Fifteen years ago I hiked through the woods of Eastern Europe in what had once been the Eastern Front of World War 2. Although nature had reclaimed the battlefield, we could still see the foxholes and craters of a world once all too grisly. Along our path corroded shell casings stuck out of the ground, serving as a reminder that this peaceful forest still holds terrible secrets.
The passage of time smooths the sharp edges of history. Memories dim into the darkness of the past. Generations carry the lessons of time to the grave, lost forever to the future.
On Remembrance Day we say ‘Lest we forget’. It’s ironic to say ‘Lest we forget’ when so many who experienced the horrors of war wish they could forget. Yet those memories, the horrors of war, are the reason we must remember.
We must remember that war is a terrible evil, and yet necessary for freedom to live; that freedom so often comes at the cost of brave young men and women who willingly laid down their lives for people they would never meet. We must remember that the rights we so frequently take for granted are privileges entrusted to us by those brave few. We must remember, or risk succumbing to a tyranny that still wages war against liberty.
In the darkest days of both world wars, citizens were encouraged to grow victory gardens. They were symbols of hope that one day peace would reign over the world. Today I grow a garden of poppies, a remembrance garden, for the loved ones who risked everything for that peace.
We who have never known war must also remember. We must remember to say ‘thank-you’ to those who fought, and continue to fight for our freedom. We must remember that our society is the fruit of their sacrifice. We enjoy freedom today because of the generations who came before, laying that foundation with their very lives.
May the Lord forgive us when we become complacent and arrogant. May we never lose and overwhelming sense of gratitude for those who fight for our freedom. May we live as though our lives are investments in future generations; that one day they, too, may look back on our lives with the same gratitude and echo the phrase ‘Lest we forget’. Amen.