On Remembrance Sunday we join with millions around our world in remembering the many men and women who have given their lives in the different conflicts of the past 100 and more years. People who either by choice, or through compulsion, have risked their lives in the pursuit of peace and justice. We owe our freedom to many such people who have stood up against tyranny and oppression – to people who risked everything, laying themselves on the line.
So we remember.
Those who have served on the battlefield or in conflict zones around our world will no doubt tell and re-tell stories of valour and bravery. And for those who served, ‘remembering’ will also bring back to the front of the mind stories of those who did not return. Remembering brings to the surface the naked fear of conflict, the pain of loss and a real sense of comradeship.
But remembering is so very important to us all, not just on Remembrance Sunday, but in all areas of our lives. Remembering leads to the telling of our own stories. Both as individuals and communities. And as we tell our story, we reaffirm our roots, and we define who we are. We put our own lives in context. For in today’s world, where we define ourselves not so much by where we come from as by our networks of friends and acquaintances; today’s world, can so easily become a rootless place where we do not know who we really are.
Our shared memories are our key to understanding ourselves. And our collective memory needs to be sustained by hearing the stories of our past. By hearing from those who went out from us here to serve in different arenas in our world. These stories, these people are so much a part of who we are here in our villages, towns and cities today. They contribute to our history, they strengthen our community spirit.
Our stories are important. Remembering is vital. Nowhere is this more true than in relation to the conflicts with which we have been involved as a nation. Failure to engage with and learn from our past is the height of modern arrogance. We have to hear again the stories of conflict, of bravery, of pain and loss. And we need to allow those stories, … that remembering …, to change us now. It must inform our thinking about the future, it must be allowed to change our wills and our actions.
For today we’re all called to take new & different risks. To act for justice, for peace in society, in the world around us. To work for racial justice, to fight discrimination, to engage with injustice in whatever form it might arise. To look to overcome the barriers which so easily arise between people, and… if necessary to risk our reputations, to be willing to take knocks, sometimes to be misunderstood; even to face persecution.
Where do we find the courage to do this? As Christians we have the promise of God in Christ. ‘Go,’ says Jesus, ‘into all the world, work for the coming of my kingdom, seek first my kingdom, of justice and peace and I will be with you always.’ God does not leave us alone to face new challenges, to risk our lives in the cause of his Kingdom. He promises always to be with us.