Welcome to Legion members, Veterans, and other Guests
Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)
In 1897, Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem called Recessional. Here are the first 2 verses...
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget lest we forget!
Lest we forget... We have gathered today to worship God and also to remember and to honour the sacrifices of those who have served our country during times of war and armed conflicts and peace keeping missions. Thank you especially to those veterans who are here with us today. Would you please stand and be recognized? (applause... thanks... ) If you lived through the war years, would you please stand? Again, thank you... we honour you today as well. (please be seated).
Several years ago, I attended a military funeral. In October of 2003, Corporal Rob Beerenfenger and Sergeant Robert Short were killed when their vehicle hit a road-side land-mine. They were the first two Canadian soldiers to be killed by enemy action during the current war in Afghanistan. Rob Beerenfenger was my cousin by marriage. His death impacted our family, the people serving in Afghanistan, those at CFB Pettawa, and the entire company. For Canadians, this was only the second fatal incident of the war. It brought home the reality of war-time loss. Since then, each of the families of our fallen soldiers have experienced similar tragedies.
Even so, I cannot truly grasp or understand the losses faced by soldiers and their families during World War 1 and World War 2. During the Boer War, 284 Canadians were killed. 516 were lost in the Korean War. 116 have died while serving on Peace Keeping missions. To date, 113 Canadians have been killed in Afghanistan. Every one of those deaths were tragic and significant. I can almost wrap my head around those numbers... but consider the losses from the World Wars. During the Great War, more than 620,000 Canadians served overseas. 68,000 died and another 155,000 were wounded. During World War 2, more than a million people served overseas, and 47,000 died. The numbers are staggering. The impact was immeasurable.
Those men and women left their homes and families and comforts. They chose to submit their desires and their wills to instead follow the orders of their officers and commanders. They were not perfect... in the face of deadly danger and impossible moral judgements there were acts of cowardice and cruelty. But the vast majority acted with courage in the midst of their fear. They showed loyalty to their countries and to their comrades. There were acts of incredible heroism and sacrifice—and many times, those heroes were simply doing what they believed needed to be done.
It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. Thousands of them died. All of them were changed. They sacrificed their youth, their health, and their lives. Those who survived the war then lived (and some still live) with the consequences of those horrific experiences.
War is tragic—and it is a reality in our sinful, broken worlds. It grieves God’s heart to see his children destroying one another. But God is also good, merciful, compassionate, and full of grace. He makes good to come in the most horrible of situations. God was present in the midst of every battle, every field hospital, and every family back at home that waited anxiously for news. Even in the darkest times, God did not abandon them.
My generation has been touched by the war in Afghanistan and so we think that we understand... but in reality we cannot. So we need to hear your stories and we need the histories in books and in the documentaries that so many television stations have been playing this week. In Canada today, there is only one living World War 1 Veteran and our World War 2 vets are growing older. But their stories... your stories... are important. So on days like today we gather and we honour them... lest we forget.
As we gather to remember, we join with many others around the world... and in this broken, war-torn world, we long for true peace. But peace continually eludes us. We are sinful people living in a fallen world... we are lost behind enemy lines. But God knew that we were incapable of finding peace... he knew that we were prisoners to our own sin. And so he sent us a hero to redeem us...
And Jesus Christ, even though he was in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!
Jesus left His Father, His home, and all of the comforts and glory of Heaven to be born in obscurity and poverty in a village in Rome-occupied Israel. The Creator of the Universe entered our Enemy-Occupied world and became a tiny, fragile human baby. God the Son laid down his own will and authority to follow God the Father’s will. He was prepared to sacrifice himself on our behalf. He gave His entire life in order to show us who God is. And he was obedient even when it meant experiencing the most terrible death: torture, suffering, mockery, pain, and—worst of all—utter separation from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. His friends and family grieved. He enemies celebrated.
And then—miracle of miracles—in the darkest hour, when his followers came to his tomb, the grave was empty!! Death could not hold the Son of God. Jesus Christ appeared—alive! Victorious!
And we know that through faith by God’s grace we become a part of Jesus’ death and His resurrection. Paul wrote about that in his letter to the Romans: (Romans 6:3-10, TNIV)
3 ...don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.5 If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
By Jesus’ sacrifice we are made right with God. By His victory over death we are given new life. By His ascension to the Father we know that someday we will see God in all His glory: we will worship Him because “God [has] exalted him to the highest place and [given] him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!!
This is the Good News! This is the Gospel! Do you believe this? Will you put your life in Jesus’ hands? Our God is Father and Son and Holy Spirit. Our God is compassionate and Gracious and Merciful. Our God is Love and Truth and Peace.
We are incapable of bringing true peace to our world. But God is making everything new through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. One day we will hear the voice that John spoke of in the book of Revelation: Revelation 21:3–4 (TNIV)
3 … I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
This is our hope. And it is all made possible by the sacrifice and death of Jesus Christ. We must remember this.
Over the past weeks, there have been a number of advertisements encouraging people to get involved in veterans week activities. They said, “This November, make remembrance more than something you feel. Make it something you do.” Remembrance does include intellectual assent and emotional response, but even more than that, it is a call to action. Each year in November we gather to remember and honour our veterans and soldiers. We listen to their stories. We read and watch the histories. We listen to the last post and the reveille, and wit those honoured songs we observe the silence and remember the deaths and the sacrifices... and then in the reveille we get a reminder of the hope of resurrection and new life... Lest we Forget.
In the same way, today and every day, let us remember the death and the sacrifice and the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.8 And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
446, King of My Life, I Crown Thee
Hebrews 13:20-21 (TNIV)
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.