Today, as well as being Armistice Day, is St Martin’s Day.
Martin was born in 316 AD in what we now know as Hungary. He was soldier who, one day, encountered a beggar at the town gate. He found himself moved as never before. In a dramatic gesture, he removed his cloak, cut it in two, and gave half to the beggar.
That night, while he lay sleeping, he dreamt. In his dream he saw the beggar, only this time he recognized him. It was Jesus.
Martin gave up being a soldier and became a servant instead, a servant of God. He was baptized and ended up as bishop of Tours in France, where his tomb can still be found in the rebuilt basilica.
At baptisms we pray that each child or adult will be Christ’s ‘soldier and servant to the end of their life’. Military language is far from fashionable in the contemporary church, and perhaps more fashionable than it should be in the lips of our politicians. Are we worn out with the metaphor of ‘fighting’ Covid? Yet November may offer a chance to look at such language afresh: as soldiers, we serve Christ with devotion and discipline in equal measure.
I remember a hymn from primary school called ‘When a Knight won his Spurs’. I wonder if you do too? Verse three begins like this:
Let faith be my shield and let joy be my steed,
'Gainst the dragons of anger, the ogres of greed.
That’s not a bad motto for us to adopt in the month when we remember the cost of fighting for the truth – both those who laid down their lives in war for our freedom, and the One who laid down His life that we might know Love.