Remembrance Sunday – for we shall never forget…..

This Sunday we welcome Revd. Jake Dejonge who leads this Service of Remembrance.

Opening Prayer

Let us remember before God and commend to his sure keeping: those who have died for their country in war; those whom we knew, and whose memory we treasure; and all who have lived and died in the service of mankind.

The Reading

The Reading: St. Matthew 5: 1-12

The Sermon

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”  The last verse of today’s reading.

Some cynical person might well say, rather mockingly, ‘Pie in the sky when you die.’

St. Luke, in chapter 21 of his gospel, is perhaps more realistic when he writes: ’When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ St. Luke 21, 9.

On this Remembrance Sunday, 2020, when we remember those who have died in one of the most cruel wars ever, the First World War, and in all the wars and military actions since, on this day this text from the gospel according to Luke, addresses us in language that we would rather not hear; certainly not in current times when we are faced by Covid 19 and all the anxieties and insecurity it presents: this text in its context speaks of destruction, of disloyalty, of wars and insurrections, of earthquakes and famines and plagues, of persecutions and betrayals.

What kind of language is this, so far removed from ’The Lord’s my shepherd, I shall not want.’ and ’Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give rest.’ What kind of language is this, what kind of imagery?

What we meet here is apocalyptic writing, with eschatological ideas and images of the parousia; that’s what it is called in the turbo-language of the theologians. It speaks about the time when the history of people will be full, complete and fullfilled; when the end comes, in the fullness of time.

It all sounds very difficult; let me explain a few terms: Thoughts and writings about the end time, about death and judgment, about heaven and hell, are called ‘eschatological’, after the Greek word for the end, eschaton. And because in these ideas about what it will be like at the end of time, our Lord Jesus, the Son of Man, usually plays a big role, we speak of ‘the parousia’, the Greek word for appearing, and sometimes interpreted as the second coming of Christ.

What it will be like at the end time, no one knows; I do not either. But people have often dreamt about it; and often yearned for it, especially when times are hard, when there is persecution; when there is a pandemic also, people often had visions, again usually in time of hardship and persecution, people had visions, lively inner revelations in pictures and in words of what it will be like, or of what it could be like, when, on the other side of the persecutions and hardship, God’s good plans would find fulfilment; for, let us be honest, as bad as we experience things now, it cannot possibly be God’s intention for us and for the world, and therefore God’s good purposes must eventually come to light. Among the Jews, ‘revelations’ of that kind were not unusual and then often in a sort of code language so that only those belonging to the group, the initiated, could understand it; a message often heard and experienced as coming directly from God. In Greek a revelation is called an apocalypse; and that is why we speak of apocalyptic writings. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, is a good example of this and in some Bibles it is indeed called the Apocalypse. But the book Revelation, the revelations of St. John the divine, is not the the only apocalyptic writing in the Bible. The prophet Malachi, for example, is also written in this style and Luke 21, from which I quoted, is often called the small apocalypse; and there are similar chapters in Matthew and Mark. (Mt. 24 and Mk. 13)

‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’

We live in hectic times, with lock-downs, great fears of illness, even a pandemic; must schools close and libraries, or not yet; must we all stay at home and order our groceries to be delivered; dare we still go for a stroll in the park or in the forest. And beyond our borders we hear of earthquakes and floods, and as I write, many wonder what will the outcome be of the American presidential election.

What is happening, why does life, as many experience it, why does life seem so out of control. Could this be the end of time? Who is to say? But with the author of the text I have chosen, St. Luke, I would think not.

There is, as always in times of stress and strain and of great change, talk of the end of time. Prophets and visionaries, preachers and sages have throughout the ages given expression to the god- given hope-for better that is embedded in the human soul. A hope-for-better linked to trust and confidence in a god who is good. Indeed, up until now, that dream of a better world remains alive.

Whether you think of 1914, when calls came for the Great War, the war to end all wars, to make the world ready for democracy; or of 1940 when it was to fight off a totalitarian threat; or the present time, when, time and again, there are groups of people, tribes and nations, looking for, fighting for their rights. often appealing to the claim of making their world, or part of this world, a better place in God’s name.

Now, you know as well as I do that wars rarely achieve all that is hoped for, however good the intentions and however sincere the conviction with which the call to action is made. And I am still realistic enough to think, as do authors of gospels and other books in the Bible, realistic enough to think that, however difficult and much dreaded the choice always is and should be, to think that the last war to defend what we consider good and to fight against what we judge to be evil, has not yet been fought. In Flanders Field there are about half a million war graves, I believe and how many more beyond? And how many more have given their lives since then in wars near and far, long ago and happening right now. But enough of this.

And let it also be said, the love and grace of God can touch and bless people in time of war as well as of peace; many men and women under arms have been stirred to great deeds of sacrifice and goodness and courage; and we thank God for that.

‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’


Prayers and Intercessions

Loving God, we recognise our responsibility to encourage and uphold one another and to live together in peace and love. We also recognise our needs and our human weaknesses and come to you now with our prayers and petitions.
Lord in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Holy God, we pray for our church leaders, that they will be guided in their ministry and that the Church, in the power of the Spirit, may make the Gospel understandable to people of every race, language, and culture. That the Holy Spirit of Peace may unite and reconcile the peoples and nations of the earth, bringing an end to war, hatred and discrimination.
Lord in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Creator God, we pray for your world. We pray for peace, reconciliation and healing in the places of war, hatred and terrorism. We pray that the nations of this world may be united. We pray for our sovereigns King Willem Alexander and Queen Elizabeth, and all those in positions of authority. At this time, we pray especially for a peaceful transition of power in the United States.
Lord in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Mighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women who serve in the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force, at home and abroad. Defend all who face danger and put their lives at risk so that others might live in safety and give them the courage to face the perils of active service. Comfort all worried families, whose loved ones are in danger: surround them with your love, protect them from all harm and help them to know that nothing can separate them from your love.

At the start of another period of lockdown, we pray for all our friends and families and ask for your blessing and protection. In our own community we pray for the sick and the suffering, the lonely and bereaved……We remember ……
Lord in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Gracious God, we pray for medics and chaplains, and all who support the suffering: give them wisdom and skill, sympathy and patience to minister to the sick and wounded and to all prisoners and captives. We especially pray for all who returned from the field of combat with injuries both physical and mental which have ruined their young lives and for the charities and organisations which support them in their convalescence.
Lord in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Merciful God, we pray for those fallen in battle who gave their lives in the cause of freedom and in defence of peace and justice. We remember too all civilians and non-combatants who died in the fighting: surround all who are bereaved with compassion and your love.
Lord in your Mercy: Hear our Prayer

Everlasting God, bring your healing to the wounds of war, violence, and hatred. We pray for the peacemakers and that each of us will help in creating a peaceful world.
Merciful Father: accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen


NEH 417 0 O God our help in ages past

NEH 440 Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Christ our King make you faithful and strong to do his will, that you may reign with him in glory; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.