Tomorrow is the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day at the end of the First World War. It is humbling to think of the many thousands who signed up but never returned, decimating so many communities and traumatizing countless lives. The poppy from the fields of Flanders has become a powerful symbol for our remembrance of those who gave their lives for the good things we enjoy but so often take for granted today.
Sometimes people ask how can events of long ago and far away be relevant today. There are two parts of the answer to this question. The first is that remembrance is not just about history, it is also about now – our armed forces are serving in harm’s way today, and many are the former service personnel and their families still living with the effects of previous conflicts.
The second part of the answer is that events of long ago can be very relevant today, because they can change the world. So much of the freedom and prosperity that we enjoy can be traced to the sacrifices of others in the events of history.
Many of the nation’s war memorials are in churches (visitors often come to St John’s to see the Parkstone memorial), and Christians play a key part in remembrance ceremonies, but again it’s natural to ask why. The answer is that Christian faith is about remembrance – remembrance of the rock solid historical reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – and giving thanks for the new life that he gives to his followers.
So there’s a close link of logic between remembrance of those who died for the good of our society, and faith in Jesus. As he said “Greater love has no-one than this – that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 17.13)