John 3:16 – God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Did you ever try to relate the "world" in John 3:16 to the "World" in World War 2? I did about a year ago while working on a Remembrance Day sermon. I was thinking about a black leather waist belt with words "Gott Mit Uns" on the buckle. It was a German soldier's belt; a souvenir from a battle in Normandy.
It was a bit startling for a Canadian Presbyterian soldier to learn that "Gott Mit Uns" means "God With Us". Those of us in the allied armed forces easily assumed that God was with us; the other side of the coin being that God was not with the enemy. Our remembering centred on how God was with us, and thanks to him, we won the war. A vivid example is a crisis that occurred in May 1940.
At the French port of Dunkerque almost 400,000 British, French and Belgian troops were surrounded by powerful Nazi forces and faced annihilation. Enter God. King George VI called for a Day of Prayer beseeching the Almighty to come to the rescue. Miraculously the troops escaped. Exceptional weather conditions; a calm English Channel and a low cloud cover enabled a huge armada of ships of all kinds to cross safely and rescue them. A miracle indeed!
God so loved the world that our beleaguered forces escaped, but what about those surrounding them and waiting for the order to attack? If John 3:16 means anything it means that they were equally loved by God. "God With Us" and "Gott Mit Uns" stand together. Thanks be to God.
I suggest that on this Remembrance Day, as we stand at our cenotaphs and worship in our churches, that we offer a prayer for the families and friends also remembering in Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Prayer: Almighty God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we come before you on this Remembrance Day to recall with gratitude and praise the many times and ways in which you revealed your presence and help to the members of our armed forces in time of war, and for the ultimate victory you granted to us. At the same time we thank you for your presence and love for those who fought against us in the conflict. May your comfort and blessing be upon us all. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.