Text: Romans 5:6-8
Proposition: The purpose of Remembrance is that it informs today of what we hope tomorrow will look like.
Remembrance Day is not just a national holiday but a global observance that is relevant for the world today. For some it might be just a day to remember history, to memorialize the participants of a war from a half century ago. But Iraq and Afghanistan have changed that, now Remembrance Day is a present tense event. It is a time to remember all who have served, the survivors and the ones who never came home. In Canada today there are 750,000 veterans, 250,000 with disability of some form. It’s been discovered that in any war psychiatric casualties outnumber deaths 3-1, meaning a soldier is three times as likely to become deranged as he is to be killed. This ratio was evident in both World Wars and the Korean War. In 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, once again psychiatric casualties prevailed at a ratio of 3-1. However, this ratio is expected to change, perhaps has already changed, as this next war ensues. It is expected that the ratio of psychiatric casualties to deaths will change from 3-1 to as high as 100-1.” (Shepherd) The incidence of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is not only being seen more frequently but so are the lasting effects of it… broken marriages, homeless veterans, ruined lives. War has a devastating cost. In Israel they take their graduating High School classes to the top of a craggy mountain called Masada and there they solemnly proclaim, ‘Never Again’. Never again a holocaust, never again will they be found defenceless. A nation that suffered from PTSD says to it’s youth, Never Again.
Is Remembrance Day for us a “Never Again” kind of declaration? Not a “never again will there be a war”, but rather “never again will the world be found defenceless against tyranny.” Two thousand years ago Jesus made this observation, “But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet.” (Mk13:7) Clearly “Never Again” is not yet. In Romans 5:7 Paul writes, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” I think when Paul uses this example he’s not thinking of a military kind of situation but rather the ‘man on the street’ kind of scenario. We will scarcely find a person who will be willing to lay down his life for a complete stranger, even though that stranger is a good person. In the military men and women do lay down their lives for others as their training has readied them to do. They go into harms way with a sense of duty, if necessary even the ultimate duty. In fact the word ‘righteous’ that Paul uses can also have the meaning innocent. The word ‘good’ can also have the connotation of worthy, upright or honorable. It is for the innocent and the honorable that soldiers fight, but to leave these comments here would almost be a glorification of war. The writer of the book of James says, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? (Jas 4:1) So though we wage war for the freedoms of our nations and the safety of our peoples there is also this other reason of self pleasure, perhaps the wealth, the power, the politics that are stained into the cause.
I think that Remembrance Day is not just about military campaigns and the peoples who have sacrificed their lives, it certainly includes civilians like those in the merchant marine. It includes others who in serving from a position of duty, like firemen, nurses and police officers, have given of themselves for the innocent and the upright. But perhaps the greatest purpose behind Remembrance Day is the call to remember that within each of us there is the capacity to do wrong and to harm others, to move for the purposes of self pleasure. You’ll remember that story about Yiehel Dinur, a Jewish man who survived the concentration camps who then came to testify at the trial of Adolf Eichmann. As Dinur walked down the aisle in the court room and saw for the first time in years the Eichmann that had imprisoned him, now himself a prisoner behind bullet proof glass for his protection, Dinur collapsed. As the judge asked him if he was overcome by the anger he had for his enemy, Dinur shook his head and said, “When I see him sitting there I just realized that he is no different than I.”
Perhaps Remembrance Day is an opportunity to caution ourselves against the foolishness of sin that resides in each of us. Paul says that scarcely will someone die for the innocent or righteous and perhaps for a good or upright person somebody might even dare to die. In other words we will lay down our lives only if the cause is worthy. It’s what Paul says next that rocks the boat. In Romans 5:8 he says, “But God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” When worthiness was not on the table, in fact it was the opposite of worthiness, the term sinners implies those who are against God, at enmity with Him… when we were not worthy in any sense of the word, Jesus Christ died for us. Is it possible that all our attempts at justice and compassion are really pictures of the compassion and justice that God exercised when He had His Son lay down His life for us. He paid the price of our sin that we would arrive at the real meaning of innocent and worthy.
Today we remember that there is nothing glorious about war other than when it is over. Today we remember those from us and those among us who pursued hope and faced fears and carried its scar that we might live as we are, even to the freedom of this Remembrance Day service.