Today is Remembrance Sunday. It is a day when we remember those who gave their life in war for our freedom today. This year, in particular, is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and we commemorate and salute those who served in this battle from munitions workers to aircraft engineers, from fighter controllers to radar operators, the aircrew of the coastal and Bombers Commands, and of course, ‘The Few’, who sought to go ‘higher, faster and stronger’! This ‘band of brothers’ retains a unique place in our history because its members did not just inspire – they saved a generation. As ACM Sir Foxley-Norris put it in his poem ‘Fighter Pilot’:
‘he was a common unconsidered man, who for a moment of eternity, held the whole future of mankind in his two sweating hands – and did not let go.’
In honouring those who served in this Battle, even gratitude and the recognition of God’s miraculous intervention would not be sufficient. We need to be inspired – for the very reason that there is still a Battle in Britain today. On one hand we live in a culture characterised by short-term aims, easy options, instant access, a mentality that argues ‘what’s in it for me?’ On the other hand, there are many who stay the course, who commit and who are in something for more than what they can get out of it.
If we are honest, we might recognise that this is a battle which rages within each of us. In James we read, ‘what causes fights and quarrels among you? Do they not come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but do not get it; you kill and covet but cannot have what you want. Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’ We do not need to look beyond our families, let alone our wider community life and international relations, to find this struggle playing out; we know it for ourselves. But James concluded, ‘humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up!’ The challenge and invitation is there for us. So let us look to another ‘common, unconsidered man, who for a moment of eternity, held the future of mankind in his two sweating hands – and did not let go.’
The Cross of Christ, is the symbol of one who did not embrace self-interest but chose to do exactly the opposite, who is uniquely stepped into the breach on our behalf and who won the fight, healing the divisions within us and between us – and then beckons us to have new life of service. The question is, are we up for it? Have you sought the peace of Christ yourself? It is freely available. And are you prepared for the cost of service?
It was said of the Battle of Britain pilots that they were ‘ordinary men, who when the call came, rose to extraordinary heights.’ Perhaps the best way we can honour these men and countless other who gave their lives in service is to turn to Jesus – who knew the expectations and, ultimately, the cost of service. Let him resolve the tensions that may exist within you – and so find in him a source of inspiration and strength that will never let you down.