Saturday, November 24, 2007

Until we Stop Remembering

How good are you at remembering? Our culture runs well when appointments, obligations and responsibilities are remembered, but collapses, one piece at a time, when these utterly important errands are forgotten. Every year Canadians have a holiday weekend in November called “Remembrance Day”, an annual chance to remember those men and women who died, are dying or will die for our freedom. In four months, we will remember another death with another national holiday. Whether you consider Good Friday more or less important than November 11th, humankind has considered this death, that of Jesus Christ, one of the most important in history. Though this comparison can break down easily, and may be seen as sacrilegious, I would argue that the sacrifices our soldiers make for us can be viewed in a similar light as the death of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Last December, I enjoyed a beer while talking with a dear friend of mine who may be asked, someday, to fight for his country in Afghanistan as the captain of a CH-146 Griffon helicopter. As we talked, he told me about the things he loves about flying, the other captains, commanders or Lieutenants he works with, and the changes he has seen since moving to Edmonton three years ago. Currently, Steve continues taking steps foreword in his training, being involved in search and rescue missions, flying in and through canyons in the Rockies and strapping himself in for simulated missions at the CFB Namao air base, just outside of Edmonton.
In the BBC documentary “Why We Fight?” (© 2005 Charlotte Street Films, Ltd.) Eugene Jarecki gives many reasons why soldiers may choose to fight for their country. Soldiers are famous for listing “freedom” as one of their reasons for fighting. They may have done it because their parents and grandparents had fought and it was expected that they would fight as well. In more recent years, “revenge” has become the reason why we fight. And of course, servicemen and women are paid well. My friend Steve has a heart of gold, a mind that would allow him to thrive at anything he wanted and a deep and sincere Christian faith. I also know that Steve loves adventure but, when I first heard about the adventure he had chosen, I was confused. “Can’t he find a different, safer adventure?” But when I asked him “Why he wanted to fly in the face of possible danger?” he simply said, “I want to. I don’t want to be a transporter (flying for an airline) I want to FLY.”
How many soldiers who decided to fight in Afghanistan knew they would die for our freedom and therefore for us? Though he did not fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, the west bank or in any of the other 30 wars currently being fought on this planet, Jesus did. And because of this, He was one of the best freedom fighters the world has ever known. Whether it was through His righteous anger as he cleared the temple (Matthew 21:12-17), his defiance against the ‘teachers’ of his day (numerous sightings), or the way he defended His fellow outcasts, Jesus fought for what was right (Luke 4:18-19). Before He was born, His death was predetermined by His Father, and He was determined to make every day of it count for the Glory of His God. Because of these actions, he inspired Paul to write:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
These words were written almost 2,000 years ago and I know that Steve believes them. But the fact that we do not need to fight with our hands to make a difference still remains a hard lesson for the world to learn. Whether our wars are large or small, we often conclude that “just one more war is necessary to teach ____ that my way is right.” Humanity does not remember the importance of each individual life well enough to stop killing it. If we did, we would stop the blood bath and then, we may be able to stop remembering. Until then, we will always need this annual day.
We often remember little, unimportant facts: sports stats, gas prices and math statistics. Steve remembers these things. But he also remembers other, more important numbers like, birthdays, e-mail addresses and favorite Bible passages. He is an example of a person who remembers the finer things in life: coming home for Christmas, watching a good hockey game, and walking and riding miles with his brother, sister and friends.
Several years ago, I bought a Christmas card that shows a Christmas tree on the front. As I opened its many folds, I found that the tree’s branches slowly disappear to reveal a cross. As we enter into the Christmas season, the fact that Jesus, “the freedom fighter”, was born to die is one more thing worth remembering. Steve remembers this!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words!”
Galatians 5:1-2

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