Remembrance: Lest we forget.
This year, the Royal British Legion are marking 100 years since the nation’s collective remembrance traditions were first brought together. I’d hazard that there are some people here today whose fathers fought in the First World War. My grandfather fought in the First World War and my mother’s father was a chaplain in the Second World War so through them, their memories and their pictures, I have a small idea. Of course, with the celebrations over the past few years of firstly the outbreak of war, and then D-Day and then V-Day, and several films, we all have a better idea of what went on.
My dad’s father was, like many, underage when he joined up to serve with the Army. He wanted to do his bit. Like many his age, he was sent to the front, and he worked in chemical warfare. Other than that, he didn’t tell what went on, and so the horrors witnessed first-hand die with him.
For some the glorification of war is what it is all about. Or it is about pomp and circumstance. For some others it is about superiority and privilege. And then there was the lynching of those who didn’t believe that getting involved was worth it. Those whose principles were to carry on doing what they had done all their lives, because it didn’t matter what they did or thought.
I wonder… where was God in all of that? Where is God in any war we have? What does he think of we sit on our haunches? Or if we feel we must do something?
Our act of remembrance today comes from the fact that the First World War affected almost every household in the UK. From that shared experience, we have a tradition that honours all who fought and fight regardless of rank. And this year we look back over 100 years and wonder what the next 100 might hold. The act of remembering is deeply personal. What or how one person might feel may not affect the next.
[I used a Godly Play story of a small section of the Western Front at this point]
I want to talk a little more about what we remember and why we remember. Why is it so important that we gather to remember those whose lives were lost and whose lives are still lost today? With the wars that still go on, and for the past two weeks we’ve heard little about them in the news.
Everywhere there are feuds of one sort or another. Not just out there, beyond the mind’s ken. I read on Twitter this week that a British general thinks we are nearer having a war with Russia than at any point of the cold war. Power plays still go on. And I hate to say it, but this church isn’t even immune from that.
Fortunately, we have someone who came to earth to put all of that right for us. Who ‘bridged the gap’ between God and us. Who extended and still extends a conciliatory hand to all of us, and invites us to come before him, to his table and who forgives us unconditionally when we say we are sorry. That’s one reason why we have the Kyries, or the Lord have mercy/Christ have mercy at the beginning of our service today.
We are given the opportunity every time someone says or does something we feel slighted by or violated by to renew our trust and faith in the One in whom we gather and worship. It does not mean we forget the injustices, or the perceived wrongs, but we forgive, and we move on with our lives, not dwelling on the past. I speak to myself in that just as much as speaking with all of you. We must forgive and be reconciliatory. We are asked to do that as disciples of Christ. We’re not perfect, we’re simply human. To forgive others gives you the freedom from trying to hold whoever to account. We don’t do as Job 19:28 would suggest:
‘How we will persecute him!’
and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him’;
be afraid of the sword,”
but instead, we listen to what John recorded of Jesus:
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”
Glory to God, Source of all Being, Eternal Word and Holy Spirit, Amen.