Remembrance Sunday Sermon - 7 November 2020

Father Damian reflects on themes of remembering from the Eucharist to Remembrance Day and how this can help us in times of personal struggles.

“Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

(Matthew 25:13)

It is with a very heavy heart that we meet virtually rather than gather at Thorpe War Memorial this year. I know some are disappointed that we didn’t try and arrange a socially distanced gathering in Village Road, but I do hope you will appreciate the sincerity of what we do today from our own homes, as we desire to keep everyone safe. Because friends, we are at war today. The enemy is stealthy, it thrives on the things we love such as human contact, and it also likes the cold! Covid-19 is a war like we have not known before in our lifetimes, but many who fought in the Great War would have understood, with their experience of Spanish flu bringing waves of deaths to the nation, compounding suffering.

During our time of Intercessory Prayer, the names of those who died in conflicts commemorated on our local war memorials will be read out and for each one a small red candle will be placed upon the brick cross up in the chancel of our Church. The candles, alive and alight representing their lives. Like the bridesmaids in today’s Gospel reading, we must be prepared to have our lamps lit and be ready with all the faithful departed to go into the heavenly city, the place which God has prepared for all in love.

Friends, War is never pleasant or glamorous. It is violent, cruel, unfair, and quite frankly ghastly. And sadly, it is not simply a matter of history because today people around the world live at enmity – in their own homes and relationships, between communities, faith groups and traditions and between nations and peoples. Today, for the sake of all who have fallen that we may know freedom and democracy, we must and shall remember them. The word Remembrance can help us; the bringing of a moment in the past into the present – in Church we do this Sunday by Sunday as we break the bread and share the cup, just as Jesus commands all Christians to do. That is especially hard now with congregations unbale to gather in churches for worship, instead relying on worship streamed to our homes. Christ of course is still present when we gather in his name, wherever that is, however that is made possible. But it is not the same and we long to be back together as one church family on a Sunday morning soon, and I hope if you are new to St Mary’s you will be able to attend our church soon to experience the love and joy of our community and fellowship.

As we share Communion in Church, both physically and spiritually from the comfort of our own homes, Jesus himself is with us – and in so doing, we bring the past into the present by remembering. Later in this service I will repeat the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, when he was with his disciples around the table and he took bread and wine, offered them to God, blessed them and said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Another timeless act of bringing the past into the present and uniting ourselves with heaven.

We remember today because to forget would be to both dishonour those who served our country in so many conflicts and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for our freedoms. We also remember the countless many civilians who were brave at home and abroad, suffering in many ways. We Remember because of the gift given by others in the past that has enabled us to enjoy a long period of relative peace, freedom and justice which has flourished through much of Europe.

But as we remember those who have given their lives in defence of our nation so we must reflect on the reality of war today, including our ongoing battle with Covid-19. One thing I have taken away from conversations with veterans and survivors of conflicts is their deep desire to live – and that we should all live our lives to the full, love unconditionally, serve one another, and be the people that God has made and called us to be. By doing this we honour the sacrifice of those who died, because that liberating inclusive love is a gift from God to us, through Jesus our Lord.

Faith can help us cope with the challenges of life and struggles of our present time as well as war and bereavement, but faith is not an easy gift, it too requires perseverance, or perhaps a better word is faithfulness! Friends we must work at faith just as we do love and of course peace. Oscar Romero knew all about the desire for people to know human flourishing. He served as the fourth Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, torture and war. Because of his challenge he was martyred for the Christian faith in 1980. He said this about peace:

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.

Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.

Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.

Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.

Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right, and it is duty.

In half an hour we will pause at 11am in our annual act of remembrance and witness, perhaps moving to stand in our doorways, just to be silent, still and remember. As part of our commemoration we will hear read the Kohima Epitaph. “When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.” So indeed, we do tell, we will fall silent and we shall remember them. Let us commit ourselves, even at this time of challenge for many to ‘remember’ as we work for love, faith, hope and joy and of course peace. May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Revd Damian Miles, Vicar of Thorpe, November 2020

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