The following service was streamed live via Zoom on April 25th at 10:30am.
The entire text for the service is printed below for home use by those who are not ready to return to public gatherings or who are otherwise not able to be at church on the day. Even though the service is streamed live, those who are unable to participate online may use this material at any time for their private devotions. If ‘two or three’ are gathered with you, you may choose a ‘leader’ in order to use the responsive prayers and readings as you would in church.
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“Two armies that fight each other is like one large army that commits suicide.” (Henri Barbusse 1916)
CALL TO WORSHIP
Today, we recall those who,
in the tragedy of war,
gave their lives
on both sides of the front.
We remember those
who found rest
on the ridges of Gallipoli;
those who rest in the cemeteries of the great wars;
those who rest in the haze of desert and jungle;
those who rest in the depths of the seas.
We remember those who have fallen on land,
in the air and on the sea.
We remember each man, woman and child who has died.
Today, as we remember,
we ask God that our praise may be worthy of their sacrifice.
PRAYER OF INVOCATION
L: God of love, our hearts are full of memories as we gather today: memories of friends, family and comrades who served under arms in the great wars.
We come remembering those who fell in battle and those who offered their bodies, minds, hearts and spirit, believing they were fighting for a better world.
Lord of love, we ask that you would grace us with your presence, help us in our pain,
hear our prayers and look upon our thoughts this day.
R: Bless us, and bless those who gave the best of themselves for others: we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
For the church, the observance of ANZAC Day is an important opportunity to reflect on the notion of sacrifice, the example of which we have in Christ, and to pray for peace in our world. In commemorating ANZAC Day, we give thanks for those who have laid down their lives for us and to come alongside and pray for those who bear the costs of war, both physically and emotionally.
But also, here in a service of worship, in addition to the traditional remembrance service, we also must ask: Where is God in all this? What is the role of a follower of Jesus? Here we reflect upon our responsibility for the existence of war, which is grounded in human sinfulness.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
L: God our Father, we hold before you: those crippled or maimed in body as well as in spirit, those who suffer nightmares that years of peace cannot rub out, those who cannot or will not forgive.
L: God the Son, we hold before you those who use the young and old to wreak havoc and commit unthinkable crimes, those in a broken world confused by words of hatred and revenge.
R: Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
L: God the Spirit, we hold before you ourselves not only for our unloving acts, but when we have done nothing about the wrong all around us, and when our values have contributed to the urge to fight to protect what we have.
R: Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
L: We repent of all that we have done, and all we have not learnt from the past. We hope for grace to know ourselves forgiven, and to offer forgiveness to others. Amen.
R: Thanks be to God!
FROM OUR HISTORY – The Story of Jim Martin
His name was Pte James (Jim) Charles Martin. When news of the first Anzac landings were spread across the Australian papers, the recruiting depots were swamped with eager men ready to stand side by side with those already in action.
A father arrived home and sadly announced to his family that he had attempted to enlist in the A.I.F. only to be turned down as medically unfit. As he sat with his head in his hands he felt his son’s hand on his shoulder and heard the words, “Never mind Dad, I’ll go.”
His mother pleaded with him that he was too young. But Jim said that if they did not let him go he would join under another name. Armed with a letter of consent from his parents, young Jim Martin was the fittest man seen by the recruiting officer on the day he enlisted in April 1915 at Seymour in Victoria.
Jim Martin was allocated to the 1st Reinforcement of the newly formed 21st Bn (battalion) who went into extensive training at Broadmeadows and Seymour camps in Victoria.
On Embarkation Day, June 27th 1915, they went by train to the docks at Port Melbourne and boarded the troop ship Berrima. As the Berrima glided silently down the still waters of Port Phillip Bay, Jim Martin had time to reflect on his family, glancing occasionally at the streamer in his hand; the one he had caught from his mother as the ship pulled away from the quay. For many of the soldiers on board, the fading lights of Melbourne were to be their last sight of Australia.
The reinforcements landed in Egypt in late August and were immediately absorbed by the battalion. In the shadows of the pyramids the young soldier honed his fighting skills as the 21st Bn’s day of reckoning approached. On August 29, the battalion entrained for Alexandria. Awaiting them was their transport – the 12000 ton ship, Southland. The men of the 21st Bn were joined by mates, in all about 1600 men.
