A sermon on Anzac Day (From the archives April 2013)
Readings: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; John 13:31-35
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come. 34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
I wonder if you remember this song:
We are One in The Spirit,
We are One in The Lord. (x2)
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love,
By our Love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
We will work with each other,
We will work side by side. (x2)
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride.
We will walk with each other,
We will walk hand in hand. (x2)
And together we’ll spread the News
that God is in our land.
All praise to the Father from whom all things come…
copyright 1966 Peter Scholte
It was a great song. I’m not sure why songs written in the 1960s needed so many repeats! Maybe it was the 60s. People might have needed reminding of things. Who knows.
Ironically that song fell out of the book Living Praise because the owners withdrew the copyright. Not very loving – the new edition had a blank page with apologies instead of music.
So what has happened to the church after all these years?
So many times we sang this song from John 13.
So many sermons on this passage:
34 ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another? “Yeah right” is the classic kiwi approach!
WE DO GET IT RIGHT THOUGH
Today we remember those who gave their lives for their country – in whatever war you think of there have been terrible losses and sacrifice.
In the face of such devastation – many have shown the love of Christ in action in the face of terrible risk and threat.
- Like those who stuck up for the persecuted Jewish people – and hid them or rescued them.
- Those who refused to fight as pacifists – but served in amazing ways as peacemakers or medical staff
- Chaplains who were with their people on the front lines praying and ministering to the dying
- And many who nursed the wounded at great risk themselves. And the endless sacrifice of soldiers…
HOW NEW IS NEW?
What is new about this new commandment that Jesus gave?
Loving your neighbour wasn’t new – that was already in the Old Testament or Jewish Bible.
Listen and look again:
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
AS I HAVE LOVED YOU – is the key.
Love for Jesus was more than words – more than his teaching about love – but an action.
God so loved the world so much that he sent a text or telegram? I don’t think so.
God so Loved the world so much that he GAVE HIS ONLY SON. (John 3:16).
Jesus laid down his life for us. In fact, when he was preparing his followers for his death he said this (in the previous chapter in John):
23 Jesus replied, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.
27 ‘Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!’
You find that passage – especially verse 24 – on memorials and cenotaphs throughout the world (κενοτάφιον – empty tomb; kenos – “empty”, and taphos – tomb) – memorials that are empty because the people remembered are elsewhere – on Flanders field or some unknown place of terrible sadness and death.
…unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Paul says something very similar to husbands in Ephesians 5:
Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
Sacrifice! A great reminder!
So as we give thanks for those who have sacrificed today – let’s commit ourselves to really love each other as Jesus loves us!
- It’s a tall order!
- It is possible – by His grace and through the renewing power of the Holy Spirit!
- It is essential for Christian witness – people know we follow Jesus because of our love
- It is not PERFECTION – real love is honest, not pretentious, and knows how to say sorry and move on when things go wrong!
But – you may be thinking – “my life is too hard – this command is too hard”. You say to me, maybe – “you don’t know the people that I have to deal with” or “you don’t know my family, pastor!”
Let’s dig a little deeper into this passage before we go home today. Go back to verse 31 of John 13:
It begins with this innocuous line: 31 When he was gone, Jesus said…
And of course context is everything.
The “he” is Judas. And Jesus loved Judas – he was one of his team.
And prior to that in John 13 Jesus had washed their feet – despite the protestations of Peter.
What is coming – for Jesus – is a betrayal and a denial – a cruel trial, flogging, a crown of thorns and an agonizing crucifixion.
It’s from that cross that Jesus forgives his tormentors.
This Jesus – who will need tremendous courage and strength – is the one who says here:
33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer.
In fact some translations have “Little children” here…
It’s a tender address. No parables here – no mysteries and riddles to crack.
They knew they had to love their neighbour (Leviticus 19:18).
It probably figured that they had to love each other.
Listen to the whole passage preceding the commandment again:
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.33 ‘My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.
It would not feel like glorification for Jesus or his followers. It would feel like defeat.
Glorification is not about success, but obedience now in the short term – and reward in the long term.
We’re back to sacrifice are we not?
- Back to our soldiers who give up their lives for others.
- Heroes who rescue their friends on the battlefield.
