Sunday 8th November – Remembrance Sunday
The service is now live-streamed and can be found on the church Facebook page.
Micah 4: 1-5
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
for ever and ever.
John 15: 9-17
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Poetry and art, both creative subjects by their very nature, have often been used to capture a sense of what was going on during times of conflict, especially during the First World War. We are familiar with the works of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen among others. And, of course, John McCrae’s famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. Amongst the artists there was Paul Nash whose haunting pictures can be seen in the Imperial War Museum among other places.
And poetry and art help us. They help us to have an insight into the horrors of war, they give us an insight into tremendous feats of human bravery. And poetry and art help us to remember. And that is what we do at this time of year. It is what we are doing today, when we commemorate those who have died in the service of their country.
Today we honour those who sacrificed all that they had and all that they were for the worthy cause of peace, and we believe that they belong to God. We remember those who endured war, suffered in war, and died in war. We remember not only soldiers, sailors and airmen who were combatants, but we also remember nurses, doctors and transport drivers who worked in terrible conditions to care for the wounded and the dying. We remember civilian populations who suffered bombings, deprivations, persecutions and in some places, occupation by enemy forces. During wartime, sacrifice is a way of life. We speak of the ultimate sacrifice of those who died, but sacrifice in war is pervasive into the hearts and minds of all people. People sacrifice health and happiness, hopes and aspirations, love and loved ones.
The poets who died in combat are a small representation of the loss to humanity of people who could have contributed to literature, or art, or medicine, or commerce, or science or international diplomacy. Can we find people who have seen war and yet speak peace? Can we find people who have seen war and work for reconciliation among enemies? Can we find people who can see the suffering of their enemy and sacrifice their hurt and anger to help others? The answer to all three of these questions is…. yes we can. Thank God yes we can.
And to our young people I just want to say that the future will be in your hands. Please do all that you can to work for peace and co-operation among human beings. Please do your bit to promote human flourishing and well-being. And if you can do some of these things then the world will be a much better place.
Let us never lose hope for peace, and with God’s help, let us work for peace and reconciliation among the great diversity of people in God’s world. We owe our work for peace to those who died and suffered, and those who continue to die and to suffer in the ravages of war.
I mentioned poetry at the beginning of this talk. One poem is, I believe truly iconic. It is John McCrae’s in Flanders Fields. Yes, WW1 was fought not just in Flander’s fields, but, of course, that is where our symbol of remembrance the poppy came from. Let’s just sit quietly and reflectively as we hear those words once again.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.