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Today: 17 October 2019



First published 09/06/2019

As I write, many nations around the world are sharing in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy on 6th June 1944.  Thousands of troops as well as local civilians lost their lives in that greatest of all sea-borne landings.  But it was the moment the tide turned in Europe and the Second World War began to move towards its end.

Listening to 95 year-olds talking about their vivid memories and recalling the friends who died alongside them all those years ago, is deeply moving.  We can begin to imagine something of the anxiety, relief and grief of families waiting at home for news of loved ones in danger.

There is such a moment in the story of king David, whose son Absalom was killed after rebelling against his father.  Despite their differences, David was devastated by his son’s death, crying “O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son!” (the story comes in the Old Testament, in 2 Samuel 18, with that climax in verse 33).  There was another moment of grief when David heard of the death of king Saul and his son Jonathan (2 Samuel 1).

Those battles and deaths happened three thousand years ago, but we are still able to feel the intensity of personal and national loss.

Memories like that help to shape our lives today.  We can be profoundly thankful for those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom today.  We can be concerned for people caught up in war situations in different parts of the world today.  We can also hear the warnings about the cost and devastation of war, which sometimes may tragically be necessary, but which will always be costly.

Remembering is at the heart of the Christian faith.  Jesus talked about the love that inspires sacrifice - “The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them” (John 15: 13).  Immediately after, he made that sacrifice himself, dying on the cross for his friends, and for us,.

Immediately before, he shared a meal with his friends.  That meal has become the centre-piece of Christian worship.  It is celebrated today as Communion (meaning sharing) or Eucharist (meaning thanksgiving).  Above all it is an act of remembering his sacrifice, his battle with evil, his victory over sin and death, and his rising to life.  That remembering goes on shaping our lives today.

Some of us have lived long enough to remember some of the great conflicts of recent history.  They have brought untold suffering to millions. We remember them and pray to learn from them.

But the greatest battle of all to remember is the one in which God won the ultimate victory over the powers of darkness, so that we might truly live and know God’s gift of peace.

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Eternal God, as we remember the sacrifice of so many in war, we give thanks for their lives and what they achieved.  As we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, we give thanks for his victory and the difference it makes for us today.

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