One can understand the feelings of their comrades at this time.
There is a sense of enormous gratitude – when you are rescued, protected, or saved by someone. I’d like to know – we’d all like to know – that there is someone we can depend upon, someone who will defend us if we are attacked or in danger.
So too Jesus – who died for us. He saves us.
So too those tens of thousands of New Zealanders have given their lives in war or have served us and protected us. Love is shown in sacrifice.
We should remember them.
Speaker: Sean Cloete
Readings: John 13:31-35; Revelation 21:1-6
Good Morning everyone and welcome to Anzac Day Sunday.
This is the day that the Lord has made,We will rejoice and be glad in it.
If you are just visiting this morning you are all most welcome – and thanks for joining us.Thank you also to the residents and staff of the Freeling Holt Home for the wonderful Anzac Day display in the foyer.These folk are part of our Tuesday congregation.
God Bless them for doing this. Please have a look at this after the service – it’s well worth it. Tomorrow, is the 101st anniversary of the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey during WWI. I see many of you are wearing red poppies this morning – just like this one.The red poppy has become a symbol of war remembrance the world over.
People in many countries wear the poppy to remember those who died in war or who still serve. In many countries, the poppy is worn around Armistice Day the date when WW1 came to an end at the 11th Hour on the 11th Day of 11th Month 1918. But here in New Zealand they are more frequently seen around Anzac Day, 25 April.
The Red or Flanders Poppy has been linked with battlefield deaths since the time of the Great War. The Poppy was one of the first to grow and bloom in the mud and soil of Flanders.But it really depends who you speak to.
There are many who still believe that the uniqueness of the colour red of the Poppy has something to do with the amount of blood which was spilt on the Western Front during WW1.Please take time to remember those who fell on that terrible day in 1915.
When I look around the church this morning I see people who would have lived through and may even have served in WW2, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars.
There are also people who may have served or have family who served in New Zealand Peacekeeping forces in Malaysia, Indonesia, Kashmir, Yugoslavia, East Timor and the Soloman Islands.Also folks from further afield such as the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe, who have also lived through lengthy periods of conflict.
Please join with me as we acknowledge those brave few who made the ultimate sacrifice down through the centuries.
The Anzac spirit will live on in those who come after. And by that I mean all those who come after – and who make New Zealand and Australia their home.
So, in the words of the Ode – join with me please:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
We will remember them.
I remember the first time I went to an RSA – and being very new in NZ I really didn’t know what to expect. When 6pm rolled around, everyone got up and the Ode of Remembrance was recited by all present. At the end I said Amen – but nobody else did.I thought this very strange because we were acknowledging those people who had given the ultimate sacrifice – and therefore I viewed it as a prayer.
What we are really doing when we recite the Ode is remembering the fallen – as you might do at a funeral or a dedication.I have been to funerals before of fellow soldiers who had died in action.I always remember how incredibly sad these occasions were, as all of these men who died were young.When I got home I thought I would try and found out a bit more about the Ode.
I found out that it is taken from a poem called “For The Fallen” – and written by an Englishman named Robert Binyon.It was specifically composed in honour of the casualties of the British Expeditionary Force who fought and died on the Western Front during WW1. Over time only the words of a single verse of the poem have remained – and to this day that one verse remains as a tribute to all casualties of war, regardless of country.
You should have a copy of it in front of you – so when you go home find a quiet place and read it.It’s very moving.But if you ask me say the Amen at the end – because it just sounds right. Amen.
On a day such as this the words from Psalm 91 – which is sometimes called the Soldiers Psalm – come to mind.
Just listen to these words ……
Shall we pray?
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
If you make the Most High your dwelling refuge no harm will befall you and no disaster will come near your tent.
“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”
History shows us that ever since the dawn of time man has always been ready to go to war. War was always the easy way to do things.
Has the world ever been at peace – you may ask. Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history.
Estimates for the total number killed in wars since the beginning of recorded human history is approaching 1 billion people. Over 100 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century alone. So, it’s important this Anzac Day that we celebrate Life and not death.
War is not Glorious or Romantic. There is no Honour in War.The first casualty of war is Truth.Often those who are at war forget why they went to war in the first place.War is not worth even one life.
