We haven’t gathered to glory in war, but to celebrate those who went out to fight, not just for their country, Australia, but for a world threatened by evil powers.
We have gathered to acknowledge that many died in the conflict and that many who returned were physically and emotionally scarred for life. We are here to affirm our comfort and support for their loved ones and friends.
The events of September 11 2001 have served as a sobering reminder that radical groups and nations are still ready to perpetrate acts of violence in their drive to force others into submission. We cannot understand the mentality that is committed to suicide for a cause and that deliberately targets non-combatants.
But the challenge of recent events should also lead us to re-evaluate our society. September 11 was a direct and pointed challenge to our way of life, and we do well to reflect deeply on where we are going.
Australia today is a very different country from the one whose freedom our service personnel sought to protect. It is not simply that we have better roads and cars. It is not just our sophisticated media which now includes colour television - and is moving digital. It is not just the increasing use of computers in most aspects of our life - and the ever-present call of the Internet. It is not just the latest developments in medicine and surgery... In so many areas of life, there has been good positive progress which has enhanced and enriched our lives.
On the other hand, our society has become more selfish, more violent. Our moral standards have slipped. We have trouble keeping marriages together. We pretend that a whole range of "relationships" are normal, and hardly "bat an eyelid" at the high rate of relationship breakdown. Our Aussie service personnel gave themselves to keep Australia free. As we honour their memory and comfort their loved ones, let’s be alert to any false directions in our society and commit ourselves to make Australia a better nation and to make the Burdekin a strong and healthy place to live.
As we comfort their loved ones, we recall the words, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15.13). Those words were spoken by Jesus Christ not long before his crucifixion. That was a sacrifice given to bring us forgiveness and to transform our lives and our society.
As Jesus had approached Jerusalem less than a week before, he was saddened and said, "If you, even you had known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes..." (Lk. 19.42). We hear him say to his friends, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you, I do not give it to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be araid" (Jn 14.27).
There was no armed conflict at the time. It would be another forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the crushing of national Jewish aspirations. It would be over eighteen hundred years before they would again become a nation with a homeland.
However, has Jerusalem has yet learnt the things that make for peace? And is Australia and our world now sowing seeds of destruction that will come to maturity some forty years hence? We need to learn what would bring peace. We need to welcome again the one who is rightly called the Prince of Peace. We need to receive his peace and to work it out in our society and our world.
"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Let’s not waste the costly peace for which our fellow Aussies lived and worked and fought and died. Let’s commit ourselves afresh to a strong positive faith in God and to practical unselfish action to bring peace in our time.
Eternal Lord, yours was a love that was poured out for the whole human race. We thank you for those who answered the call of country and risked their lives for the sake of the freedoms we enjoy. Grant comfort to loved ones who still bear their loss. Enable us to know what brings peace and to put our trust in the one who gave his life for us all. Grant wisdom to peace-makers and lasting peace in our time. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
© Peter J. Blackburn, Home Hill, Anzac Day, 2002