This coming Sunday is a key date in the church’s diary: Remembrance Sunday. We will take time during our morning service to stop and be quiet, to remember those who gave their lives for freedom and peace. Christians do disagree about whether war is valid and justified as a follower of Jesus, but I think everyone can acknowledge the sacrifice that so many gave in different ways through different wars.
The reason we need a Remembrance Sunday is because we, as human beings, have a surprising capacity to forget. You might think it impossible to forget the events of two world wars (and many other wars besides). Yet it is indeed possible for the horror and heroism to fade in our memories. As those events become further distant in time, the danger of forgetfulness becomes all the more real.
‘Remembering’ is a key theme throughout the story of God’s people in the Bible. Because we have such a capacity for forgetfulness, God’s people are told again and again to ‘remember the Lord’ (see Deuteronomy 8:18 for example). By ourselves, our forgetful minds drift away from the goodness and love of the Lord our God. We forget God and his ways. So God’s word calls us to remember again and again who God is and what he has done for us.
Sometimes it can be helpful to have a tangible reminder to remember God and his goodness. For God’s people in the Old Testament, when they wanted to remember what God had done for them in a place, they would often create an altar or a pile of stones as a physical reminder to bring these things back to mind. I have a cross in my study, not because it somehow makes that place holy, but because it draws me to remember again Jesus’ love and sacrifice for me. Can we create our own ‘piles of stones’ in our modern world to be reminded again in different ways to remember the Lord?
To prevent us from forgetting, churches across the land will have an act of remembrance as part of their Sunday gathering this week. It forces us to recall the human cost of war and the dreadful price of peace. I would suggest it also offers one more way for us to ‘remember the Lord’ again. The sacrifice of so many for the freedom of their country mirrors something of the sacrifice of Jesus for our freedom and peace. As we remember them, we can remember Christ too.
Also, as we force ourselves to remember those things we should never forget, we are reminded that God is the one who always remembers. He never forgets his love for his people. He never forgets his promises. He never forgets what he has said and what he will do. As we remember, ‘lest we forget’, we recall not only that we have such capacity for forgetfulness, but that we have a God who always remembers and never forgets his promise of peace.