Lowestoft vicar’s poignant Remembrance Day message
- Credit: Mick Howes
The Rev Matthew Payne, vicar at Christ Church, was once again the Remembrance Day Chaplain for this years service at the town war memorial. Here is his speech.
Thank you for coming here, to Remember.
As a nation, this year we remember in 1916 the Battle of Jutland, when the Royal Navy clashed with the German fleet, and many ships and lives were lost. And the Battle of the Somme, the worst in human history. It began on July 1, ended on November 18 - 141 days later, with over a million wounded or killed.
As a town, in Lowestoft we remember especially, among so many lives lost, our local hero Sgt. Claud Castleton V.C., born here in Kirkley in 1893, who died in battle on July 29 1916.
Castleton grew up here, and in 1912 aged 19, travelled to Australia. At the outbreak of war he joined the Australian army, and he was just 23, a newly-made Sergeant, when his actions at the Somme earned him the Victoria Cross.
Here is the citation: 'For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack on the enemy's trenches the infantry was temporarily driven back by the intense machine gun fire opened by the enemy.
'Many wounded were left in 'No Man's Land' lying in shell holes. Sgt. Castleton went out twice in face of this intense fire and each time brought in a wounded man on his back. He went out a third time and was bringing in another wounded man when he was himself hit in the back and killed instantly.
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'He set a splendid example of courage and self-sacrifice.'
We've just read Psalm 23 from the Bible, also known as 'the Lord is my shepherd.'
Written some 3,000 years ago, by a young man, David, who was a shepherd himself. He knew about guiding and guarding the flock, fighting off predators, seeking out and rescuing the lost sheep and bringing them safely home.
And David said: 'The Lord is my shepherd' – that's how he cares for me, in every situation. 'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and your staff, they comfort me.'
David went on to be a soldier himself, and even to be king of Israel. He made plenty of mistakes, as we all do, but he knew he could always turn back to God for forgiveness, as we all can; for a fresh start, and for the good shepherd to guide him, and to bring him safely home.
Generations later, in Royal David's city, Bethlehem, Jesus was born, that baby in a manger, and such extraordinary things were said.
Like David, Jesus was a shepherd and a king, but in a different way. Jesus knew the scriptures, including Psalm 23, and Jesus said, 'I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me, and I lay down my life for my sheep.'
Jesus is God come to us in human form - Jesus came, the Good Shepherd, to rescue us and take us safely home. No Victoria Cross, but a victory on the cross, at the battle of Good Friday.
As we remember the true heroism and self-sacrifice of Sgt Castleton VC, and all those who gave their life for our country, let us also remember this: Jesus the Good Shepherd came to rescue us and take us home.
An even greater hero. We all need him to rescue us. Without him we're helpless.
So don't stay lying in no-man's land - call out to the Good Shepherd; call out, and the Lord Jesus will take you safely home, forever. And God bless you always.