Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Remembrance Day Sermon - "Freedom is never free"

© Copyright Ben Robinson, 2011

I would like to spend a bit of time sharing my sermon points from Remembrance Sunday. My talk was given at our new contemporary worship service called 'Revival', which happens just after morning worship until whenever we finish. These are my notes, exactly as written, but please do feel free to post questions, queries, ideas, etc in the comments at the bottom.


·         “Freedom is never free” 

·         I would like to begin by reading a poem, written by a soldier returning from a tour of Duty in Afghanistan in 2008 called Sunset Vigil
      The news is spread far and wide

      Another comrade has sadly died

A sunset vigil upon the sand
As a soldier leaves this foreign land 
We stand alone, and yet as one

In the fading light of a setting sun

We've all gathered to say goodbye
To our fallen comrade who's set to fly 

The eulogy's read about their life

Sometimes with words from pals or wife
We all know when the CO's done
What kind of soldier they'd become 

The padre then calls us all to pray

The bugler has Last Post to play
The cannon roars and belches flame
We will recall, with pride, their name

A minute's silence stood in place

As tears roll down the hardest face
Deafening silence fills the air
With each of us in personal prayer 

Reveille sounds and the parade is done

The hero remembered, forgotten by none
They leave to start the journey back
In a coffin draped in the Union Jack

·         For the past 6 years on this day… Parades, CCF, Veterans in Dover Town – some of you may have been there, along with me, earlier today.

·         Why I wanted to do this talk… military connections and a real desire for us all, no matter who we are, to remember.

·         I think it’s only right that we spend one day, out of 365, remembering the sacrifices of those that have gone before us.

What are we remembering?

Soldiers and their sacrifices
      The lives that were laid down by soldiers in previous wars, remembering particularly today WW1 and WW2.

·         The on-going sacrifices of soldiers currently in theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan – many of us will know someone personally.

·         Those soldiers suffering with life-changing injuries or mental health problems – having to find a way to adapt and cope with this.

·         We remember here specifically, the members of our congregation past that have been involved in fighting and I would like to spend a moment reading out their names, and we will pray for them, with others, later in our service.

·         The Unknown soldiers – so many thousands of soldiers who have never been found or buried. For example – 8000/12000 at Tyn Cot in Belgium are unknown graves.

Families and friends
·         And the families and friends of all soldiers - past and present – those having to live with bereavement, or with people they know changed forever by the result of war.

War effects on our world
      And we remember the outcomes and effects of war on our world… I was horrified to find out that:

  • 3421 Years of recorded history – only 268 without war somewhere in our world.
  • Since WW2, only 26 days without war.
  • We remember and can quickly recall to mind various warzones around the world (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, The Congo, Somalia – to name just a few)
  • Almost every day, somewhere in our news, people are fighting and dying for causes that they believe in – it’s become almost normal for us? Yet for those people their whole lives; their family, homes, businesses and much more, are simply swallowed up by war
  • Perhaps we even now live in a world where the horrors of war are somehow lessened because of how frequently we here about them and by now being able to see images and film at any time, due to the various forms of media available to us.
  • Sometimes do we even belittle war? Do we see current wars as somehow less important or news-worthy than past world wars?
  • I often say to my family, and make no apologies for doing so, that I am disgusted when the deaths of British Forces in Afghanistan are mentioned only in passing in news broadcasts – put second to celebrity gossip or the latest X-Factor results (!).
  • I have been following the story of the war in Libya, and have been shocked by some of the reactions and throw-away comments by reporters, on what is such a devastating time for the people of Libya – as it is in so many other places in our world. This came home for me this week when I saw a program, amid the current turmoil, entitled “What about Libya’s treasures” – interested in the museums and heritage of Libya over her people (!).
  •  The effects of war on our world, and its people, have always been huge and continue to be, even in this modern era.

Freedoms – fought and died for.
      Above all – I think we are here today to remember, and appreciate the freedoms that have been claimed on our behalf by soldiers and their families

  • Freedoms that we so often take for granted – we have been able to come to worship today, express opinions and views, move freely, live peacefully and interact with any person we choose – for all of this, and much more – we should be thankful to a soldier.
  • Soldiers, amongst others, who have fought and died for our freedoms
  • …They fought and died for their freedoms and ours – but that freedom was never free, it came with the highest of costs.

So where do we, fit in this picture?

      All of us here today, whether Christians or not, are called to remember.

·         The Bible mentions remembrance/remembering more than 230 times

·         Every time we come to the Lord’s table for Communion we are called again to ‘remember’, God recognises the importance of remembering.

·         The Bible also reminds us and instructs us that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13) (NIV)

  • Of course, this is an insight from God about Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross – the ultimate selfless sacrifice.
  • But I also believe that this passage is speaking about men and women like our service-people that have laid down their lives for the causes they have been fighting for.

·         I would like to tell you two short stories about remembering – do we remember as these people do?

·         Matt Maupin (724th Transport Company, US Army) – stirred by the horrors of 9/11 and what he had seen on the TV, Matt enlisted. He was issued his size 12 boots and clothes to fit his 6’ 2”, 220 pound, body.

