Letter from Mickey Mantle

‘We will remember him. Lest we forget.’

Dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday at the 10am service we welcome to St Thomas’ the representatives, family and friends of the 2/17th Australian Infantry Battalion for Remembrance Sunday. It is an opportunity for us to pause and to remember with solemn gratitude the sacrifice of countless soldiers in battles since World War I.

The Pozieres Cross which hangs on the northern wall of our church building was brought to St Thomas’ in 1932 when we became the home church of the 17th Battalion. It was originally erected at the township of Pozieres, France, in February 1917 to mark the temporary resting place of all those who died in the seven week battle there in July and August 1916. Some 6,848 young Australian men fell at Pozieres, many of whom grew up and were recruited from the local area surrounding our church. Indeed, our St Thomas’ preschool building was the used as the initial headquarters and training base of the 17th Batallion.

During the service on Sunday we will be invited to say these words in response to the playing of the ‘Last Post’ on a bugle: ‘We will remember them. Lest we forget.’ This is a right and proper thing for us to do. In a real sense the blood spilt on the soil of Pozieres in that war and others since was the price that bought the lives of freedom and opportunity that we enjoy as Australians today.

The resonances with this Sunday’s commemoration and the gospel of Jesus Christ are obvious. The cross is the ultimate symbol of loving sacrifice. At the risk of sounding trite there is a real sense in which for us as Christians every Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. 1 Timothy has told us of the gospel news that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1:15) and that Christ Jesus ‘gave himself as a ransom (a death that pays for another) – for all’ (2:6).  The blood that was spilt on the soil of Palestine was the price that bought out of slavery to sin and the penalty of death (Romans 6:22-23) and has given us eternal life and true freedom under the saving and gracious rule of Christ (Romans 6:14).

When we come together as God’s people we do not do so to perform an act of religious duty to a strict and demanding task master. No, we gather to be reminded of the sacrifice that our Lord made to purchase us and to respond in heartfelt gratitude to a gracious Saviour. Indeed, it is the ongoing reminder and deepening understanding of what Jesus has done for us that shapes and transforms us into his own likeness. It is as we hear again and again of his sacrifice and grow in our appreciation of its significance that the Spirit in turn moves us to lay down our lives for his sake and his gospel of salvation to others (Mark 8:34-35). Or as we have been considering in 1 Timothy it is the continual remembrance of what Jesus has done for us in his life, death, resurrection and ascension to rule that is ‘the secret of godliness’ (3:16).

And so this Sunday, as every Sunday: ‘We will remember him. Lest we forget.’

I so look forward to seeing you!

Your brother in Christ,
Mickey Mantle