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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Lest we forget.

This afternoon, in my capacity as a Strathclyde Police Force Chaplain, I had the honour of again conducting the annual Remembrance Day service at the Memorial to Officers of the former Lanarkshire Constabulary who exchanged their police uniforms for military ones, and died in either the Great War (1914-18) or in World War II (1939-45). 

As far as I know the Memorial, which is situated in the grounds of the Sheriff Courthouse, in Hamilton, is unique in Scotland in remembering only police officers who paid the ultimate price for the freedom that, in spite of the political correctness and State interference that surrounds us, we still enjoy in this country.

The brief Reflection that I brought to the gathering of, mostly, members of the Retired Police Officers Association of Scotland, was based on the prayer of the Old Testament prophet, Habak'kuk, and found in the 3rd chapter of the book that goes by his name.  The background to the prayer is one of national crisis - just as this nation faced the crises of the two World Wars, of many conflicts since, and even the financial crisis that effects all of us today.

The prophet saw, all around him, moral and spiritual decay.  Injustice was rampant with the rich getting richer, and the poor suffering more and more.  The law appeared to be powerless.   YHWH appeared not to care about the plight of His people.  And no, I didn't lift that from one of today's newspapers - although I could well have done!

Habak'kuk was concerned that YHWH was allowing these things to happen.  However, the response that he received was less than encouraging!  He was told that the approaching Babylonian (Iraqi) armies were, in fact, YHWH's means of judging His people for their sinfulness.  This response is accepted by the prophet - not as one beaten into submission, but as one who recognises the Sovereignty of the only true God.

It was that acceptance; that recognition; that willing surrender; that led Habak'kuk into that prayer - a prayer of worship.  His circumstances hadn't changed, but he had, and he was now walking by faith, and not by sight.  And what had changed him was the same set of spiritual disciplines that will change you and change me - prayer, vision, and faith.  We may respond to crisis situations in at least two, totally different, ways.  We may complain; seek to lay the blame at the doors of others; feel sorry for ourselves, and ask "Why me?" (I recall someone saying that it might help if we asked, "Why not me?!).

Such a response, I suggested, does nothing other than leave us in the pit of despair.  Or we may choose - and it is a personal, and conscious, decision - to follow the example of this oft-neglected Old Testament prophet.  The 17th verse of that 3rd chapter paints a word-picture of total financial and material disaster - a Wall Street crash; inflation at the levels that used to be seen in Zimbabwe!  But in the following verses, the prophet shows where his trust is placed.

On this Day of Remembrance, many of us have recalled the carnage and death in two world wars, and in countless other military conflicts.  We  have stood with those to whom today has been especially poignant because their loss, their memories, are so personal.  May we recognise that not every crisis involves physical battles, injury, and death.  And, as we face our personal crises, today and every day, may we be encouraged by the experience, and teaching, of Habak'kuk.  May we know the wonderful grace of God; may we be granted a glimpse of the glory of God; may we willingly yield to the government of God in our individual lives.

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