St John’s Church, Brigg  –  13th November 2011

Intro:  One of my RE students informed me the other day that he didn’t ‘recognize’ Remembrance Day, because it was, in his words, ‘a glorification of war’. I think he is wrong.

Today, I hear no gingoistic ranting, no celebratory chanting, I see no sign of triumphalism, no glamorising the apparatus of war – rather a solemn and dignified corporate act of COMMEMORATING those who lost their lives in conflict during the past 100 years or so, whilst serving their sovereign and their state.

So, I think I am right in thinking my student is wrong.

In this address I want to share three words, which will serve as hooks on which to hang my thoughts, concerning the opportunities which Remembrance Day offers to us…


Yes, I know it’s an overworked word in our society…and has been somewhat demeaned by those who demand respect whilst not commanding it by their behaviour.

That said, we do hold in the deepest RESPECT those who are in our memories today, those who do deserve it, those who are truly heroic and who paid the ultimate price – the loss of earthly life.

Additionally we offer our RESPECT and SYMPATHY to the many who are still deeply affected by the tragic loss of these heroes – families, friends & colleagues – and for who the memories are fresh, painful, poignant in these moments


Today we must take the opportunity to REJECT the ideas expressed by my RE student, as being reactionary, misinformed & mistaken.

But may we also choose to REJECT those dark elements of human nature which produce the reasons behind conflict and war. Elements which are powerfully described by the NT writer, James,  a brother of Jesus, when he wrote:

Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Doyou think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it…”.

Rejecting such attitudes and behaviour patterns amounts to genuine repentance.


Further, we have opportunity to REFLECT on those qualities of character and commitment which sent men & women to their untimely death in their courageous attempts to keep the world free of tyranny, injustice and oppression … It’s been stated with regard to WWII “… out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly. It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians, but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, to show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together…”

Conclusion: Before closing I wish to share a personal REFLECTION, as a follower and servant of Jesus Christ, whose words now adorn many war memorials across the world. On the eve of His crucifixion, speaking of his own death, He spoke these now-familiar words… “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” – His astonishing, and world-saving sacrifice (made not only for friends, but also for enemies) is graphically described by St Paul, one of the greatest leaders of the early Church. Writing to one of many churches which he established, and encouraging them in ‘selfless service’ Paul exhorts:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”