Remembrance

In social media there is a trend for moaning about trivial things. In the last few years, in recognition of our triviality in the west in comparison with the problems of the developing world, it has now become a new trend: when people post about a trivial irk of theirs they follow it up with the hashtag #firstworldproblems.

Here are a few of my favourite #firstworldproblems:
Help! No milk for my tea!
Just put the washing out and now it starts to rain.
Discovering that we have no bacon, when everyone in the house wants bacon and eggs for breakfast.

Triviality.

Another thing I think we’re pretty good at in modern western life is making ridiculous statements of over-exaggeration. Dave Gorman, in his comedy programme Modern Life is Good(ish), picked up on some of the most stupidly wild claims that are used in advertising. For example using the word “luxury” to describe ordinary everyday objects. Here are some “luxury” sponges!

And we’re all guilty of exaggeration. I think most of us came home from something with good clothes dirty or dishevelled, or something lost, and who never said, “My mum’s going to kill me!”?

Here are some others:
When you are a bit hungry: “I could literally eat a horse right now.” Really? Literally?
When someone does you a small favour: “You’re a lifesaver!”
Or for a minor act of kindness: “You’re a hero!”

Triviality and exaggeration have pared our vibrant and expressive English language down so that some of the best ways we have of expressing ourselves have lost all power and meaning. Carrying a person’s shopping for them is kind, but it’s hardly heroic. Mending someone’s printer is helpful, but it is hardly a life or death situation.

What does it really mean to be a hero?

One hundred years ago Captain Wilfred Wyatt was severely wounded in the Battle of Cambrai, when bullet splinters and pieces of his tank became embedded in his lung. Major Richard Cooper was also wounded in the same battle, and twice won the Military Cross for bravery. Captain Christopher Field won the Military Cross for rallying the crews of his destroyed tanks at the same battle. These are real heroes.

Thomas Murray was a rifleman serving with the 8th Army in north Africa. After the siege of Tobruk morale was very low in the allied forces in north Africa. Murray found himself a part of the Battle of El Alamein, seventy five years ago, and said, “I was hit in the leg when crawling back to the prepared position, and so was a spectator to what happened. All our trucks were burning and jeeps were being thrown in the air by the fire of these tanks as if a giant hand had tossed them into the air. The fire from these burning tanks was so fierce I could feel the skin being lifted from my face.” Also seventy five years ago, Ray Daves was in the US Navy, and survived the loss of the USS Yorktown, in the battle of Midway. Lesley Baker was in the RAF in 1942, taking part in commando raids in north Africa. Albert Godfrey was a Sergeant with the Royal Signals Corps, who served as a Wireless Operator with the ‘forgotten Army’ in Burma after Japanese invasion seventy five years ago. These are real heroes.

Gordon Wilson ran a draper’s shop in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. He and his daughter lay under rubble, where he held his daughter while she died, after an IRA bomb thirty ago. He gave an emotional television interview to the BBC only hours after the bombing in which he said, “I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge”. He publicly forgave those who had planted the bomb and said he would pray for them. That is a real hero.

According to the dictionary, a hero is “A man or woman distinguished by exceptional courage.” The Bible says this “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Today we have the privilege of honouring the courage of soldiers, sailors, and airmen, past and present who have laid down their lives not only for their friends, but for strangers too, for the cause of freedom and justice. We give thanks for them.

Thankfully, for the majority of us, there is not much opportunity in life to be heroes. We are unlikely to be conscripted into the armed forces or to find ourselves at the front line in a conflict situation. Yet still, the Bible exhorts the same for us as it does for our armed forces. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Loving isn’t easy. It doesn’t always come naturally. If it did, we wouldn’t need to be commanded to do it! Loving can be really difficult. Choosing to love can take all our strength and all our will power.

Doctor Who once said, “Love isn’t an emotion; love is a promise.” And that Christ loves us is a promise. When we know that we are loved, and that love will never end, will never fade, that we can do nothing that would cause that love to leave, how much easier is it then to give love. We can be secure in God’s love that never fails. And because we know this love, we can act on this love. Whilst for the majority of us we need not sacrifice our lives, we are still called to ‘lay down our lives for our friends’.

Be the hero. Be distinguished by exceptional courage:
Stand up for the oppressed, the marginalised, the forgotten.
Stand up for what is right and good in the face of evil.
Tell someone about that bully.
Campaign against slavery.
Speak out for those who have no voice.
Do what it takes to love as Christ has loved us.

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