying or supporting war itself.
The decision to get involved in defence of ourselves or someone else, personally or collectively, locally or globally, is never one to be taken lightly. Let’s not forget that for many people, there was no choice to go to war. It would have been, for some, a considered decision to sign up and fight – rightly or wrongly – for a particular cause. For others, it would have been, still is in some parts of the world, a no-choice scenario or at best a choice of go into battle or go into jail branded as a coward.
I’m genuinely thankful I never had that awful situation to face. I once heard a Christian preacher who had served in the navy say that he thought of the dove of peace when thinking about the use of force. Use too much force and you’ll destroy it, use too little and it will fly away from you. It may be that we see some wars as more “just” than others, but let’s remember too the words of General Sherman who famously said that “war is hell”. I’ve a friend who was in the Royal Marines during the Falklands War – he couched it in slightly different language (once a Marine always a Marine, I guess) but the sentiment was the same… War is hell.
I think the devil had a great time of it during WW1 and WW2 and in all wars. My guess is that for the devil the more death, horror and atrocity there is the better he likes it. War, after all, is hell. Do you know what victory looks like to the devil, do you know what he really wants? He wants people to live and die far from God.
And so for us, make no mistake, the war goes on – not in the same way as in WW1 or WW2 but the ages-old war of good vs evil goes on every day.
We’re fooled if we think the war of good versus evil is over. We’re fooled if we think it’s not still raging. In the devil’s schemes, WW1, WW2… they were highpoints for him, I’m sure, but just because the enemy is not coming at us with rockets and tanks doesn’t mean he’s not still at work. No steel-grey uniforms… but all the harder to spot for that. The devil still schemes his schemes, finds endless amusement, has countless recruits, devises new ways to bring evil into our lives.
Not always the frontal assault but the subtle, subversive infiltration into our homes our town and our lives. And the victory he wants, is to separate us from God – to have us live, and better yet die, far from God.
Look around at our culture of gratuitous violence, sex, disorder, empty churches, selfishness, the me-first cult of money and celebrity, look at the wickedness of Isis… and running through it all the threads of hopelessness, emptiness, poverty, cynicism and despair. People living their whole lives, far from God, with only death and, perhaps, the devil to welcome them at the end.
When you look at our broken world and the sheer scale of the challenge, it can seem hopeless. How can we possibly fight back? How can we protect ourselves, our children, our families, our town and people overseas from the evils of this world?
How can we honour the sacrifice of our fathers and grandfathers, who died for our freedom, and live good, honourable lives? How we can honour Jesus’s sacrifice – dying to atone for our sins – and live God-honouring lives? How can we make a difference – internally, locally and globally?
Let’s be honest, it can seem a hopeless task. But if I read my history right, things seemed pretty bleak in 1939 too.
I want to look at what the Paul, one of the great leaders of the early church, has to say about this. Paul started a church in a place called Ephesus and later he wrote a letter to the people of that church, the Ephesians, which is recorded in the New Testament part of the bible. Paul, who knew a lot about turning away from evil and fighting for good, finishes his letter by talking about how the people should strengthen and protect themselves, how they should arm themselves for the ongoing fight against evil. You can read this by clicking here.
Remember, Paul was writing to a church, not an individual. And as we discover in Matthew’s account of Jesus’s life, Jesus said “I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
We’re not strong enough to win the battle against evil alone. But together – as church - and alongside God we can stand against evil and prevail. We’re not strong enough alone, but remember God has the ultimate victory assured. And church is his creation, his idea, his gathered body of believers and hell will not conquer it – Jesus said so!
So what can we do, in practical terms, to make sure we are protected – as church - by the full armour of God? What can we DO that will help us discern and speak the truth, have absolute faith in God’s righteousness, and our salvation through Christ?
Well I think we get those four pieces of armour when we focus on the other two – the peace (or readiness) that comes from immersing ourselves in the Gospel, the good news about Jesus, and praying in the Holy Spirit, on all occasions with all kinds of requests - seeking the word of God he gives us.
I think that through doing these two things – immersing ourselves in the good news about Jesus and praying with the help and advocacy of the Spirit, the other four will come – and come the more readily if we pray for them to come:
The Truths of God all-embracing around us, deep Faith in Jesus within us, fully covered by his Righteousness, confident in our minds of our Salvation through him.
Remember now, we don’t have to try to do this alone! Paul when he wrote about this, was not writing to an individual but to the church. There’s far more strength in fighting as a unit, than as a lone soldier. We all have our weaknesses and our susceptibilities to wrongdoing. We all falter in our determination to fight for what’s good and right. But when church - and being really part of church - is central for us then we build each other up, we support and encourage each other, we learn from each other, we serve together, and give together and pray together and worship together… and we have more impact together internally, locally and globally!
As church we hold each other to account and spur each other on! We pray not just with but for each other. Look around you and you’ll find prayer warriors, people with firm faith, others steeped in the gospel, still more fully assured and positively brimming with the fruits of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. People who know Jesus, who know of God’s righteousness, and of our salvation through Jesus’s sacrifice and of our glory as beloved children of God!
In this spiritual battle, some of our most steadfast fighters are among our older people. Younger people – your spiritual growth may come from physical service and giving for the church and you may lead the way in that. But learn too from the seasoned veterans around you in church – learn about the bible, learn about the power of prayer, about the Holy Spirit, about faith in tough circumstances and hard battles from the old warriors around you.
And the very old – if there’s nothing left in you but the strength to pray and to love, then yours is maybe still the most important part in the battle. When all you’ve left is prayer and love, yours is to lead us in exalting and extolling the Lord, yours is to represent on Earth the loving arms of the Father, waiting to see his beloved children come home, and to embrace them in love. Yours is to give example, yours to pray at all times and for all kinds of things, yours to offer wise counsel. If physical frailty means you need to step back from the physical stuff… don’t forget this is a spiritual battle and your prayers and your love are needed by the younger soldiers around you as they step out into the world.
We don’t need to fight our battles alone. Church is so important. We’re stronger together. We help each other on with our armour, making sure it’s all going on and it’s well fitted. And we stand shoulder to shoulder alongside each other as God’s soldiers, fighting evil locally in this country and around the world in places like Sierra Leone. And in God’s strength, as his holy Church, we will prevail though all the powers of hell are against us.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Before going into battle, soldiers go through six weeks of “basic training”. What training are you undergoing to prepare yourself for spiritual battle, which goes on around you whether you prepare for it or not?
2. Can you find a few minutes to read the bible every day? Do you pray for all kinds of things and on every occasion – and do you do this daily?
3. Is there a time you can think of when it seemed like you were under spiritual attack?
4. Think about a lone soldier pinned down under fire – how might this be analogous to trying to live as a Christian without being surrounded by a church family?
5. How often are you in the company of other people who pray together, read the bible together, or both?
6. What can you do to “put on all of God’s armour” as part of his church, and thus equip yourself to resist forces of evil?
7. In what ways are you striving to remember and honour Jesus?