Remembering the life to come

What follows is the sermon I preached yesterday morning at St Germans Methodist Chapel, at a united Remembrance Service ahead of the 11 o’clock 2-minute silence. I meant to post it yesterday but first busyness, and then the need to crash, left it until today. I think the delay matters little, for if we remember only on one day a year, right as that is, we will never reach a point when the numbers of people we are remembering does not keep growing.

The readings were Revelation 22:1-5 and Mark 5:43-48, both readings recommended in the Methodist Worship Book Lectionary for Remembrance Sunday.

I always struggle

to know where to begin

a Remembrance Day sermon.

I know where I want to end.

I want to end

where John the Divine ends his great revelation –

a vision of a new heaven and a new earth,

of the new Jerusalem,

where the crystal water of life

flows freely in the streets,

where the healing tree of life

produces leaves and fruit abundantly,

where the light of God

shines perpetually.

I want to end with the hope of the gospel,

of a future in which love wins,

in which peace reigns,

in which justice prevails,

in which those we remember today,

the countless millions who have lost their lives

as a result of war and violence,

can know that their loss

was not the last word

in how this world is supposed to be.

That is where I want to end.

But where do I begin?

Where can any of us begin

on a journey that take us to that place?

One of the reasons I think

we preachers struggle

on this day

is that in the face of what we are called to remember

speechlessness

may well be the correct first response.

In a short while

our remembrance will be marked

not by the noise of clapping,

or cheering,

or some other noise of congratulation

or celebration,

but by silence.

It is in silence that we will join

our memories,

our thoughts,

our emotions,

our senses,

with the many others who will be silent

alongside us

around the country

and the around the world.

It is in silence the we will be joined

too,

I believe,

with those whose earthly silence

we are called to remember

today.

So,

let us begin,

briefly,

with those millions whose memories

this day is for.

I will never forget

my journeys as a teenage child

to the battlegrounds

of Normandy and the Somme.

What sticks in my mind most

is the monuments,

monuments engraved

with name upon name

of those whose bodies were never found,

or at least never identified,

and the gravestones

on which no name is present,

marking the place

where an unidentifiable body

lies.

If I were to read the names

of the estimated 19 million people

who died in the First World War

at a continuous register pace

night and day

it would take me until

the 14th May 2014

to finish.

The estimated 40 million

lives lost

of the Second World War

would take until January 2016.

And how many countless more

have lost their lives in wars since?

No wonder then

that

when all is said and done

all we can do

is stand in silence

at the sheer magnitude

of who it is

we are called to remember

today.

But how do we move on?

Speechlessness,

incomprehension,

emptiness.

These are all

fully appropriate

first responses

to what we are called to do today.

But we cannot end there.

We must move on.

We have a destination we are being called to,

a city on a hill,

for which we are called to strive

in order to make it a reality.

And how do we do that?

Well, one way is found in the words

of Jesus,

in our Gospel reading this morning:

‘You have heard that it was said,

“You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”

But I say to you,

Love your enemies

and pray for those who persecute you,

so that you may be children

of your Father in heaven;

for he makes his sun rise

on the evil and the good,

and sends rain

on the righteous

and on the unrighteous.’

The men

whose names

are etched in stone

at the war memorial

where we will stand

were our neighbours,

at least in time

if not in space.

We show them our love

as we stand beside them

in silence.

Yet,

as the Gospel passage reminds us,

we are called

to do more

than love our neighbour.

We are called

to love

our enemy.

So I offer you this thought:

in the silence,

as we remember

the neighbours

we love

and see no more,

let us

at least try,

just try,

to also remember

the enemies

we are called to love

and see no more.

For if death,

as St Paul tells us,

cannot separate us

from the love of Christ,

then neither can it separate us

from those we love

in Christ,

both friends

and foes.

In the new Jerusalem

there is not death

but life,

not pain

but healing,

not darkness

but light.

In it,

people from all nations,

even the ones we have called enemies,

stand with God’s name

upon their forehead.

It is a place of love

not hatred,

it is a place

we are called to strive for

by living out the love of God,

a love seen in our silence,

in our remembering,

a love we are called to have

for all,

whether they stand alongside us

or against us.

In remembering

all those who have died

in our wars with one another,

both our neighbours

and our enemies

we take a step,

we plant a seed,

we build a foundation,

that will lead us to that promised hope

where we will stand

together

not in silence

but in joyous worship.

It will not be easy,

it may be too hard for today,

but we have been given sight

of what is to come,

and we have been given a path

to reach it,

so in our silence,

let us both

remember all those we have lost in war,

and look forward to the day

when we need remember no more,

for we all stand in the love and glory of God.

Amen.

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About MendipNomad

I'm a nomad both physically and denominationally, but I'll always call the Mendips home. Currently a Methodist Presbyter (Minister) in Cornwall. I love sport, film, tv, socialising, politics (both US and British), and, yes, being part of the church.
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One Response to Remembering the life to come

  1. Pingback: The Act of Remembrance | The Mendip Nomad

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