Remembrance Sunday Evensong 08/11/15

No one can deny the power of the right words spoken at the right time and in the right place. Many words have been said today, familiar and yet still poignant and spine tingling.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

At remembrance, lots of words are used to try and summarise our collective feelings and experiences, and yet none of them are able to cover the vastness of the emotions that comes at this time of year.

Even for those of us who have had no first-hand experience of war are still moved, still touched, because war is one of the very worse things that takes place in this world and it’s consequences travel down the generations.

Nobody wants war, nobody wants to fight, and kill, and die. But sometimes it’s all we have to protect family and friends, cultures, races, and nations from great evil.

And so we spend the day in remembrance, gathered together to remember the past fallen, the soldiers of wars gone by and the soldiers of today. But as I see it that is only half of what this day should be about.

Firstly the gathering together of peoples, wherever it is, to honour the departed.

But the second half should be that re-commitment on our part to strive for a better world.

This second point hadn’t really sunk into my mind until earlier on today. I spend the morning with our Girl Guides at the cenotaph near St Peters. And as part of their order of service they asked all of those present three questions and these are the words that hit me strongest this morning:

  1. Will you strive for all that makes for peace?
  2. Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
  3. Will you work for a just future for all humanity?

 

For some, these may seem like empty words. That cry for peace has been shouted over and over again across generations. And for many the possibility of peace has become almost a fantasy, something unreachable, especially with the tragedies that we see in the media where war continues, the innocent killed, and thousands flee their homes in terror.

But, in the light of our readings for this evening, these questions form something much bigger than just words.

‘The Lord of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power… the lofty will be brought low and a shoot shall come out of the stump of Jesse… and the spirit of the Lord shall rest on him…He shall not judge by what the eye sees…but with righteousness he shall judge…and the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid…and a little child shall lead them.’

These part of Isaiah was written when Israel’s northern kingdom was under threat from Assyria, and yet there comes this hope for a new order of justice and peace.

But here there is also a call for action and change. And this starts with repentance and an uncomfortable reminder for us, that some of the pains of war are of our own making.

Isaiah is looking forward to the new spirit of ‘wisdom and understanding…of counsel and might…and of knowledge and the fear of the Lord’

This new spirit puts God at the centre, and it is there that this harmonious co-existence can follow. Putting God at the centre changes the way we live our own lives, and our life in community and society

Jesus follows this up when in conversation with his disciples he says, ‘Those who love me will keep my word…and the word you hear …is from the Father who sent me.’

Putting God at the centre and following His words changes us because his words are a command to action and a call to us to assess how we live our lives with our neighbours.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Remembrance Sunday is about honouring the departed, who, in those poignant words, gave their today for our tomorrow. But it’s also about where we go from here; what we do with the inheritance they’ve left for us.

No one can deny the power of the right words spoken at the right time and in the right place, so in the light of the promise we’ve been given when we put God into the centre, I return to those questions given at the cenotaph:

  1. Will you strive for all that makes for peace?
  2. Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
  3. Will you work for a just future for all humanity?

These are not empty words, but part of a wider calling for your action.

What will you do? Amen.

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sallyjjones

Minor Canon Youth Chaplain at St Albans Cathedral. Dog owner, historian, technology geek, pilgrim.

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