In our churches this week we will remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. We will join with people across the nation to pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave service men and women. On Friday we observed the collective act of two minutes silence as we stood together to reflect on the price of freedom. A price that has continued to be paid with more than 12,000 British Servicemen and women having been killed or injured on active service since 1945.
The Gospel reading hints at the terrible things that were going to come ‘Nation will rise against nation’, wars and rumours of wars, betrayal and some being put to death. It must have sounded terrifying to the disciples and of course history has borne out that this was indeed a correct prediction.
I get asked time and time again in a variety of circumstances why God allows bad things to happen – the answer is of course, humankind, each one of us has the freedom to choose what we will do with the life we have been given. Each one of us has the potential to choose good or to choose evil.
Thank God we in this country are living in times of relative peace, but I am sure there are times when we would like to cower in a corner, and have the rest of the world go away. It might be events or situations in our own lives that make us feel like that, and sometimes it’s the state of the world that we find overwhelming. What will get us first we wonder? Will it be a nuclear war? An unstable world leader pressing the red button. Or perhaps climate change that makes the oceans rise? Or a bomb carrying a biological weapon? Or the bacteria that antibiotics can no longer kill? Everywhere we look there is danger, and our instinct is to run and hide, to take refuge among people we know and in familiar places where we usually feel safe. If we are honest there are times when the kingdom of God seems to us a rather far-fetched idea. We see what is happening in the world, or in our own lives, and it seems ridiculous to think of God ruling over such chaos. Jesus’ words to his disciples challenge us to look at things differently and make a decision to believe and trust. “Do not be terrified,” says Jesus, even when terror and anxiety seems the sensible response. We are encouraged to have faith in the reality of God’s reign more than we believe in the conflict and disaster around us, and to build our lives on that faith, however much effort that may require.
My responsibility, especially on Remembrance Sunday, is to remind us all of the triumph of the cross. Because that’s where we see a soldier – a man fighting for righteousness and justice – not wearing the 3 stripes of a Sergeant on his shoulder, but 39 stripes torn into his back by a Roman whip. Jesus Christ was sacrificed on the cross. His death, however, was not in vain, for the cross signifies life, not death. Jesus has set us free, because He was willing to pay the ultimate price.
And so we honour the two great symbols of sacrifice – the Poppy and the Cross. We remember those who have given their lives in war and what their sacrifice achieved, we remember Jesus words; “Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Countless men and women did just that for their friends and for their country following in the steps of Jesus who gave his life that we might have life eternal.