This is the transcript of the ANZAC talk given by Grant Dibden on 24 April, 2019, at Anglicare Residential Care, Lemon Grove Gardens, Penrith.
ANZAC Day commemorates a great defeat which seems very strange to other nations. Australia’s most hallowed day of military remembering doesn’t recall a great victory. Why? Why doesn’t it? Every other nation commemorates one of their victories, so why doesn’t Australia? It’s not for the lack of great victories, or impressive military achievements. There are plenty to choose from.
In WWII we were the first to stop the hitherto unstoppable Germans and Japanese. The marauding Germans who had swept across Europe and North Africa we stopped at Tobruk. The Japanese who bombed Pearl harbour, knocked over the Philippines, moved down through the Malaysian Peninsula, overran Singapore and landed in New Guinea, we stopped them at Milne Bay.
Perhaps the strongest candidate for a victory celebration occurred in Oct 1917 at Beersheba when 800 Australian Light horsemen from the 4th Light Horse Brigade made a mounted charge across three kilometres of open ground against 4,000 entrenched infantry, supported by artillery and machine guns. The Turkish soldiers were so unnerved by the huge mass of light horsemen thundering towards, that they couldn’t lower their artillery guns quick enough, forgot to adjust their sights as the Light Horse charged towards them, and so most of their bullets and shells whistled harmlessly over the heads of the charging troopers.
Of the 800 men who rode in the charge, only 31 were killed and 36 wounded. They captured over 700 men. This is one of the most successful cavalry charges in history – against what seemed impossible odds. And the fall of Beersheba swung the battle tide against the Turks in Palestine. It brought the breakthrough that ultimately defeated the same Turkish armies that had annihilated the ANZACs at Gallipoli. It led to the retaking of Jerusalem and changed the history of the Middle East.
But not even that is our most hallowed day. No, our most hallowed day of military remembrance recalls a great defeat and a terrible loss. 8,709 dead. 19,441 wounded. They were young men by and large, with the vast majority killed aged between 18 and 25. All in a few months. It’s difficult to imagine how Australians coped with those losses when the loss of a single Australian soldier in combat makes national news today and senior politicians attend their funeral. … Why? Why has our defeat at Gallipoli become nation-shaping? Why it is that us Aussies—who are notoriously irreverent—why is it that we show a reverence as we commemorate annually the defeat that was Gallipoli?
Well, I think it’s because Gallipoli symbolises for us the qualities of courage in the face of great adversity, “reckless valour in a good cause”, of “endurance that will never admit defeat” as the war historian Charles Bean wrote. Gallipoli symbolises caring for your mates and sacrifice.
That’s what we respect. We appreciate and value … the honour, the courage, the selflessness, the sticking at it to get the job done under such harrowing circumstances, the personal sacrifice.
And so on ANZAC Day we remember them. We remember the over 100,000 Australians who have died in wars from the western front in WWI to WWII to Malaysian emergency, to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, East Timor and Afghanistan. Their blood trodden into the mud of a foreign land, and the heartbreak of their families and friends.
We should be grateful; and while we don’t glorify war, we should remember the sacrifice of those who went before us … because there is something noble about sacrifice, isn’t there?
And the sacrifice of Jesus is still at the centre of the symbolism of Anzac Day with its crosses for the fallen, the sacrificial language, the reverence. But Jesus’ sacrifice is on a different level.
Jesus, the second person of the triune God – for whom and by whom all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and by him and for him – that Jesus – He died for you … Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who dwells in unapproachable light … died for you! He died to bring you, personally, into a relationship with Him, to be reconciled with Him so that you may know the Creator of the universe … not know about Him, but know Him and He know you, deeply intimately, where you can experience His love, to know you’re accepted not because of how you live but because of what Jesus has done by dying in your place … And you can enjoy God forever …
Now that’s amazing love, isn’t it! And if that doesn’t floor you and fill you will wonder and thanks, I don’t know what will! It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Now I know that some of you here today will be familiar with Jesus, but that’s not the same as following Him. You’ve heard about Jesus and you may even think He’s a great guy and a wise teacher … But that’s not enough. You must follow Him in your whole life. You have to say you’re sorry for doing things your own way, and for the wrong things you’ve done as part of that. You have to ask Him into your heart to be your Lord and Saviour. To follow Him.
Now, I know that is a big call. I know that’s a hard thing to do … But following Jesus isn’t following a set of demanding, harsh rules in a strict disciplinarian way. No, His rule is of the loving, compassionate, merciful type. See, when you know Jesus and are known by Him, when you are in a personal, intimate relationship with the One who said “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest, … rest for your souls.” – you’ll want to do the right thing because you’ll know that is the means by which you can know Him better, the means by which you can deepen your relationship with God. You’ll want to live for Him, you’ll want to live under His rule because you trust Him, the wisest and most loving person in the universe.
We’ve thought a lot about death today as we remember the fallen. Death is something we’ll all face. I think humanity instinctively knows that this life isn’t all there is. We talk of departed loved ones looking down on us. A number of the headstones at Gallipoli have this idea in them. One reads “Our dear son lost his life to find it”. Another: “Not goodbye, but goodnight”. The Christian message is that death is not the end of the story. It’s a powerful balm to the jolting finality of standing next to a grave. The grave is not the last word in what it means to be human. We can live, without suffering and death, with Jesus for all eternity.
Just over 100 years ago at Gallipoli, thousands of people gave their lives so we might enjoy life today. 2,000 years ago one perfect man, God incarnate, gave His life so that all of humanity might enjoy life for all of eternity.
If you are trusting in Jesus, when death at last lands on you, it will come not as a scary end, but as the beginning of life with God in heaven. It will come not as an end to life but as an entry to eternal life with Jesus. Trust the Saviour. Submit to His rule by taking the gift that is freely offered, but so costly to give.
Lest we forget