Over the last week our schools, services and congregations will have honoured in a variety of ways the service of our armed forces past and present through ANZAC Day commemorations and marches. This year I attended two such events. Firstly, I had the privilege of sharing the longstanding service at Grace Lutheran College, Rothwell. In my twelve years as a staff member of the college I assisted with the preparation of these services, ensuring the ANZAC garden could hold all the honoured guests as well as the 1500 staff and students that form part of that community. As a parent of the college my sons were actively involved in the band and choir who supported the service and, in one year, my eldest son formed part of the catafalque party.
Sitting in the garden at Grace last Friday it brought back all of these memories, of the family members who have served and died and those who have returned but were greatly affected by the things they saw and did. It is also emphasised for me how our Lutheran communities continue to show Christian witness to the broader community. At Grace the attendance of former and current serving members of the armed forces has seen upwards of twenty or more men and women regularly attend each year. I had the privilege of sitting next to Mr Michael Dann from the Aircrew Association who had been attending these services for 27 years. The college also hosts each year Mr Jock Hunter and Mr Bob Konicanan who represent Rats of Tobruk Remembrance. The tradition is that following on from morning tea, the students spend time with the retired service men and women to share stories, questions and to honour each other. In this simple act we see head, heart and hands in action through service learning to give, receive and serve one another.
The second service was held on Sunday at my home congregation of St Peters, Indooroopilly. Also moving, this congregation-led service allowed those who attended to reflect as Christians on what we can do personally to impact peace in the world.
Pastor Paul Smith, Churchwide Bishop, reflects this year:
Every Anzac Day we try to strike the right balance in our commemorations. As we remember and give thanks for acts of courage and sacrifice in war, we also remember the lives tragically cut short, the horror and terror, the depravity, the destruction, the suffering and grief, and the damaged bodies and minds of survivors.
In our church’s 1987 Statement on War, our General Synod declared,
‘The church realises that in a conflict-ridden world, wars are initiated as a result of greed, rivalry, suspicion, lust for power, etc. Against such evils and their disastrous consequences, the church raises its warning and pleading voice. The church urges governments and warring factions to seek peace rather than war. It warns nations against violation of the principles of justice, so that the common good of all people may be secured.’ (DSTO Vol 1:H)
The primary focus of our annual Anzac Day memorials in New Zealand and Australia is to remember and give thanks for members of our Defence Forces, especially for those who have served their nation and died in the line of duty.
A secondary focus is to acknowledge the sacrifices and often the pain of families of those who have served in military campaigns. This includes those who have lost loved ones, as well as acknowledging the burdens of those who live with and care for people with experiences of war.
So, each year on 25 April, we remember. As we strive to strike that balance in our commemorations, we ask the Lord to keep us focused on what serves the common good of all the peoples of the world.
I leave you with his prayer, a prayer for Anzac Day Commemoration.
Risen Lord and King, Jesus Christ, you laid down your life so that we might live. We remember those who died serving in the armed forces of our nation. Preserve our nation in peace, and in times of war give your people strength and courage to defend the cause of justice even if it may cost us our lives. For you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
We pray for:
- Leaders faced with difficult decisions regarding national defence and the deployment of Defence Force personnel.
- Members of our Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces and their families, and the chaplains and other pastoral care workers who serve alongside them.
- An end to hostility in the many conflict zones around the world, including conflicts we tend not to hear about, and people working for justice and peace.
- For people affected by war and for people who come to their aid.
Right now, there is continuing media attention on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine between Russian and Ukrainian forces. In your praying for freedom from conflict and war, please remember the many conflicts and threats of conflict around the world including:
- Israel, Gaza and Lebanon
I thank you all that you continue to be communities of witness and service, sharing God’s love as a message of grace and peace.