A Rural Remembrance Day Service

Rural communities like their community gatherings and ceremonies. I reminded of this again this week as we had our community Remembrance Day Service. We had a couple of hundred people show up at our community hall on one of the coldest Remembrance Days “in the last 29 years” according to the news. People come to show their respects. One of the highlights is the wreath laying. All the children present are invited to take part in carrying up and placing the wreaths which individuals and companies and clubs have sponsored. And then the children are invited to lead in the reciting of In Flanders Fields. It’s a real community event. And I got to play my trumpet along with another trumpet and trombone as we played for a few of the hymns.10277900_10152779181402279_4259368773732011211_n

I’m also attaching my “Meditation”. It’s hard to know what to say at these services so I thought I’d let you know what I said. Feel free to use any or all of it next year if you need ideas.

“We Want Our Life to Matter”.

We all want our life to matter. We want our life to count in some way.

Maybe we wish we could be a famous inventor or build a more fuel efficient car. Maybe we want to make a difference in our community by volunteering and helping with the normal activities of our town. We want a relationship with someone, maybe a spouse, or a friend, – where they care about us and love us. We want to make a difference in our world somehow.

Young men and women dream of starting their own business or getting a Degree in Science and discovering the cure to cancer. High School grads leave home looking to make their way in life and to make a difference to someone in our world.

When a loved one dies, we grieve. We are sad. If they are older we are sad because they are gone – we miss them. If they are younger we grieve the fact that they were “taken too young – they were taken too soon.”

We understand that our life has an expiration date, but we expect and want that it should be when we get into our 90’s and older. Not when we are young.

Job 14:1-3 describes the shortness of human life.

 “How frail is humanity!
How short is life, how full of trouble!
 We blossom like a flower and then wither.
Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.

Most flowers have very short lives. The plant itself may last a little longer than the blossom, or might bloom again each year, yet the flower itself doesn’t often last very long. The Bible reminds us that our life is short.

When we come to Remembrance Day and we remember those who served and who died fighting for their country, we are reminded again of the frailty of life and how quickly it can end. And we should remember how young many of those were who gave their lives for our freedom.

Many, if not most of those who served and died in the early years would have been young. They wouldn’t have had a chance to get a University degree or start their own business. Most of those who served were single. They may have left girlfriends behind but most wouldn’t even have had a chance to start a family to pass their name onto.

Today, more and more soldiers who serve and lose their lives are family men, a little older, with children at home. So not only is that soldier gone – that family’s husband and father or wife and mother are gone.

In some ways, we might say that those who fought in the World Wars weren’t even old enough to make a difference in the world. Yet they did.

We tend to measure the success of one’s life based on how much money they made or how famous they were or if there are songs written about them. We might think the average 19 or 20 year old is just starting out on life and hasn’t really made a difference yet – but when we remember those who have died in the battlefield, we remind ourselves that it didn’t matter how young or how old they were – these men and women made a difference.

In John 15:13 Jesus says…

 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Those who have served and fought for Canada over the years have made a huge difference by giving their lives – for their families, their friends, and their country.

Jesus is talking about sacrificial love – and he knew what he was talking about as shortly after making these comments, Jesus was crucified on a cross.

He wasn’t killed for anything he had done wrong but because he was willing to pay the penalty – the death penalty – for the sin of all mankind. Those who died for their country – even in the last few weeks – stood in between the enemy and their country. They loved their country enough to give their lives.

It was a sacrifice – no doubt!

Many gave up the chance to get married or to have a family. Instead, they did what they could to stand in the way between the enemy and their loved ones back home.

Jesus Christ gave himself on the cross, standing between mankind and sin and the penalty of death that came with sin.

Jesus was willing to die so that we might enjoy life – eternal life. He was willing to die so that we could live. Those who have given their lives on the battlefield out of sacrificial love have done so so that we who are left behind can enjoy our life. They were willing to die so that we could live.

And isn’t it fitting that many of these graves of soldiers are marked with crosses. This reminds us that just as Jesus died on the cross for our life, these soldiers gave their lives for our life.

So today is a day to remember

  • -to remember young lives lost
  • -to remember sacrificial love
  • -and to remember that our continued freedom comes at the cost of other’s lives.

Today, we remember.

What do you say on Remembrance Day?

