REMEMBRANCE – dying – that others may live in freedom
One of my churchwardens in my last parish produced an exhibition, borne of many hours of research, on the lives of the men on the Roll of Honour. His graphic design skills brought them vividly to life. There were photos; maps showing where they had lived; entries in the baptismal register and records from the school discipline book – they weren’t all angels! Alongside were records of the actions where they lost their lives and poignant photos.
Photos of proud men off to serve their country, often snapped shortly before they died. Articles from the parish magazine of the 20’s recorded the ‘gentle weeping’ as the names were read out at the annual Remembrance Day service.
At that point they were more than names. They were sons, daughters, husbands and fathers. No family was unaffected. There are 33 names on the WWI Roll of Honour at a time when the population of the village was about 600. The same surnames are repeated, perhaps more tragically when they appear again in the next war just over 20 years later.
We continue quite rightly to keep their names alive, for as someone once said, “Those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat its mistakes.” However, these men and women are much more than names on a board.
Even though all the WWI veterans are gone and the brave band from WW2 diminishes year by year; even though for young people these events fade into history rather than experience, they bring into focus a great truth of the Christian faith.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Even the hairs on your head are numbered.” He invites us to call God, Father. Those whose remains are unidentified have graves marked: A soldier known unto God. We, like them are known unto God. Known personally and valued infinitely. They died for their country and an ideal, fighting against tyranny. Jesus died for us, that the knowledge God has of us can become a lived experience of restored relationship, sins forgiven and new life.