John F. Kennedy said that “Mankind must put an end to war, before war puts an end to Mankind”.
But Sean, you might say, where are you going with this – and how can we link War with our readings this morning – which are all about Love.
In John 13:3-35 Jesus says: A new commandment I give unto you: Love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.
It is really a new commandment – the only other commandments that existed at the time were those given to Moses by God. The 10 Commandments.
And in Revelation 21:6 John writes: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.
Jesus is all about Love and the water of life is the Holy Spirit – and the Holy Spirit is also all about Love. Although war is the last resort and will always be the last resort sometimes it is necessary.
- In the Defence of one’s country.
- In the Protection of one’s family.
- To Stand up to the forces of evil.
Edmund Burke – an Irish Statesman from the 18th Century summed it up like this:”The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Just like soldiers go off to war to fight against the forces of evil, so we as Christians go off to war every day to fight these same forces. But unlike the soldiers in a physical war who were able to see the opposing forces, we, as Christians fight that same fight. But we are fighting an unseen enemy and an enemy infinitely more powerful and terrible than anything we have seen in this world before. Please be aware that our adversary Satan does not play fair.
In 1 Peter 5:8 we read: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
War is the second best option – the best is Love.
We need to be aware of the horrors of war and the violence that surround us in this world – as a priority we need to remember the Love of Jesus.We are followers of Jesus Christ so we are not citizens of this world.
In John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.But now my kingdom is from another place.”
What we sometimes forget is that Jesus also made the ultimate sacrifice but He didn’t die for His mates or His country he died for all of mankind, so we can be saved and be able to share in Everlasting Life.
Someone asked me the other day why does God allow wars to happen? The answer is quite simple. God doesn’t allow wars to happen.
Ask yourself this question – who is the God of this Age?
In 2 Corinthians 4:4 we read: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The only reason God gets involved in wars is to protect those whom He loves.Satan does such a good job of deception that even the best of us can be fooled.
Timothy writes in 1 Tim 6:12: Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession.
Note that he uses the word fight. Sometimes we as Christians have to.
In the hymn we sang earlier Stand up, Stand up for Jesus – the writer highlights that we are in a battle. He writes:
Stand up, Stand up for Jesus ye soldiers of the cross –
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed.
And goes on to say….
Ye that are brave now serve Him against unnumbered foes;
Let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.
Put on the Gospel armour, each piece put on with prayer;
To those who vanquish evil a crown of life shall be;
They with the King of Glory shall reign eternally.
This is one of the most stirring hymns in all of Christendom.
But it has come with some challenges over the years. As a result of the images of Christian militarism in the hymn, some people object to the hymn, and some people do not stand to sing it.Some politically correct lobbyists around the world have seen it as too aggressive.
However, in Psalm 100 the Psalmist encourages us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Although the hymn Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus is only about 150 years old I bet that if the Israelites sung this hymn when they were fleeing from Egypt the Red Sea would have parted by itself. And any army who sings this song would be Unbeatable, Bullet-Proof and Indestructible.
Unbelievable isn’t it that this world can have such double standards – even when it comes to powerful hymns – such as this one.Which is really just about Love. The Love our God has for all of us – and the Love we have for Him.
Love is also a powerful weapon. After war Love is the only thing that can heal the wounds.It can infect sinners.It can soften even the hardest of hearts – it humbles the strongest of us. And it can strengthen the very weakest of us.
It can take a boy like David and make him a wise King.It can take a murderer like Saul and turn him into Paul – the greatest and most fearless of all Apostles. And it can work in all of you – and can make you what God wants you to be.
In John 3:16 – possibly the most well-known verse in the Bible – we read:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
If something is holding you back – just let go.Your life will never be the same again.
Try and attend an Anzac Day service tomorrow. It doesn’t have to be a Dawn Service. And say a prayer of thanks for all those who have made our life here in New Zealand easier.
In conclusion I would like to read for you the poem:
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Let us pray:
Lord, Please be with those who do not acknowledge You. Through your Holy Spirit please minister to us all. Have patience with us and please give us Your peace. Guide us we pray as we make our way in the world this week. In Jesus Name. Amen