Sermon podcast: Remembrance Sunday8 Nov 2018 By Bishop John
A sermon from Bishop John for Remembrance Sunday, 11 November 2018
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As I’ve given thanks, exactly 100 years on from the ending of what, at the time was referred to as The Great War, I’ve wondered what people felt back then. Immense relief, I imagine, alongside a terrible weariness. After the celebrations, the euphoria, they’d have been left to count the cost. And what a cost it was, in terms of human life apart from anything else. A total of around 20 million dead and 21 million wounded. I find it difficult to get my head around numbers like that.
I’ve recently tried to do so by thinking about the impact on communities through looking at and reflecting on war memorials. Last Sunday, for example, I was in the Black Country and was gazing at the over 200 names on the memorial in church.I thought of all the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters, whose lives would have been devastated by the loss of a loved one. I thought of the awful impact on a small and tight-knit community and then I thought of the thousands and thousands of towns and villages up and down the land, similarly devastated. Not to mention those in other countries.Those who had not been wounded, killed or bereaved were psychologically scarred, often irrevocably so and after a mere 20 years, what had been referred to as the ‘war to end all wars’ was followed by another devastating worldwide conflict. I wonder how people in my grandparents’ generation coped.
I wonder too what they would have made of the words in this morning’s reading, which tells us: “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Wouldn’t it have seemed like some sort of sick joke? It would seem not. That reading, which speaks of the peace of God, gave hope. Hope as just as the terrible war had come to an end, that all things would eventually be reconciled in God. They were able to have hope because they had faith. Faith in God who would, Isaiah prophesied: “Judge between the nations and arbitrate for many peoples.” He prophesied that they would “beat their swords into plough shares and their spears into pruning hooks.” He prophesied that “nation would not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
They had faith in God, who had been revealed in Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Faith in God who would give that peace which passes understanding. Faith in God who would wipe every tear from their eyes. Faith in that God who promised that death would be no more, mourning and crying and pain would be no more, for the first things would pass away.
It was because of that faith and that hope, that they were able to love again. That they were able to heed St Paul’s instructions in this morning’s reading: “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just. Whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable. If there’s any excellence and if there’s anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
In a world that is increasingly fragmented, increasingly beset with fear and hate. I pray that we, in our generation, will be able to do the same. And having done so, practise the way of love, experiencing and helping to spread that peace of God, which passes all understanding. That would be a fitting memorial to those millions who died for our freedom.