Memory is one of the primary handles we have to the roots of our faith. All people of faith have immediate experiences of transcendence but even those experiences are built on the foundation of memory. Memory keeps the significance of past events relevant and meaningful for the present.
On Remembrance Day the country we live in asks us to remember the sacrifice of soldiers who died and are dying in battle. You may have family members who died in Europe, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq.
As a peace church, we also remember the service of conscientious objectors to war. I remember my father-in-law who served as a cook in a mining camp during WW2. Perhaps you may remember relatives who were escaping the horrors of war in Eastern Europe, or some who were not able to escape. We also remember Christian peacemakers such as Tom Fox, who died in the line of duty. He was serving in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams during the Iraq war and was captured along with three other peacemakers.
The most foundational memory for the church is the remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We remember the Christ-event. Our living memory of this event is indeed a subversive act of peacemaking. The passion of Christ upset what is often seen as the ultimate last resort of conflicted human relationships—the myth of redemptive violence. Throughout our culture, from entertainment to government, we are bombarded with words and images that “might makes right.” But in Christ, the threat of death and violence no longer have the ultimate power. Jesus’ death and resurrection destroys the effectiveness of killing and war. Love and Life are the most powerful weapons in the world. They are the weapons of the church. This is how the church works to build a community of peace around the world.
“Armistice Day” was the original name given to a national holiday in 1919 to remember the First World War as the “war to end all wars.” The sad irony is that Jesus already fought the “war to end all wars” two thousand years ago. Armistice Day was when Jesus died. On Remembrance Day we remember the horrors of war and the millions of men and women who have died, but let us also remember the sacrifice of Christ. “Lest we forget…” [and thus repeat the horrors of the wars of history] goes the familiar line.
As we remember the peacemaking work of Christ we are grateful and also motivated to participate in the ongoing work of peace in our homes, communities and our world. “To remember is to work for peace.” Jesus showed us that war does not have to be the way to resolve differences or promote human values. Only the way of peace leads to peace.
What are you remembering today? Recent events in our community or country? Loved ones who who have died? A person or situation that needs God’s peace? What are you remembering? I invite you to light a candle of remembrance and pray for peace for that person or situation in our community and our world.
Jesus Christ who was born into a world of violence with the announcement: Peace on earth!
Jesus Christ whose way of peace and love so infuriated the powers of the day that they killed him with a violent death upon the cross.
Jesus Christ who had all the power of God to resist violently yet chose to give his life rather than take life.
The resurrection of Jesus that disarms the power of death and proclaims the power of love.
The example of Jesus and we pledge ourselves to follow in the way of peace.
[This was presented as an opening meditation at our college “all team meeting” this week]