November 11th – REMEMBERING

November is a month of remembering – the 5th of November every child remembers bonfire night; on the fourth Thursday of November every American remembers to give thanks for his country, his rich inheritance from the pilgrim fathers first Thanksgiving Day – but the 11th November is truly the big one!
I was brought up to remember that at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the nation stopped and remembered the dead of the World War for at that moment officially it came to an end. Later on both the World Wars and, later still, all the other lesser wars’ dead were included. I confess that I could never get too enthusiastic, although I could not have expressed my reluctance in words, that men who were killed in battle were somehow more honourable than any others. I felt that they had not become saints, martyrs and heroes just by their sudden deaths in the brutality and senselessness of war. Men used to say fatalistically ‘If a bullet has your name on it, it’ll get you’. I am more worried about the bullets addressed ‘To whom it may concern’!
I recall as a child, in the late 1920’s and early 30’s, the entire nation coming to a halt at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. The factory sirens shrieked, and there was silence. Trams and trucks stopped: men took off their hats and stood still wherever they were: women stood silent in shops and streets. For just a moment the entire nation switched off, to remember its dead. Well, that was the idea, and the one minute’s silence became the two minute’s silence, and then it became inconvenient on a working day, so it was shifted to the Sunday nearest to the 11th
I never found it easy: what to think about during the prolonged two minutes silence because my abiding memories came from my father’s accounts of his experiences in the trenches of Flanders. The mud, and blood, the rats and lice, the sheer hell of hundreds of thousands of men dying, mowed down or blown to bits for no explainable purpose. The Second World War at least had the monster Hitler to hate and destroy, but not all those who died were in it for that reason alone.
Perhaps the last Act of Remembrance is for all of us who survived the holocaust of war to acknowledge that all the good things we take so much for granted – our freedom, our national wealth and health, our system of justice and law enforcement, our education and development -are all the fruits of the sacrifice of a billion others who have gone before.
At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honour the Lord for the generations to come. Exodus 12: 41-42
A Prayer:
Above all our remembering, O Lord, help us to remember you, as you called us to do when you broke the bread and poured the wine.
Now read Exodus Chapter 12.

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