At 9.50 am on September 2nd , as the troops were mustering for the 10 am parade, a torpedo struck just forward of the ship’s bridge, tearing a hole 10 metres by 4 metres in the side. As there were insufficient lifeboats, many, including Jim Martin, were forced to jump overboard. He was to spend the next four hours in the choppy sea. On their pickup by the attending boats, young Jim Martin was dragged on deck but shunned away attention with the cry of, “I’m all right.” Of those on board, casualties were relatively light: 33 in total.
So as not to miss his landing at Gallipoli, Jim Martin never reported sick, but his exposure due to the dunking in the sea was taking its toll. Just before midnight on September 8, 1915, 21st Bn set foot on the stony beach known as Anzac Cove.
The next day the battalion occupied the line from Courtney’s Post to Wire Gully, a distance of around 400 metres and young Jim Martin settled into life in the trenches. In a letter home on October 4, Jim wrote, “Don’t worry about me, I am doing OK over here.”
These were brave words as the effect of the Southland incident, poor food and stress of Gallipoli, was running rife through young Jim’s body. On October 25, Jim Martin reported sick and was evacuated to the hospital ship, Glenart Castle, lying off Gallipoli, where he arrived about 5 pm. He settled down to get some sleep, but died suddenly of heart failure at 6.40 pm. The next day, October 26th , 1915, the body of Pte James Charles Martin slid from the platform beneath his country’s flag as his body was buried at sea, only 6 months after he had enlisted. In a letter to Jim’s mother, a member of his platoon wrote, “I am writing to you to express our great sorrow at your late bereavement. Jim was in the firing line with us and stuck to his post till the last like the brave lad that he was, and he made the greatest and noblest of sacrifices for his country. Sgt Coates speaks very highly of him and says he never had a man in his platoon who paid more attention to his duty.”
In February, 1916, Amelia Martin opened a box sent by General Headquarters. It contained her son’s personal effects: his ID disc, bible, notebook, letters, belt and the torn and battered streamer she threw to him on his departure.
So why was Jim Martin so special and why does his story deserve to be told? The fact is, Jim Martin was only 14 years of age when he died. He was our youngest Anzac.
FROM THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES – 2 Samuel 22:2-20
As you read this, you can imagine it was just the passage for the soldiers in the trenches about to ‘go over the top’; a reminder of the potent reinforcements that would be provided by an all-powerful and just God. But remember that the same sort of comfort – perhaps this very same passage – would have been offered to the men on the other side of the front, also.
2 And he said:
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
3 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation,
My stronghold and my refuge;
My Saviour, You save me from violence.
4 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.
5 “When the waves of death surrounded me,
The floods of ungodliness made me afraid.
6 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
7 In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried out to my God;
He heard my voice from His temple,
And my cry entered His ears.
8 “Then the earth shook and trembled;
The foundations of heaven quaked and were shaken,
Because He was angry.
9 Smoke went up from His nostrils,
And devouring fire from His mouth;
Coals were kindled by it.
10 He bowed the heavens also, and came down
With darkness under His feet.
11 He rode upon a cherub, and flew;
And He was seen upon the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness canopies around Him,
Dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
13 From the brightness before Him
Coals of fire were kindled.
14 “The Lord thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
15 He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.
16 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered,
At the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils.
17 “He sent from above, He took me,
He drew me out of many waters.
18 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
From those who hated me;
For they were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
But the Lord was my support.
20 He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.
A CONTEMPORARY WITNESS – “I’m Sorry”
Not having grown up in with the ANZAC tradition, I am on uncomfortable ground here, but not unfamiliar ground. About 30 years ago, I was asked by the local RSL where I lived to speak at the community’s ANZAC Day dawn service. Of the various groups of people I spoke of who deserved our remembrance on that day was that group of Australians who bore the greatest number of casualties in war; namely, our indigenous bothers and sisters who fought for their country in the war of colonisation waged by the English against the first Australians. Not surprisingly, my words got a noticeably cool reception, and I was never again asked to participate in any RSL function. Perhaps my sermon today will prompt the same result.
We are regularly reminded that glorification of war is not what today is about, which is a relief for me. Although I served in the U.S. Navy, I am decidedly anti-war. But this is not surprising; almost all of the returned servicemen I know are also firmly anti-war. One only has to be part of war to realise that it is probably the most totally stupid, wholly immoral practice ever devised by human beings. And I also think that, although it sometimes has seemed necessary to engage in war, it can never be acceptable to followers of Jesus.
