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Remembrance Day 2013, Ven (AVM) Raymond Pentland, Chaplain-in-Chief, RAF

 

REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY 2013

Worchester College Oxford

The Venerable Ray Pentland CB QHC

 

Isaiah 55: 1-5 – Hope for the future, and John 15: 12-17, Greater love

Introduction

There are few sounds more evocative than this, the of the chilling sound of a trench whistle breaking the silence that was the prelude to a generation of young men leaving their trenches,

going over the top and becoming engulfed in the storm of war, many of whom would never return

home.

 

Joolz Denby a British Poet asked to write some words for a new war memorial, penned the

Stanza

 

Read their names, and call them home

Chant the litany of remembrance.

 

And I believe that in a real sense that is what we are about today when we gather to Worship and

remember and to reflect, and as we do so I suggest that we are engaged in three activities,

first of all we commemorate the past, we consider the present and we make a

commitment for the future.

 

1. Commemorate the past

 

Tomorrow I will stand at the Cenotaph, that iconic symbol of our nations remembrance and

observe the 2 minutes silence at 1100 on the 11 day of the 11 month. A few days ago I had

the opportunity, to walk through the Field of remembrance at Westminster Abbey. It is all too

easy to think of the vast numbers of those who gave their lives in the wars that we might have

life. And yet as I walked through the gardens and stopped quietly to look at the small crosses

with their poppies and messages.

 

One simply said Granddad 1915, another a photograph of a young boy, John, aged 16 died Flanders, 1917.

 

Soon I passed by Names I recognised, Phil a young man in his 20’s, the message, – never

forgotten – love Mum and Dad.

It made no difference, Flanders fields or almost a hundred years later, a different land, a

different war, but still simply a soldier doing his duty, seeking to bring freedom to an oppressed

land, and so row upon row the names continued, from 99 years ago to 9 days ago.

 

Read their names and bring them home

Chant the litany of remembrance.

 

As I stood I was challenged to remember that though the names may be Legion, each one was

a unique individual, a son, a daughter, a husband a wife, a father, a mother, ordinary

everyday people, who in doing their duty gave their life that we might live. And as we

commemorate the past, as we read their names and call them home, let us remember them,

vibrant and full of life…,

 

And as we do so we give thanks to God for their sacrifice and for our freedom, and remember

that generation after generation has stood against the invasion of our homeland, and

fought against the evils of dictatorships or terrorism far from home.

 

And so as we pause to

 

Read their names and bring home

Chant the litany of remembrance.

 

2 Consider the Present

 

Part of remembrance is to consider our response to their sacrifice,

Remembrance must be more than an act of worship and some silence once a year. Indeed

for the members of our Armed Forces remembrance is not an annual event, but rather

a fact of everyday life.

 

To honour their sacrifice, is to live life to the full, It is to set high standards and work for a better

world. Those who have not been there cannot imagine

what is experienced on the front line, whether the trenches of the Somme or the hills of

Afghanistan, but perhaps a warrior from another generation captures something of their feelings.

 

Lt Gen Hal Moore in ‘We Were Soldiers Once and Young’ writes,

 

‘We went to war because it was our duty. That is

one kind of love. Another and far more

transcendent love came to us unbidden on the

battlefields as it does on every battlefield man

has ever fought. We discovered in that

depressing, hellish place, where death was our

constant companion, that we loved each other.

We killed for each other, we died for each other,

and we wept for each other. And in time we

came to love each other as brothers. In battle

our world shrank to the man on our left and the

man on our right and the enemy all around. We

held each other’s lives in our hands, and we

learned to share our fears, our hopes, our

dreams, as readily as we shared what little else

good came our way.’

 

They learned the gospel truth in the words of Jesus, that Greater love has

no one than to lay down his life for another. So,

 

Read their names and bring home

Chant the litany of remembrance

 

Sacrifice is not a word often heard today, but without it we would not be here. It is the sacrifice

of youth and potential that we remember. Experience informs us that sacrifice is a remedy

for selfishness and is an important part of maturity. We live in an age when we want

everything today – often without responsibility or cost, where the greatest achievement is to

become a celebrity of a few moments of infamy on X factor, and yet as we gather here there are

young men and women of our nation still serving

in danger, putting their lives on the line. There are many stories of heroism from our current

conflicts but one will suffice.

