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Nov5ThuRemembrance Day reflections on the empty tomb. November 5, 2015 by Colonel Mark Tillsley
On November 11, Salvation Army leaders from across the Canada and Bermuda Territory will be honoured to participate in Remembrance Day observances. The televised national service on this day takes place in Ottawa at the National War Memorial (also known as “The Response”), which is usually referred to simply as the cenotaph.
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The word cenotaph derives from two Greek words that mean empty and tomb. A cenotaph is an “empty tomb” that honours a group of people whose remains are elsewhere. For the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, the cenotaph in Ottawa has been constructed to remember the nation's war dead from the First World War and all later conflicts.
Cenotaphs have been erected in many other cities and towns throughout Canada to honour those who served and paid the ultimate price. The Bermuda cenotaph is a replica of the one in Whitehall, London, England, and commemorates Bermudians who served in the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and the British Army.
Two years ago, it was my privilege to lay the wreath at the National War Memorial on behalf of The Salvation Army. A wave of emotion came over me as I witnessed the solemn procession of our most elderly down to the youngest recruits of the Canadian Forces. For some, memories would be stirred of the comrades they fought alongside. For the youngest recruits, perhaps the day served as a sobering reminder of their commitment. The cenotaph—the empty tomb—moves us as we contemplate those who have given their lives, and those who may be called to sacrificially give in the future, to protect our freedoms.
The Bible shares how Jesus Christ put himself in harm's way for you and for me. He was abused, tortured and killed with a barbaric savagery that we must not gloss over, but remember with deep sorrow. As Isaiah 53:5 prophetically reminds us, “the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The gospel message, however, does not conclude with the cross, but introduces us to an empty tomb.
The Resurrection of Christ was God's verdict upon his Son's perfect obedience. Because Christ humbled himself, took the form of a servant and became obedient to death, even death on a cross, God has exalted him and given him a name that is above every name. Hallelujah! Humanity showed what they thought of Jesus by crucifying him; God showed what he thought of Jesus by raising him from the dead.
Jesus' empty tomb has introduced a new resurrection reality into our lives; we not only look forward to a day when we will experience new life, but the resurrection can be experienced now as women, men and children give themselves to God in trustful obedience. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26).
This year, let the cenotaph remind you that God has demonstrated victory over death in the empty tomb of Jesus.
Colonel Mark Tillsley is the chief secretary for the Canada and Bermuda Territory.