Since I am the only pastor in town, I get asked to speak at the community Remembrance Day Service every year. It’s hard to find what to say so that I will bring scripture to people and yet also connect with the theme of remembering the sacrifice of our veterans. So I thought I’d post my “sermon” and if you can use it our part of it when you get called on to speak at a Remembrance Day service, great!remembrance poppyh


What can one say on a day like today when one is not personally connected to what we are remembering?

I didn’t have any family members serve in the Great Wars – well maybe an uncle or two of my Moms whom I never met. In fact, I grew up in a tradition of pacifism. My Mennonite heritage included the idea that fighting was wrong. Most Mennonites were conscientious objectors, objecting to war.

So what do I say on a day like today?

I say “thank you”!

Thank you to the men and women who served and died. Thank you to those men and women who came back – scarred in so many ways. Thank you to those who are serving right now.

Today, we pause to say “thank you”.

Thank you for your willingness to put your life in danger in order to protect us at home.

In the Bible, in the Gospel of John, Jesus says in John 15: 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

My friend Kevin recently gave me this hat. He had just returned from Afghanistan where he was helping to train their police force. He is a member of the Canadian RCMP. He made a one year commitment to go and serve in this way.

Why am I saying this? Because when we come to Remembrance Day, we think of those who fought and gave their lives during the Great Wars. And then we think of others who fought and died in the wars since.

We think of those who have come home physically and emotionally damaged. We need to remember these as well.

Some are serving right now, in different parts of the world. Some in very dangerous situations. And some, like my friend Kevin, are serving by trying to help rebuild after the worst of the conflict has subsided.

He was willing to leave his family behind – he has a wife, two daughters, and a son. He was willing to leave them behind so he could – in some small way – help another country get back on its feet.

That says I love you.

Some of you have family who have served or given their lives. Some of you know people you care about who are serving right now. And some have been those waiting at home for their loved ones to return.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

How many of you have ever been told: “I love you?”

Of course you have! Sometimes people say “I love you.” They may write it on a card. They may say it in an email or a tweet. They may even write it in the sand or snow if they are really creative.

But love never means as much as when it is actually shown. You can tell if someone loves you by what they do, how they act, how they treat you. These actions may confirm what they have said to you, or even show their love when they haven’t yet had the boldness to tell you.

When women and men give their lives to serving in different conflicts around the world, they are showing their love. Their death by a bullet or an IED –or even a strategically placed mine – this says “I love you” to their country – to us! When men and women are injured or even maimed as a result of their service – that says “I love you”. And when my friend – and others like him – goes to Afghanistan as it is trying to recover after war in order to help them get back on their feet – that says, “I love you”.

And when the many families at home are willing to send their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and moms and dads to serve  – that says, “I love you.”

Sure, some may go for the adventure and with the hope of seeing the world, but they know that they could lose their lives. Others signed up because they felt they had to. And many of them did have adventure. They saw new countries and experienced things they would never have experienced without the war.

And many gave their lives.

Even those who came home alive gave up years of their lives. While others were at family gatherings and community social events, they were living in tents, dealing with hardships every day. While others were going on with their lives, they were putting theirs on hold.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus knows what he is talking about as he makes this statement. The Bible tells us that Jesus was killed, not for what he had done wrong as a sacrifice to pay for the sins of all those who put their faith in him. He gave His life for us. He knows all about saying “I love you” with his life.

…And so we remember.

We pause from our regular activities to remember and say thank you.

Thank you for loving your country – us – enough to be willing to risk your life, enough to even give your life.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Thank you to all the men and women who have served and who have given their lives for us.

Thank you – we remember.

Remembrance Prayer:

Our Father in heaven, we thank you today, for how you have made us. You have made us to want to protect our loved ones. You have made us with a desire to go out of our way to help the less fortunate.

And because of that, many Canadian women and men have served and are serving in different wars and conflicts on our behalf. Thank you for their sacrifice.

Thank you Jesus that you modelled what love is by dying on the cross for us. Thank you for your words that tell us that the greatest act of love is to give our lives for another. Thank you for the love that many have shown for us and our country.

God we thank you for our country. Thank you for the freedoms we have. We have the freedom to express ourselves and to meet together and to worship you. We are so blessed to be in a country like Canada.

Help us to remember those who have fought and died on our behalf. And help us to remember You.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen.