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This year ANZAC Day is very different. We didn’t hold dawn services with thousands of people standing quietly in the dark. There were no marches down the streets to thank all those who have served our country in times of war and in peace.
However, there were lots of people standing in their driveways at 6am this morning, holding a candle and if they could, playing The Last Post – calling us never to forget the sacrifice paid by the men and women of our defence forces so we can live in peace.
Most of us now have no recollection of the men and women who served in World War 1. We didn’t meet them, touch their faces, know their voice. The only evidence we have for them is the journals, scratchy photos, and worn artefacts. If we are lucky, we may have some medals passed down the generations that we can wear as a proud tribute.
But we have other evidence of these lives. We have our lifestyle, our values, our freedom – we have peace in a democratic country. We are free to express ourselves, to fight for causes, to stand for justice, to believe in whatever idea of God we wish, or not.
The irony of ANZAC Day is that as we get further from the events that triggered it in the first place, the more important it is becoming. The less we know about the individuals who fought for our sake, the more we value their achievements, even though we will never meet them, never touch their faces, never know their voice. And this year when we cannot do what we are used to doing, we have found new ways to acknowledge them.
This year we are in a different war – not a war with guns and tanks with a clear and present danger. This is a war against an invisible force that goes by the name of COVID-19. Like wars in the past, some nations have been hit harder than others. Some people are more at risk than others. We all pay a price.
So it is appropriate on this different ANZAC Day to give thanks for all those who are now fighting for our freedom, our way of life, our very existence, even though we will, for the most part, never meet them, never touch their faces, never know their voice.
The Bible passage often quoted on ANZAC Day comes from John’s Gospel. It’s very late in Jesus’ ministry and he is preparing his disciples for his imminent death. Jesus says, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It is a clear foreshadowing of Jesus’ death on the cross, which we have just commemorated at Easter. He acknowledges that his relationship with them is not one of master and slave, but of friends. The whole purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is to bring us back into friendship with a loving God so we might truly live in peace.
This year, as we stand in our driveways, like those waiting for loved ones who never came home from war, we hold our candles – light that cannot be overcome by the darkness, a light that offers a beacon of hope, a light that reminds us even when we are apart we are still a community, a light that speaks of sacrifice – on the cross and on the fields of war so we may have freedom and peace.
Lest we forget.
Revd Steve Terrell is College Chaplain at the Berwick Campus and is also Chaplain to 31 Battalion, Australian Army Cadets.
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