Despite the attempts by some great minds, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas among them, to argue theological support for ‘just’ war, I am unmoved. Most wars in the last 2000 years could have been prevented simply by the followers of Jesus actually following him, and probably none of the conflicts would have occurred had members of all faiths followed the precepts of their own religions.
Although Christianity is, by a significant margin, the largest of the world’s religions, and hence most able to influence history, it is not alone in its prohibition of war. Buddhism is even more pacifist, and though Islam, the second largest religion, allows retaliation if attacked, the Koran specifies that fighting must stop the moment the attacker lays down arms, for killing is one of its three major sins. Hinduism, the third largest religion similarly prohibits aggression, and the Torah of Judaism famously conveys God’s commandment, “Thou shall not kill.” Unfortunately, people do not follow their religions, and have even used religion as their excuse to kill their fellow humans.
As I have related to you on more than one occasion, the essence of the way of Jesus is found in the so-called ‘Great Paradox’: he who would save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life with gain it.”
Every war of which I can think ensues from people trying either to hold on to what they have or get more of what they want, whether it be their way of life, their wealth, their loved ones, their liberty, their values or even their lives; rather than being willing to give them up, which Jesus taught was the secret of life in the Kingdom.
No war can be fought by those attempting to love their enemies, as Jesus suggested was a characteristic of those on the way to the Kingdom of God; and so every war is a testament to the sinfulness of human beings on both sides – full stop. It is never a case of the the good guys vs. the bad; rather, one group of sinners vs. another group of sinners.
Often in ANZAC Day services words are spoken that compare the sacrifice of military people in war to the sacrifice of Jesus. This is anathema to me, so you are not going to hear it today. There is no comparison there. If we are going to talk about Jesus’ sacrifice, it must be compared to our sacrifice; our willingness to give up that to which we hold dear. Why? Because the refusal of human beings to make sacrifices is what leads to the sacrifice of young lives in war.
Having said this, I must acknowledge that some situations, unfortunately, have required an armed response. Hitler’s Germany, for example, could not have been allowed to continue its rampage; so going to war was a case of choosing the least sinful option, but it was sinful nevertheless and, as such, should never evoke pride. Note the truth in this Ernest Hemmingway quotation:
“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”
All war is a sign of human moral failure, and so our first response to God must be to repent.
Again using WWII as an example; yes, Hitler had to be stopped, but Hitler’s path to power was opened up by the Allies’ shoddy treatment of Germany at the end of WWI. In the eagerness to punish the Axis nations instead of loving them and supporting them, the Allies sowed the seeds of the next, even larger conflict. Pick any conflict you like, and you can find, if you follow the historical trail back far enough, opportunities that would have made the two warring sides friends instead of enemies albeit for fearful and selfish, rather than faithful and loving, decisions.
In 1950, Life magazine published an article criticising the self-serving policies of the U.S. government in their dealings with Arab states in the Middle East, particularly the decision to support the Shaw of Iran, and it predicted that there would be trouble in the future as a result, and of course, the predictions came to pass in a horrifying reality. So whilst it has been possible to make all sorts of valid justifications for armed intervention in Iraq or Syria in the last few years, it is nevertheless true that it may well not have been necessary had there been more sensitive policies made during previous decades.
What I am saying is, that in war, there are no innocent participants. ‘But surely, it is necessary to step-up and stop evil aggressors before they harm innocent people,’ you may rightly say. Of course, but I do not believe there are many evil and aggressive people in the world that have to be stopped. Furthermore, if they are stopped early, they are not going to be much of a problem, because it is easy. In fact, such people have very little hope of spreading their evil, because they are overwhelmingly outnumbered, because most people are good.
Something like one to four percent of human beings are psychopaths, and most of them turn out to be relatively harmless, which means that 96 to 99 percent have the capacity for empathy and compassion. Very few people would choose to take up a gun and shoot someone they had never met, which is what soldiers do. Hitler was an evil person, but I have no doubt the vast majority of German soldiers were good people, no better or worse than you or me. In other words, evil cannot spread unless good people allow it; war cannot happen unless good people choose to support it. So why do they do it?
