Sunday, November 8, 2009

Remembrance Day Service - 2009


Ephesians 6:10-20 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Christianity has a long history. We may not be familiar with church history over the last 1900 years but we know the stories from the life of Jesus. We know the older Hebrew stories. When I say King David, what stories come to mind? Throughout the Scriptures are admonitions to remember. The Jewish feasts and celebrations were all about remembering key events from the past. We are called to make markers in our life so when we are going through rough times we can look at something tangible and be reminded of God’s faithfulness, even when our emotions are going haywire.

Today we want to remember our Canadian heritage around the world. Canada’s military has pursued peacekeeping activities and defended freedom internationally for a long time. Do we remember what the Canadians accomplished in wars gone by? What about WW2?

At the start of WW2 an agreement had been announced for a British Commonwealth Air Training Plan to be centered in Canada. This project alone trained more than 131,000 aircrew personnel for the Commonwealth. Canada contributed 72,800 pilots, navigators, aerial gunners and bombardiers, and flight engineers. These Canadians saw service in almost every theatre of war.

The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War. By the end of 1943 Canadian formations in the UK consisted of three infantry divisions, two armoured divisions, and two independent armoured brigades.
Canadians were instrumental in the capture of Caen in 1944. They also won another major victory in the closing of the Falaise gap later the same summer. In the costly and difficult battle of the Scheldt estuary that autumn, the Canadians cleared the sea passage to Antwerp, already in Allied hands. In the bitter battle along the Hochwald Ridge in February 1945, Canadian losses were extremely heavy. This battle opened the final attack across the Rhine, which was a prelude to the unconditional surrender by Germany on May 7, 1945. A part of the army had been instrumental in Sicily and Italy before joining the rest of the Canadian army in north west Europe.

The reality of war is filled with violence and pain and death. But the heart of WW2 was a struggle for freedom. Freedom from oppression. Freedom from fear. Freedom to make choices in life. Freedom to live and to love. Isn’t that something worth fighting for, worth dying for? Many of us have relatives involved in the armed forces. My grandfather was drafted in WW1 but never got off Canadian soil before the war ended.

Many of our soldiers who fought did not return, and we remember them today. We remember that our freedom was bought at great cost, by those who paid the ultimate price. And they did not die in vain, for we all share in the freedom they brought us. The Global Symposium of Peaceful Nations recently named Canada as the most peaceful country in the North and Central America and Caribbean region and put it eighth place worldwide on its global peace index. Canadian ambassador Gary Doer accepted the award at the symposium in Washington last Sunday.

We look around today and we still have wars and rumours of war. Our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters are serving in Afghanistan and other places around the globe. Violence and death reigns in some of those places, but our soldiers go to bring Hope to the vulnerable; Help to the powerless. As I read testimonies and letters of soldiers from the past, they talk about their service in that currency of Hope; Hope that they would make a difference; Hope that because they are there in those places freedom may come.

Many of those soldiers had a faith they took with them. It wasn’t a faith based on an institution, but faith based on a relationship with a God of Hope. Jesus’ words recorded in the Gospel of John says that “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed!” So we remember those soldiers who have died in the pursuit of freedom. We remember the price that was paid for our freedom. Know this, though, that there is a place inside each of us that no enemy can touch. No one can put bonds or shackles or imprison that place. It is that place where the breathing part of us resides; the part of us distinct from these fleshy bodies;  the part of us that gives power and reason to these physical bodies; and at the core of that place resides a connection to the eternal. It is in that place that we can meet the Creator, the One that made us with a Purpose. Jesus said that He came that we might have life, life abundant. In the midst of war or peace, you can have a hope of the eternal - Jesus Himself said what is arguably the most well-known verse in the Bible - For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not die spiritually, but have eternal life.

So we remember and we pray God’s blessings on those gone before us, and for an enduring Hope in our own lives, on this Day of Remembrance.

That is the words I shared with the legion and residents of 2 seniors facilities this past week. There is hope. For you and I, though, the call goes beyond hope. You and I are on the front lines of another battle. We are called to become more like Jesus as we mature in the faith - what is at the heart of Jesus' finished work on the cross? To overcome and destroy the work of Satan. He fought a spiritual warfare that dogged Him his whole life. From Herod trying to kill Him as a baby to Pilate allowing Him to be crucified, He was constantly involved in a spiritual war. We can’t even try to understand it as just a mental or spiritual conflict, for Jesus died in that conflict. It affects our physical world. So the call for us today is to speak, “Peace” and “Hope” to those around us, but it is also to roll up our sleeves and step forward ourselves to the front lines. The enemy is coming against us to take captives, to destroy. Who will stop them? A prophet of old speaking the words of God said, “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” There is a gap in our world today. The forces of hell array against us in this church, in this city, in this nation, and around the world. And the challenge is for you and I to step up and offer our services to the King of Kings. Soulchat.ca is now happening. Your Best You small group is on and another conference is slated for the last week in January downtown at the Bridge On 20TH. Christmas is coming. There are many other opportunities to engage the enemy. Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, cinch up the armour of God and in pray, let us go out and stand in that gap.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their faith in Jesus. Their hope in God and their trust in His Word carry them through their daily battles. “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 119:114.

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