Introduction and Call to Worship
Today we mark the centenary of the end of the Great War, 1918 – 2018. The act of remembering is central to our faith and we seek God’s forgiveness for the times we have failed to learn from the past. Today we turn to Jesus, the Saviour, who lays down his life for us and whose Kingdom stands for justice and peace.
First Reading: 8am Communion Jonah 3:1-5. 10
Jonah proclaims God’s message to the people of Nineveh who repent so God decides not to destroy the city. Or
10am Service of Remembrance: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
Paul speaks of victory over death. Therefore, we are called to remember and be steadfast, immovable as people of faith, excelling in the work of the Lord.
Second Reading: 8am Communion Hebrews 9:24-end
Christ sacrificed himself and appeared once and for all before God on our behalf, ending the need for an annual sacrifice of atonement. Or
10am Service of Remembrance: Matthew 5:1-16
Jesus teaches the beatitudes including a call for peace, justice and reconciliation.
Gospel: 8am Communion only: Mark 1:14-20
Jesus begins his ministry by calling people to repent because God’s Kingdom is near. The first disciples – Simon and Andrew, James and John – hear his call and follow him.
HOMILY “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
In the aftermath of the Great War the political elite in several European countries deeply desired, following terrible loss of life and destruction, to remember the sacrifice of war and seek to prevent conflict on such a terrible scale from ever happening again. Their vision was of a world where nations would not be threatened by competing empires, and disputes would be resolved through discussion; reducing the threat of war by working together to guarantee security and agreeing to disarm. They sought a more peaceful world and, consequently, in 1919 the Covenant of the League of Nations was signed in Paris. Great intentions but the politics were not resolute and the lessons of the Great War were soon forgotten in the face of new threats and tyranny and the Second World War followed. Once again so many people, many very young, were called from everyday lives to fight for freedom, justice and the values we hold so dear today. Their sacrifices have directly led to our freedom and peace in much of Europe but back then it must have felt like the League of Nations had failed to prevent war, and the truth is that we still live in a world that struggles with conflict. For example, in parts of Syria and the Yemen where civilians are suffering and soldiers, sometimes mere children, face daily violence and the threat of death.
One hundred years on from the end of the most bloodied conflict of modern times the United Nations tries to hold people, leaders and nations to account for their actions so that millions of people, on an international scale, may never again be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice and fight for peace. Today the UN attempts discussion and mediation between countries and people first and all based on the original mission of leaders following the Great War and their vision of how the world could be a better, more peaceful place to live.
Hand in hand with this commitment to strive for peace and dialogue is the need to remember. One hundred years on from the end of the First World War I sincerely believe it is right that we pause to reflect upon the suffering of those who gave of their lives that we today may live in freedom. The very act of Remembrance helps to keep alive in the public conscience the real and serious cost of conflict, as veterans here today of past and present challenges will testify all too clearly. The day we give up on remembering is the day we fail to learn the lessons of the past, even if our focus, over time, moves to more recent conflicts. We must still remember.
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus calls people to share his vision of a better world and to acknowledge that they need to change their priorities as they are called to follow him. Jesus invited people to believe the good news that the Kingdom of God had already come near and he called on all people of faith to remember him. We do this Sunday by Sunday, and several times during the week when we gather for worship to break the bread and share the cup. ‘Do this to remember me’ Jesus taught his disciples and he calls us to remember too. He promises that when we remember him he will be with us, now today. To some people this promise must have sounded a bit far-fetched; others must have been curious to find out what he meant. Of course, those who gave of their lives for our peace too, deserve to be remembered – their gift of life for us brought into the present – made known today.
In the Beatitudes we are taught by Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” and, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 9-10)
But what sort of kingdom is this? Some of Jesus’ early followers probably thought he was going to launch a violent revolt to overthrow Rome and its collaborators but God’s Kingdom is not like that. In the book of Isaiah, which Mark quotes at the beginning of his Gospel, there is a vision of a peaceable kingdom where the lion lies down with the lamb and the whole of creation lives together in harmony. We will read this again at Christmas. Indeed, many in the trenches of the First World War longed for Christmas – the peace of God’s Kingdom, on earth as it is already in heaven. This is the kingdom that Jesus invites people to trust has come near. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Cogan, wrote, “Wherever the bounds of beauty, truth and goodness are advanced, there the Kingdom of God comes.”
Friends, we still live in a world that is far from peaceful but God’s creative power is at work, longing us to turn from oppression, conflict and violence and to live in peace; to change our ways and turn away from selfishness and seek reconciliation and the values of his Kingdom. Like the ideals behind the original League of Nations, we are called to follow the example of those who strive to bring lasting peace to our world – so that war may cease. We are called to remember and Jesus has promised us that when we do remember him, his kingdom will break through, the kingdom of justice and peace. We must never stop remembering – bringing into the present the dedication, service and sacrifice of others. Amen.
1. After ‘the war to end all wars’ – the Great or First World War, politicians in Europe recognised what was wrong with the world, realised they needed to change and had a vision for peace. Part of this work of reconciliation is remembrance.
2. A ceremony of remembrance in which we recall the sacrifice of those who have suffered in wars is now an important part of that commitment to listen to each other and work for peace.
3. Jesus taught his disciples to remember him with Bread and Wine and that he would always be with them when they gathered in his name.
4. Our Lord’s Kingdom is one of justice and peace. The Kingdom of God has come near in the person of Jesus who calls people to turn away from oppression, conflict and violence and to live in peace.