We held our ANZAC Day service at school this morning and at the end I was called on to close the service with a prayer. This is the transcript of what I said:
At 5:30 on ANZAC Day morning I woke my kids up and took them to the dawn service at the war memorial, opposite the cinema. I was pleasantly surprised when we got there to find a huge crowd gathered in the the darkness, in silence, awaiting the trumpet and the sacred ode that we too have just heard.
What makes 1000 people get out of bed on a dark chilly morning and come together in that way? They came to honour and pay tribute to the men who died at Gallipoli nearly 100 years ago, and all those who have since made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation and our freedom.
There's a verse in the Bible in which Jesus declares the value of such sacrifice: "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends".
Just as he himself did at Easter at his death by crucifixion, Australian and New Zealand service men and women died in order that we might live in safety and freedom.
God we marvel at the sacrifice of others on our behalf.
We honour the memory of those who have fallen and died in war and give thanks for their lives, cut short so others may live.
God cause us to be grateful on more than just this one special day but rather may we take to heart the meaning and significance of ANZAC Day throughout the year and may it influence our lives, our decisions and our actions every day.
God may we be willing to lay aside our selfishness and put the needs of others before our own.
May the country we live in and the nation we build in this generation truly honour the memory and the sacrifice of those who fought and died to make it possible.
And we pray for the safety and protection of those who are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan in the on-going struggle for freedom and peace.
God please hear our prayers
Immediately the service ended I had to hurry to get to the funeral of the young man who died last week. It was a tragic and heart-breaking service with many many young people joined together in their grief and mourning. His Dad, Mum and Grandma all spoke and each was overcome with their sadness and despair. It was one of the saddest funerals I've ever been to.
The contrast between these two commemorative events is striking: one was a reflection of the pride and gratitude a nation holds for those who gave up their lives and died young defending freedom, the other was a sad, almost pitiful farewell of a young man who had lost hope and given up on life.