This past Sunday was Remembrance Day so before we began our regular service we held our own memorial service to remember those who served in the military from GBC and those who continue to serve. I trust it was a fitting ceremony to pay homage to those who served the cause of freedom and died for those unable to help themselves. I always find myself a bit melancholy as I remember, a bit in awe of the sacrifice they made and very, very grateful.
As in the past few years, there was a vocal minority of people this November seeking to replace the red poppy, symbolic of Remembrance Day, with a white poppy, supposedly to symbolize peace. Those who support this view see the red poppy as perpetuating a nostalgic culture of war and so should be replaced. But they, as many others over the past several decades who have tried to shift the focus of this important day, miss the point of what it means to remember. We remember not to glorify war but instead to pay tribute to those willing to die for something greater then self. We remember so that we don’t make the same mistakes of history that caused those to lose their lives. No, to wear a white poppy, or to shift the focus of Remembrance Day, is not only disrespectful to those who served and died it’s also a dangerous thing for society. For when we forget, we fall at risk of repeating the same mistakes with tragic consequences. That’s why the phrase ‘lest we forget’ is integral to the Remembrance Day experience.
There are a number of parallels for the church.
The act of remembrance in the life of the church is done through communion. Different churches do it different ways but we at GBC do it weekly through our Breaking of Bread service. We come together to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, His death specifically, paying the price for our sins thus allowing us to have right standing with God. But it’s more than that. When we remember, we remember His life, His ministry, His example and also the fact that the tomb is empty. Jesus rose from the dead, He sits at the right hand of His heavenly father and He is coming again. It’s a time of reflection, tinged with a degree of sadness but filled ultimately with hope- a hope of new life in heaven where there will be no more tears, suffering, death, disease, and yes, no more war. This is the ultimate message of peace from the ultimate messenger- the Prince of Peace.
As with the white poppy people, there are those who would seek to change, misuse or ignore the act of remembrance. Some, by worshipping the act, forget the purpose and miss the power, others by ignoring it and seeing it as not relevant then wonder why they drift in their relationship with God. Still others seek to redefine it to move beyond the act of remembering, as if the thought of a man hanging on a cross for our sins is somehow offensive. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying it needs to be done the way it’s always been done. I’m not that much of a traditionalist. The medium can, and often should, change but the message doesn’t. For when the message changes it’s no longer an act of remembrance but some politicized event that has lost its purpose. The act of communion, of remembering, is designed for us to draw closer to God, to worship Him, draw strength from Him and continue to run the race with endurance.
Yes, a lot of parallels to two important things in our lives. Both are conscious acts of remembrance, important not only for the past, but more importantly, to sustain us as we move forward. Let’s not forget!