I have little doubt one of the candidates in the last U.S. presidential election is a truly evil person; really no better than Adolf Hitler. He clearly has a narcissistic personality disorder and is most likely a psychopath as well. How did he ever get any votes? Are there 75 million American voters who are also evil? Were the people who voted for Hitler evil? Of course not. But they are NOT blameless. Nor are we or our forbears who supported governments that exercised policies which disadvantaged other peoples to favour our own prosperity and security, that sowed seeds of dissatisfaction and enmity that created enemies when there had been none, that then sent soldiers into battle when those seeds sprouted and bloomed into conflict.
As a general rule I do not believe in sending people out of church feeling guilty, but today is an exception, because even if we have never directly been involved in making decisions that sent this country to war, (although I imagine more than a few of you supported the Howard government, even after it help start a war in Iraq), we each share a responsibility for maintaining a cultural set of values in this country that has led to war in the past, and will do so again if the culture remains one in which people fear losing what they have and continue to want more than they’ve got.
Today is a day when soldiers, sailors and aircrews, sent into battle by the good people of Australia and New Zealand, are remembered. Traditionally, we remember them with gratitude for the lives they risked and lost in order to protect our liberty and all those other things we value, and we certainly do so today, but surely our primary purpose on this day is to repent: to say sorry to those servicemen and women for asking them to pay the price for bad decisions of our governments, and to say sorry to God for our choices, values and actions, and those of our fellow human beings, which create the conditions for war.
At the beginning of the service I asked, Where is God in all this? He was there in Jesus, weeping over Jerusalem, and in Jesus, is here still weeping over a world struggling to find the narrow gate to freedom and life.
The closing words of the Bob Dylan song, “Blowing in the Wind” probably express Jesus’ despairing question this and every ANZAC Day: “When will they ever learn?”
PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Lord of all the ages, thank you that in times past, men and women stood for righteousness in the presence of evil. We thank you for those who gave their lives in the service of freedom:
for all who in battle suffered,
for all who were taken prisoner,
for all wounded in body, mind and spirit.
We thank you, too, for so many who gave so much in staying behind, all those who worked in factories, offices and on the land.
God of eternity, deliver us from the bonds of hatred against the enemy, give us the strength to discard the power of revenge. Help us make this world a better place, by the example of those who in time past defended freedom.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION
R: Lord, hear our prayer.
L: We pray for all who suffer from the effects of war; grant them your peace and healing strength; and for those who in sadness recall lives lost; grant them comfort in the hope of resurrection. Lord, hear us.
R: Lord, hear our prayer.
L: May we be inspired by the determination of those who have served in the fight for freedom, justice and peace. Lord, hear us.
R: Lord, hear our prayer.
L: Loving Father, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Give your Spirit of peace to all people and remove from them the spirit that makes for war, that all may live as members of your family. Lord, hear us.
R: Lord, hear our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.
PRAYER OF REMEMBRANCE
L: God of Eternity, before you generations fall and rise, may you have mercy upon our foolishness and carelessness. We remember the courage and patriotism of men and women who resisted evil and defended freedom.
R: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
L: Help us to hold dear the freedom that was won, may we use it wisely
so that many may live together in harmony
with confidence and hope.
R: At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
L: We will remember them.
R: In Jesus name. Amen.
L: Lest we forget
R: Lest we forget
PRAYER FOR PEACE
In this troubled world we pray for peace. Sovereign Lord, prosper the work of those who preserve human rights, promote the pursuit of those who work for reconciliation and justice, direct us into the ways of understanding, reconciliation and respect.
Help us to see past the suffering of this broken world, grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm.
We remember those, who in times past, travelled away from home to face those who would oppress. May they never be required to do so again and, instead, may we learn to break down fear and ignorance, and build up peace, justice and freedom. We eagerly pray for peace, in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever. Amen.
THE DEDICATION OF THE OFFERING
THE SENDING OUT
As pilgrims of reconciliation on the way to the promised end, may the sailors and soldiers and aircrew of the great wars, who sacrificed so much for neighbours and for strangers, be a reminder of our role as instruments of Christ to ensure their sacrifice was not in vain, and no such sacrifices will be needed again.
Send us out into this dark world to be instruments of peace. For whoever we meet and wherever we go, may we be like a light house, in the name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.