As we enter the season of Remembrance there is an extra level of poignance this year as we realise that it is 100 years since the end of World War 1.
A hundred years is long time and yet World War 1 still seems like recent history – near enough that we are connected in some way with it. It was only in 2009 that we lost Britain's last survivor of the First World War trenches, Harry Patch, known as 'The Last Tommy’. It is good that we remember, and it is good to pause in our busy lives to be thankful and to pray that such dreadful events do not happen again.
My own family has sad connections with World War 1. My husband’s great Uncle, Stephen Mepham, died in 1918 just a month before the war ended. He was just 18 years old and it’s heartbreaking to wonder what his life might have been like. Would he have married or had children? Would he have travelled or stayed all his life in Barry, Wales? A few years ago we were on holiday in France and visited his grave. It was very poignant to see your own surname on a grave in the middle of nowhere in France – a grave tended and kept beautifully by the locals, a grave of a young man who never really had chance to live; a young man who died in the defence of our freedom.
It's an interesting word, ‘freedom’, isn't it? As we look back at the wars of the past hundred years we might wonder whether all of them could be said to be a matter of fighting for freedom. But freedom can be a matter of contention. The interesting thing about freedom is that we don’t get to choose what other people do with theirs.
Jesus Christ bought freedom from religious law and freedom from our broken relationship with God when he was born, lived, died and rose again for us. It was the purpose of his earthly mission to bring us freedom from the things of life that drag us down, cause us pain and get in the way of our relationship with God. It's a freedom that gives hope to the persecuted in the hardest places to live on earth; a freedom that gives hope to millions of people in poverty; a freedom that gives hope to billions of people from all walks of life, in all nations on earth. It was a freedom bought for everyone, but it requires us to respond to the offer of freedom Jesus gives us by choosing to live a life of faith.
We all get to choose whether we accept Jesus' offer of freedom. But, as with all choices, we owe it to ourselves to know for sure what we are saying 'no' to if we choose not to accept the offer. We owe it to ourselves to find out what this freedom truly is before you dismiss it as not for you.
Finding out more is simple. We just need to be willing to put ourselves in the way of God and what he is doing. Try one of the churches here in Bishopstoke; talk to Christians you know; find out what they believe; chat to your friendly local vicar. There is no ‘hard sell’, no expectation of what you must believe, but we'll be open and happy to answer, or at least try to answer, even the toughest questions about faith!
Freedom brings responsibility. As Christians, we have a responsibility to live as Christ lived, seeing oppression and injustice, and fighting for the freedom of others. Our hard-won freedom isn’t passive but a dynamic call to live for the freedom of others. How you can help others who don’t have the freedom that we do? Can you petition on behalf of those who have no voice? At a time of remembering, let us also ask our heavenly Father how we can fight for freedom in some small way.
‘Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’ (1 John 3.18)