Matt was deployed and served in his company, until, after a routine patrol, he was listed as missing in action on the 9th April, 2004.

Matt’s family, particularly his parents Keith and Carolyn, remembered every day, in fact so tirelessly, that they set up campaigns and news broadcasts to keep the news of their missing son (along with 4 other soldiers) in the public mind.

They founded the famous Yellow Ribbon charity, which supports service-people by providing care packages and much needed luxuries to serving personnel. And throughout it all, they never stopped remembering.

On the 29th March 2008, Matt was found… but not alive as the family had hoped. What remained of Matt’s body was repatriated to the US and funeral preparations were made by the devastated family.
In this final act of public remembrance, the family held an open funeral for their son – Matt. All the arrangements were left to the attention of the director.

On the day of the funeral, having driven past the local church, Carolyn (Matt’s mother) asked the driver where he was going – he just answered “please trust me Madam”.

When the car stopped, Carolyn and the rest of the family were lead, not to a church or hall, but to a baseball stadium, filled to capacity and beyond with people coming together to remember and be thankful for the life and service that Matt laid down for his country.

On days like today, Matt’s family remember, as they do every day, the horrors of war, and I do have to wonder if the people in that stadium were affected to the point of wanting to remember more often? And I wonder if we are too? Do we take on the message of days like today as a reminder to remember? An affirming of our call and direction to remember those that have gone before us?

·         Secondly, I had the privilege to be a part of the Menin Gate, Last Post Ceremony on Friday… they have remembered every day since the Armistice was signed. The sacrifices of the soldiers that had fought for them have never been forgotten there and Friday was a sure sign that they haven’t forgotten yet, when several thousand people arrived at the gate for the ceremony, hummed infamous tunes and paid, yet again, their respects.

·         Do we remember?

Peace Making?
      So, we are called to remember – and we can also, all of us (whether Christian or not), be peacemakers.

·         Now - We may have different views as members of the church as to whether war is righteous or right:
  • We may believe that carrying a cross for God means vulnerability and pacifism – an example set by many Christians in warzones past and present, dating right back to pacifists in the Imperial British Army (Medics, etc)
  • Or we may feel we can be called to fight justly in a war, using weapons of evil for a greater good, for the development of the kingdom of God on earth. Such as Christian soldiers fighting against various forms of injustice.
  •  I hope you will agree that this isn’t the time or place to have that debate, but I do have some suggestions:
  • Firstly, if we do take up arms for a cause (or support those that do), we need to make sure we do so in sorrow, not anger or excitement.
  • And if we are victorious, whether through fighting or otherwise – our response shouldn’t be rejoicing, shouldn’t it instead be bitter regret that such losses were needed, and how costly that victory was?
  •  And most of all, shouldn't we remember that, although we may disagree on the processes involved, we are all striving for an ultimate goal of peace and God calls us, through scripture, to be peacemakers:
  • “They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they for war anymore” (Micah 4:3) (NIV)
  • Even in these times when war seems evermore bloody and costly, we should remember, especially on days like today – that there is no situation, warzone, fractured community or desolate landscape that cannot be transfigured into something beautiful for God.

Now peace isn’t an immediate thing – and it’s highly unlikely that we will walk out of the doors today, having prayed and sung, and the world will be a peaceful place all of a sudden.

  • But we are called to keep praying and praising’ because, in the words of a song by Casting Crowns (on screen): We should be praising God in the stormy times, lifting our hands in praise, because he stays the same, no matter what situations we personally or the world, find ourselves in – including war and its effects.

I attended a service at the Living Well Church – And we were encouraged to pray for the ‘impossible’ – the Bible tells us that through God all things are possible. 1 Kings 18 tells us that Elijah prays for rain, over and over again, in a cloudless sky and has so much trust in God, that it starts to rain after years of drought. Pray big - be adventurous and powerful with your prayers – because with God nothing is impossible:

"And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain.”  So Ahab went off to eat and drink, but Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees. “Go and look toward the sea,” he told his servant. And he went up and looked. “There is nothing there,” he said. Seven times Elijah said, “Go back." The seventh time the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” So Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel." ( NIV 1 Kings 18 41-45)
God is the ultimate and best peacemaker. We have our earthly means, which may include war, but it’s God’s peace that has the power to really change lives and situations for the better.


·         So today we remember – the sacrifices and the lives lost or torn apart by war.

·         We remember the families affected by bereavement

·         And as we leave today, may we go out with a sense of God’s peace in us and knowing that, even in some small way, we may be a peacemaker for our world and for the kingdom of God.

·         And most of all may we be grateful for the sacrifice of those who have laid down their lives for us and fought for our freedom. May we always remember that our freedom has never been free.

Prayer (and Psalm 46)

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,  the holy place where the Most High dwells.  God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. 
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;  the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease  to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.  
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."


  1. Clever weaving of military history with religious themes, well done a good balance achieved of 2 subject which may sit opposed to each other x