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Sunday, 10 November 2013

In Remembrance

Today has been Remembrance Sunday, and tomorrow is Armistice Day.  It's the time of the year when we remember those who died in the service of their country - not only in the two World Wars, but in many conflicts since.  We remember those who face death on a daily basis, in lands far from their homes. We remember those for whom this is a very poignant time of the year, as they remember loved ones who have died in the theatre of war. 

I find myself thinking, on this day, of those lives that were lost.  In the two World Wars alone, more than 12 million died while on active service.  And I don’t know how many civilians died; how many were left permanently disabled; how many were badly wounded – physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  And, of course, it doesn’t include those who died in all of the other conflicts – from Korea to Iraq and, currently, Afghanistan.  They paid – willingly, or unwillingly – the highest price, that their nation might be protected from its enemies. 

But I also reflect on the lesson that ought to have been learned.  On June 28th, 1919, the League of Nations was established to ensure that the carnage of 1914-18 would never be repeated.  Twenty-six years later, on June 26th, 1945, just a few weeks after the end of the war in Europe – a war which, by the establishment of the League of Nations, ought never to have taken place, the Charter of the United Nations was signed by the representatives of 50 nations.  The lesson had now been learned?  One doesn’t have to be a student of history to know that the evidence of the past 68 years says, “No!”
I can recall the Suez crisis of the mid-fifties; the terrors of the EOKA campaign in Cyprus; the atrocities of Mau-Mau tribesmen in Kenya; Vietnam; Biafra, N.Ireland; the Falklands; Iraq; and, still, Afghanistan. 9/11; 7/7; car bombs; suicide bombers.  A seemingly endless list.  One conflict after another, as man continues to demonstrate his inhumanity to man.  And still, we haven’t learned that fighting brings no lasting solution.  A lesson that ought to have been learned but that, demonstrably, has not been.

But for many of us, not even that is the whole story!  Because as I reflect on the lives that were lost, and the lesson that ought to have been learned, I cannot help but consider also the Lord Who has loved.  In former years, and within the memory of many of us, one of the strongholds of the Christian faith was this land that we love, and in which many who visit this blog dwell.  Indeed, historically, Scotland was known as “The Land of the Book” – and that Book was the Bible.  And there are those who would claim that, as a nation, we have known a special measure of the gracious protection of Almighty God.

But what has been His return?  Has His undeserved love for us led us to show love and gratitude to Him?  Sadly, all of the available evidence would suggest not.  It would appear that this nation, that once honoured and revered the very Name of God; that once worshipped Him both in church building and in the home; that sought His guidance; that lived in the light of His truth; has now, to a very large extent, turned its back on Him.  And is it possible that this departure from His statutes has contributed to the state of the nation as we see it today?

And at a personal level – because a nation is made up of individuals – there are many who, in times of stress, and crisis, and difficulty, have called upon His name.  And they have made promises – “Get me out of this situation, God, and I’ll ... ...” And, often to their own amazement, He has responded positively.  But when the situation is resolved; when the crisis is over; when the difficulty has been overcome – the promise, and the Lord to Whom the promise was made, are forgotten: at least until the next emergency!

Remembrance Sunday.  What do we remember?  May I suggest those three thoughts for your consideration and reflection?  That we remember the lives that were lost, and be grateful for those who died that we might enjoy the measure of freedom that we do.  That we remember the lesson that ought to have been learned, and seek to learn ourselves from past experience.  That we remember the Lord Who has loved, and respond to His love with the love and submission of our own hearts.  And to Him be all the glory, and honour, for ever.

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