2 Samuel 1: 19 – 27
How the mighty have fallen!
20 ‘Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
21 ‘Mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
may no showers fall on your terraced fields.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
25 ‘How the mighty have fallen in battle!
The weapons of war have perished!’
Remembrance is of course very important, lately perhaps more so as we remember not only those who have died but also those who have put themselves at risk to aid and help those in need. The text today is an abbreviated form of David’s lament when he hears both Saul and his son Johnathon have perished in battle with the Philistines. Despite his differences with Saul David loved them both dearly, their deaths becoming all the more poignant as David was celebrating a great victory of his own.
David composed this song to mark their deaths and just as importantly their lives. Down through the centuries warriors have been remembered in many ways.
In Malawi the two big churches in Zomba and Blantyre have several plaques remembering men and women who died there in one form or other of service. I do not recall however seeing the names of any Malawians on the Church walls. There is though in Zomba a large and rather attractive Memorial to the fallen of World War 1 originally called the King’s East African Rifles Memorial it is now quite rightly called the Malawi Battalion Memorial. On the several brass plaques required to list the nearly 2000 names of both Malawian and British (plus a few South African and Australian even an Indian or two) men and officers who died. They are divided by those who died in action or from wounds and those who died of disease from memory, about 2/3 t0 1/3.
British churches of course have any amount of plaques and plates commemorating those who died in years gone by in lands near and far.
It was in one such Church that a young boy many years ago, dragged along to the Sunday worship by his parents, soon became bored by rituals he did not understand, and so he started looking about him and noticed a huge marble tablet on a wall that carried a long list of men’s names. He started to read the names but wondered what the abbreviations like Pvt Cpl, Sgt, 2 Lt, Capt., and Maj meant. So he did what any child should do when confronted with the unknown and asked his mum. She looked at the tablet and not quite getting what her son was actually asking told him
“That plaque is to remember the men who died in the services over the years”.
This only served to encourage the boy’s curiosity as he then asked “Which service did they die in then, the Morning service or Evensong?”
Lord God our loving Father, may we remember with gratitude the sacrifice of those who bought our freedom, men and women in World Wars and other conflicts, but also your son who sacrificed his life that we might have life in abundance. For the fruits of their sacrifice we rejoice and praise you.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,