Sacrifice, Freedom & The Act of Remembering
By Susan Dunk
Sunday November 11th is Remembrance Day for us here in Canada and for most of the commonwealth countries. (That’s right … we still have a sovereign, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.)
There is so much significance to this day and why it is called Remembrance Day. It used to be called “Armistice” after World War 1 and was recognized for the whole week. In Canada, the name was changed to Remembrance Day in 1930.
I think it’s unfortunate the week was reduced to a day. We would do well to halt the marketing of Christmas that starts at 12:01am on Nov 1st. Taking some time between the Candy & Chaos of Oct 31st until November 11th to pause and remember could be good …but I know that won’t happen because what would we ever do without marketers telling us what and how to celebrate next?!
Still, I dig the name change.
We are encouraged as Canadians to remember, collectively. Some gather at War memorials, children gather in schools, government buildings are closed, places of work stop on the 11th month on the 11th day at the 11th hour ; we all STOP for a moment of silence – to remember.
We wear poppies, a symbol of the flower that grows in flanders fields “between the crosses row by row”. We wear this small red flower with a pin, and we will prick ourselves with it several times as we move it from coat to coat. It reminds us to remember.
Why? Why the tradition? Why the symbols?
… because we are forgetful creatures.
Habitually, we are prone to think about ‘me first‘. Our default setting is selfishness, our modus operandi is to be turned inward. The habit and tradition of remembering others breaks into our well-formed habit of self centeredness.
As a Canadian I need this month, this day and this hour to practice remembrance. I am so far removed from the events that gave way to my freedom, it’s easy to forget, easy to take for granted and easy to become entitled. I can slip into the idea that I deserve the freedom that others fought for and won for me.
My great-great grandfather, pictured in this post, fought in World War I and my grandfather, who is no longer with us, piloted a fighter plane in World War II. He was shot down, captured by German soldiers and was imprisoned in a castle in Germany. He was only 17 yrs old when he joined the war and only 21 when he was imprisoned.
This week I think about him often. I wonder as the remaining veterans die – will we still be able to remember the war in the same way?
The further we get from the historical events that shape our present, the more focused we must become in our remembering.
There is another historical event that we are even further from. It marks time as we know it.
The incarnation, the sinless life, the sacrificial death and divine resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is the gospel, the historical truth claim to which my faith is anchored.
The good news of this event is that because of what was DONE on the cross for me, there is nothing left for me to DO to be saved. In the words of my Lord and saviour, “It is finished.”
Ironically, in order to remember this, Jesus imposes a DO in the life of the Christian who believes this. (Now hold onto your shirts you anti-doers and hear me …and Jesus … out)
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you; that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, This do, as often as you drink it in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:23
The ‘do’ our Lord is asking of us is a ‘do of remembrance’. It is a ‘do of reception’. A ‘do’ that is actually passive in its entirety.
Do this: Take this simple bread that is My body which was broken for you, done for you.
Do this: Take this simple cup the new covenant in my blood which was poured out for you, done for you.
Do this in remembrance of Me and in remembrance of all that has been done for you.
Jesus, Lord of all creation knows us and establishes this sacrament of remembrance because as we ‘do’ this act of remembering, eating and drinking, He is acting and doing by His Spirit to complete the work He began in us.
I remember the cost by which my freedom was won.
It was a great cost to Him, and I am the beneficiary of this freedom: I have been saved from eternal death. So I come weekly to “do this in remembrance of Him” and remembering Him sustains me.
On November 11th, I remember not just the gore of the war, although that is important because it speaks to the sacrifice, I remember the cost of the war. The cost to the soldiers, the cost to the families and the cost to the countries that supported them.
I also remember my freedom. My freedom came at a a great cost, not to me, but to those that came before me.
I am the beneficiary of the work of many others. I am grateful and I need to remember to stay grateful. The habit of remembering helps form my thankfulness. The habit of the Lord’s table does more than form my thankfulness – it literally forms my Christlikeness.
Thank you Veterans.
Thank you Father, Son and Spirit.