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.