26th May was the anniversary of perhaps one of the greatest rescues of all time.
World War had broken out in September 1939. Into 1940, the Nazi German army was surging across Western Europe with lightning speed and force. As the month of May progressed over 300,000 troops from the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) along with Belgian, Canadian, and French soldiers, were trapped and encircled at the beach of Dunkirk in France. A terrible disaster seemed inevitable.
On Thursday 23rd May, the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, met with King George VI to brief him of a plan to evacuate troops from the beach. Yet, everything looked extremely grim. Few boats were available. The Nazi army was powerful. Allied troops were scrambling to reach Dunkirk. It was expected in the time available that only a tiny fraction of the 300,000 would be rescued.
In response, King George VI declared “We must pray! This next Sunday, I’m calling for a National Day of Prayer.” On May 24, the King addressed the nation: “Let us with one heart and soul, humbly, but confidently, commit our cause to God and ask his aid.”
What happened next is quite extraordinary. All over England tens of thousands of people gathered to pray that God would rescue those who were trapped. At Westminster Cathedral, there are pictures of hundreds of people queuing to pray!
A miracle was about to take place.
On Sunday 26th May, as boats set sail for Dunkirk, Hitler inexplicably halted his attack. The English Channel, notoriously rough, was strangely calm. Rain and clouds made it difficult for the German air force to attack the beach. The breeze collected smoke from previous bombing raids, which gave cover for soldiers being loaded into the boats. And as word spread across England, hundreds and hundreds of would-be skippers responded, so that a flotilla of more than 860 boats sailed across the Channel to help with the rescue. The result was that when the evacuation came to an end, 338,000 troops were rescued from the beaches.
This extraordinary great rescue changed history and came to be known as the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk.’
Our world is in need of another ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’. People are in great danger and in urgent need of spiritual rescue. Everyone needs this rescue from the consequences of turning their backs on God. Having ignored him, thinking they know best, they are cut off from God, lost, and in need of the great rescue that Jesus offers.
People today are just like the crowds in Matthew chapter 9 who, when Jesus saw them, Matthew tells us, “he had compassion on them, because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
Jesus’ passionate call to his disciples “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out more workers into his harvest field” is just as relevant today as it was then!
Jesus’ call to pray is a challenge for us to earnestly pray as individuals and as a church for the lost world around us.
Jesus is about rescue and God calls us to continue to be part of that rescue. Without Jesus, even if people do not know it, they are lost, horribly lost. Without Jesus, people are cut off from God, destined to spend eternity without him. This is a terrible thought!
Therefore, will you who are Christians and who know Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has compassion on us, and who laid down his life to rescue us, will you pray? Will you pray at home and in your small groups? Will you gather to pray, even queuing up at our churches, passionately concerned for those who are lost and in desperate need to be connected with Jesus, the Saviour, the great rescuer?
And will you be the answer to your own prayer? Will you be like the many amateur skippers who set off to rescue the thousands stranded at Dunkirk? That is, will you prayerfully look for opportunities to speak of Jesus in your workplace? Or over the fence to your neighbour? At the school gate? Will you look for opportunities to be involved in your church as it seeks to take the good news of Jesus’ great rescue to our lost world? Will you look for opportunities to invite friends and family to your church so they too can hear the good news of Jesus and turn back to him?
Will you generously give of your time , your treasure and your talents to continue Jesus’ great rescue mission? This great rescue will save people from an eternity without God and his blessings, in order to give them an eternity with God and his blessings?
Header Image: A group of evacuees on board three of the many small boats which brought trapped British soldiers from the shores around Dunkirk, to safety. photo: courtesy Imperial War Museums © IWM HU 41241