The Act of Remembrance

Last year I preached in one of my own chapels on Remembrance Sunday, which was also Remembrance Day. This year I was asked to preach in one of our local Parish Churches. I’m not convinced it was my greatest ever sermon (I didn’t get as much time on it as I’d have liked, the hermeneutics are not as well developed as I’d have liked), but nonetheless it seemed to have spoken to at least a few of the people there. So here it is, on this day when we are called to remember all those who have died as a victim of war. The readings were Micah 4.1-5 and Romans 8.31-39.

Remembrance.
 
Re-member-ance.
 
I wonder whether you have ever reflected
on the physicality
of both the word
and the act
of remembrance.
 
In one sense,
what we do here
this morning,
and what others
are doing,
will do,
have done,
in places around the world,
is simply a mental act.
(If any mental act can truly be described as simple!)
We stop
and think.
 
Yet remembrance,
re-member-ance,
is so much more
than a mental act.
 
For a start,
my guess is that
for many,
if not all,
of us,
the silence
that we take up at the memorial
in a short while,
will not be
just
a quietening of our lips.
 
It will be a stilling
of our bodies.
As best as we are able,
we will stand
motionless,
our entire bodies
silent
as we recall
the men of this village,
the men and women of the world,
whose lives have been lost
in war
– both in battle
and far from the battlefield.
 
Yet the physical realities
of remembrance
go much deeper
even
that bodily stillness.
 
For those who have served
and lost colleagues,
for those who have lost loved ones
who have served,
for those who have known
the terror
and loss
of war as civilians,
the closing of eyes
in silence
can be the opening of minds
to the experiencing
of sights and sounds,
of smells and tastes,
of moments in time
that
in the silence
become once again
utterly real,
as though the reaching out
of a hand
could once again
lead to the touching
of one who,
in the reality of this earth,
is seen no more.
 
We gain,
I think,
some understanding
of what Paul
is speaking about,
when we consider
the physicality
of remembrance:
 
Memory
is not simply
a mental thing.
It is physical.
 
And we can
have faith
faith that through Christ
we are never truly
separated
from those
whom
we love,
even those who,
on this earth,
we see no longer,
because
in the act of remembering
they are still with us.
 
Yet,
the reading,
from Micah,
reminds us
of something else
about re-member-ing.
 
And that is
that re-membering
is not simply
a recalling of the past
into the present,
but also
a recalling
of the future.
 
In his view
of what is to come,
Micah
is remembering,
remembering the future,
the future
God has promised
to all his people,
and to all nations.
A future in which:
 
“they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
 and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.”
 
If we are to remember
our past
our loved ones
and the loved ones
of many,
many
others,
who have been taken from us,
by war,
then surely
we must,
also,
remember the future
we are called to,
the one in which
such loss,
the loss we suffer,
the pain we feel,
is only a memory,
and no longer a reality.
 
For this is the future
that God calls us
to remember,
the future
which Christ
died and rose for,
through whom
we are never parted
from God’s love,
which is the same love
as that we have
for all we truly love.
 
Remembrance is a physical act.
 
In the silence
which is to come,
let us then,
truly remember.
Let us recognise
alongside us
all those whose earthly silence
is the cause of our silence,
and let us remember
the future to which are called,
the future in which
war is no longer learned.
And let us commit,
in the silence,
that we will take
our remembrance,
our re-member-ance,
with us,
into our daily lives,
so that we
both
never forget
what is past
and work
to build
what God promises
is to come.
 
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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