Remembrance 2019 – A Response of Unity & Love

John 15.9-17
Revelation 21.1-4

Speaking Notes – Caveat

These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.

Now onto the content…

Sacrifice: An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy:

That is how the dictionary describes the term sacrifice. Today is the Sunday that we perhaps use that word more than any other. Today many will take two minutes to consider the service that men and women have made in the defense of our freedom.

I said last year and I say again today, two minutes hardly seems enough for those who paid such a sacrifice, many of whom paid the greatest of sacrifices.

Perhaps the greatest way we can honour these men and women is by using the verse we use today to remember them.  

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

When we say those words we are comparing their sacrifice to the sacrifice that our Lord and Saviour made. High honour indeed.

If you have ever attended an Alpha course you may have seen a video or heard a speaker once again comparing the sacrifice of those who suffered in war to that our Lord.

The story goes that on 31 July 1941 a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz. As a reprisal the Gestapo selected ten men to die in a underground starvation bunker. Francis, one of the men who were selected to die cried out:,

`Ah, my poor wife and my children.
They’ll never see me again.’

At that moment, a Polish man — unimpressive-looking in many ways, with round glasses in wire frames — stepped out, and said,

`Look, I’m a Catholic priest. I don’t have a wife and children.’ He said, `I want to die instead of that man.’

To everyone’s amazement, his offer was accepted. Maximilian Kolbe was 47 years old at the time, and he went with the others to the starvation bunker. He was a remarkable man — he got them all praying and singing hymns; it transformed the atmosphere, in that bunker. Maximilian the last to die, actually — he was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid on 14 August 1941.

41 years later, on 10 October 1982, Maximilian Kolbe’s death was put in its proper perspective. In St Peter’s Square in Rome in a crowd of 150,000 people, 26 cardinals, 300 bishops and archbishops was that man who was originally chosen to die, Francis.

Pope John Paul II described the death of Maximilian Kolbe in these terms. `It was a victory, like that won by our Lord, Jesus Christ.’ When Francis himself did eventually die his obituary recalled how he had spent the rest of his life going around telling people what Maximilian Kolbe had done for him, by dying in his place.

It seems to me that for sacrifice to go with recognition is inappropriate, and certainly for the ultimate sacrifice to go without recognition is breaking some universal law. But what recognition is enough to pay for a human life, or for the life of our God?

Jesus’ Sacrifice

Jesus shows us what we might do to show our gratitude for His sacrifice for us.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

We are to show our gratitude by following his command. What’s that command? Jesus says the greatest commandment is to Love God and the second is to love our neighbour.

Love God, love one another, love our neighbour. It seems that God is a little hung up on Love doesn’t it?

But what of our response to the sacrifices the men and women who have died for our freedom on this earth?

We have prayed today in the prayer that Jesus taught us for God’s kingdom to come. Indeed our Revelation reading reminded us of a picture of God’s Kingdom full of love.

Revelation 21 reads.

And 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. “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.’

It is a picture of God’s kingdom to come, but equally it is a picture of the freedom that those who fought for you and I were fighting for, a picture of a world with love, peace and unity.

The Big Idea

When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying for the kingdom to come now. So perhaps our response to sacrifice whether it be from our Lord Jesus, or the men and women who sacrificed for a picture of God’s kingdom is really the same.

Perhaps It is simply to love God, love each other to lay down our lives for our neighbour.

In a world still full of troubles, that may sound like a very naive and idealistic thing to say. However it seems to me, when commanded by the lord of the universe, that this is the greatest command. our response has to be to ask ourselves what our part is in that ideal.

Right now our country could do with some love and peace.

Right now our country could do with all of us laying down our lives for one another.

Right now our country could do with the unity these men and women fought for.

Is it possible for those of us here today to be the spearhead of this love, peace and unity within our country?

Is perhaps that our response?

Is it possible for those of us here today to lay down the words of hate for the other side even though we fervently disagree with their views and we have the right to say so.

Is perhaps that our response?

Sacrifice: An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy:

Is unity, peace and love more important or worthy?

Friends can our response to the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, and the sacrifice of the men and women who died for us be to truly lay down our lives for one another? Even amongst our disagreements?

Let our response from here today to so much sacrifice be to love God and love each other. Amen.