Sam Schuurman is a Baptist chaplain in the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Every Anzac Day service in New Zealand includes the same two sentences. I suspect most of you have heard them before: 

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” 

These words are known as the Ode of Remembrance from the fourth stanza of the 1914 poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon. They’re a poignant moment – as most elements of an Anzac Day service are. Why? Because we’re reflecting on and remembering people who have served, fought, and often died in our world wars and conflicts since. And remembering people, particularly those who have died, is incredibly important. 

In fact, isn’t there a major world religion that has, arguably at its core, a regular service of remembrance around someone who died…? 

When I hear Ode of Remembrance on Anzac Day, I can’t help but be reminded of the words of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 11, repeated in verses 24 and 25: “do this, in remembrance of me”. As significant as they are, I would not for a moment see the sacrifices of our service people over the years to be on the same scale as the death of Christ. His death (and, of course, his resurrection) has relevance and effect beyond our ability to fully comprehend. 

But I think we can notice something in his words – clearly, Jesus knows our tendency toward forgetfulness! The Bible is replete with exhortations to “remember”. Forgetfulness, in fact, seems to be the fundamental disposition of humanity in our fallen state. And when we forget the gospel, we forget to exercise our faith. When we forget the gospel, we forget to fix our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith. When we forget to remember Christ at the communion table, we’re prone to make all our old mistakes again and again. 

I feel it’s important to remember the significant conflicts of our past so we don’t repeat our mistakes. As a movement of Baptist churches, we may have a plethora of views on the nature of war (pacifism, the ‘just war’ theory, etc). However, I think it’s still important that we all ‘remember’ on Anzac Day; that we remember the 2778 Kiwis and 8500 Australians who lost their lives on the shores of Gallipoli during the First World War; that we remember those who have served and died since; that we remember the current conflicts that still rage on today. 

But above all, we should remember that Jesus’ death and resurrection make all the difference and that he will be faithful to his word to return and finally bring God’s glorious reign to earth. We clearly need it! 

Photo: By Mike Crudge, Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance 

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