I arrived at about 5:15 in the am. The sub-branch president of the [RSL](http://www.rsl.org.au/) had invited me to come and speak to those who assembled to commemorate [ANZAC](http://www.awm.gov.au/commemoration/anzac/anzac_tradition.asp) day (It’s interesting how people talk about “celebrating” ANZAC day rather than “Commemorating” it. I think I’ll react to that a little in this post. Oh, for the internationals, you might want to click on the ANZAC link to get a feel for what I’m talking about)
I was a little surprised by the crowd. It’s pre-dawn, pouring rain & quite cool, yet gathered in the RSL are maybe 300 people who have come for the dawn service.
Sombreness, quiet, contemplative, respectful.
The names of the war dead from the region were read, and I was invited to speak. I spoke, only for a couple of minutes, about the statement “lest we forget,” noting how the drive and focus of our lives changes when we make sure to hold in our minds the sacrifices that have been made to secure the freedoms we might otherwise take for granted. Of course, this is a theme that reflects the ANZAC sacrifice, and even more-so that made by Christ on the cross, securing for us the freedom to call God our Father. It was a sedate (but I hope challenging) message, followed by a reading of “[The Ode of Remembrance”](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_of_Remembrance) and the end of the service.
I left almost straight after, having to rush home before heading out to a morning of church services.
My entry at 2pm was quite a different one!
I wasn’t even at the doors before I heard the excited yells. Having navigated the crowded entry way, the first room to the left was crowded with men (and women who were particularly game) surrounding a ring of ground, where a couple of men stood, tossing coins in the air, while everyone bet on the result. The great Australian gambling institution of “[two up](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-up),” legal only on this day, was being played. The rest of the pub was full of people having fun, drinking beer & watching footy!
At 2:45 I headed outside to the cenotaph where there was quiet for another service & I had the chance to speak again.
I’ll be honest, I had expected this experience, so I was prepared, ready to talk about how we make sense of these seemingly contradictory experiences.
I think a lot of people wonder how we have such a party atmosphere through so much of this day. Isn’t it a time for commemoration, for solemn consideration?
Yet in the celebration we see a reflection of what it was that so many ANZACS died for. In their loftier moments, maybe when they were being interviewed for a paper, they may have spoken of the greater virtues for which they fought, the grand philosophical ideals, but the truth, I think, is that most men fought to protect that basic, day to day freedoms that we all enjoy. It was for the chance to play some games with your mates & enjoy a cold beer, the chance to enjoy a barbie & chew the fat (literally and figuratively) that these men fought & died.
What they were about was not just the grand & majestic, but the whole of life!
Do we fail to apply this principle to our understanding of God?
Have we built a philosophical “ivory tower” with starched collars, organ music, brass crosses & uncomfortable pews, where a God of frowns & consternation lives?
I’m thankful that the God that I know is a God who is interested in the whole of life. Dare I say it, he’s more interested in my Monday to Saturday than he is in my Sunday morning.
Jesus didn’t spend the lion’s share of his time with religious leaders & wowsers, but with tradesmen, the poor & the “authentic” people of the world. And his death, on our behalf, was made to redeem ALL of our lives, both the majestic & the mundane.
We’d do well to reflect on the sacrifices that our forefathers made on our behalf, when we enjoy so many things that billions in this world don’t have access to. And we’d do even better to remember that God offers EVERYONE a chance at even greater things if they put their faith & trust in Jesus.