 

Corporal David Hayden of the Royal Air Force Regiment became the first airman to receive the

Military Cross. This is his story.

 

When one of his colleagues, Leading Aircraftsman Martin Beard, was fatally wounded,

Cpl Hayden was not prepared simply to give up on him. Against all odds he went out under

heavy fire and hoisted the injured man on to his shoulder and ran, upright, another 200 yards

across many obstacles to safety. Then he went onto rescue the rest of his section.

Cpl Hayden citation read that ‘he showed the most outstanding courage, selflessness and

personal example, risking his life repeatedly with absolute disregard for his own safety’. He said ‘I

am what the RAF has made me’ I was only doing my job –

This is an example of service and sacrifice in the finest traditions of our Armed Forces, but there is

more, for our scripture reading reminds us that  these are the words of Jesus, and that He put

His words into action by laying down his life that we might have a new and everlasting

relationship with God our heavenly Father and so this morning as we commemorate the past

and consider the present, let us take time to remember that we have a God who loves us and

who has a different and better purpose for us, and that part of our responsibility is to work

towards that very aim of a better world. Sacrifice, brings its own rewards, of giving rather than

getting, of loving rather than hating, and of caring rather than just not caring. Of standing up and

doing something, speaking up rather than just standing idly by and doing nothing. If we do sit

idly by then we betray those whose lives we commemorate today, as we read their names

and call them home do we honour them by making our world a better place? So what of our

 

3. Commitment to the future

 

We live in a world struggling with evils of terrorism in a way we have never known. The

Armed Forces of our nation are called to respond to situations in places previous

generations had forgotten existed.

 

Our reading from Isaiah 55 offers us both an invitation and a promise. The invitation is to

those who are thirsty and hungry, but not simply in the physical since, rather in the spiritual

sense – and I suggest that this is all of us – we all have a spiritual need, and here we are

invited to find the answers. The writer then offers us a promise. A promise of good things of

a better world, and I can’t imagine that any of us can’t want that, and scripture points us to the

answers and the fulfilment of that promise in Jesus himself, the same Jesus who laid down

his life, the promise that our spiritual needs will be met in Him and that a better world can and

will be ours if we accept the invitation to drink and eat in the kingdom of God. Hope for the

future is opened up, based on faith in the promises of God, and therefore a new and a

better world is not an idle dream -but a matter of faith and love and courage. It is not the

inevitable result of some supposed natural progress of the human race – it is the

consequence of our resolute determination in faith that evil shall not triumph. Today is an

opportunity to remember the sacrifices of those who lost their lives as a result war, to read their

names and bring them home. Since last remembrance Sunday 9 members of our Armed

Force died on duty in Afghanistan 9 families’ whose lives have been turned upside

down, 9 families for whom this remembrance Sunday

has a new meaning, and we the remember hundreds who have

experienced live changing injuries.

 

They may see it as their duty and service. We may not agree with the whys or even the how.

However this is part of the price of living in a democracy.

From the trenches of the Somme, to the Roar of Spitfires over our island home, from guarding

our coast to the battle of the Atlantic, from the beaches of Normandy to the South Atlantic,

from the flight of the Dambusters to Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq to Afghanistan, and many other places the men and women of our Royal Navy, Army and the Royal Air Force represent you and me.

 

We must never forget, and we should be give thanks for their commitment to our future.

 

For today is also about

The partners who grieve

The injured who suffer

The families who struggle

The veterans who remember

The aircrew who fly

The children who wait

The homeless who shiver

The seamen who sail

The unemployed who despair

The soldiers who fight

The disabled who strive

The heroes who serve.

Today we will pray for them,

Today we will remember them

 

Today we will

 

Read their names and call them home chant

the litany of remembrance