I delivered the Remembrance Day address in town this morning, and below is what I said. Before you read through it, consider that the sacrifice made on our behalf, as wonderful and generous as it was, is only an imitation (although not a deliberate one) of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. Remembrance Day is important in its own right, but for Christians we should also see it as a pointer to Jesus, and the benefit that flows to us from that.
Its not always easy to know what to do with Remembrance Day. We most often associate it with a particular war – the First World War. This is where the imagery, the poetry, the national identity all spring from. Not to mention the day itself is linked to the time and date of the armistice that ended the First World War.
But linking Remembrance Day so strongly with a particular war has its problems.
The first world war is often described as a pointless war. A war that was started because of the assassination of some obscure royal in some backwater part of Europe, and people often say there was no good reason for it.
Some describe it as a huge waste of life where nothing was achieved.
Others describe it as the forging of our nation, where our own separate national identity was founded, independent from England.
I grew up both of these interpretations and stories.
Australian movies and TV shows about how the English were uncaring, stupid and negligent, and that Australians were brave and ingenious, and even though they needlessly died, they built our national identity as Anzacs – tough and resourceful with a hint of rebelliousness thrown in.
This morning I want to step away from that sort of thing.
Because its too easy to turn Remembrance Day into a reflection on different wars, and then afford a political judgement to those wars, and in turn forget about those we are meant to remember.
Or only remember them in those political terms.
Because when we do, we do a disservice to those who died.
We saw that with the Vietnam War, where those who fought and died were regarded as bad and wrong, because so many people politically rejected that war as bad and wrong.
Remembrance Day is not a time to think about or make judgements about particular wars, or think about what of benefit or detriment came as a result of a particular war.
Its not a day to think of only the wars we approve of, or the wars that have become respectable.
Its not even a time to weigh up the value of the lives lost, and whether what was achieved was worth it.
All of those things can be done on a different day.
Remembrance Day is a time for us to stop and remember that men and women have fought and died for us.
That they considered it their duty, their responsibility, to sacrifice themselves for their friends, their families, their country.
Today is a day to be grateful for that.
Not to do anything else, but remember that people whose names we can read on memorials, on plaques, in family histories and photo albums, died because they thought it was important for us.
Life is not easy, and not fair, and sacrifices are always required for big and important things.
Today we remember those who sacrificed themselves for us in war, with a lowered flag, flowers, wreaths, songs, poems, and pausing, changing our routine, so that we don’t forget. So we don’t take for granted what we have, or fall into thinking that the way we live comes about spontaneously without sacrifice.
Today is Remembrance Day, Lest we Forget.