Remembrance Sunday 2021

 Remembrance Sunday is an important day in the Church calendar. It’s important that we remember the sacrifices that have been made in the past to seek to build a more peaceful and just world. 

 

Remembering is important and it’s important for all kinds of different reasons and I want to think about three this morning. 

 

We remember in order not to forget – it’s the most obvious of all, but not forgetting is important, and it’s important as we remember to give thanks. 

 

We also remember in order to learn; and thirdly we remember in order to move forward...

 

So, firstly we remember so as we do not forgetand we remember to give thanks. Many people have had lives changed by the horrors of war. Too many people today still risk lives in order to strive for a more peaceful world. People whose names we may never know, whose life stories we will never hear, have given so much. It may be the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, it may be in serious injuries, it may be in struggles with mental health that have followed or it may be separation from loved ones. 

 

Whatever may be argued about the rights and wrongs of any particular wars, it is right that we are thankful for the sacrifices made.  

 

In our gospel reading (Mark 13:1-8), we're told that as Jesus left the Temple one of his disciples commented on what large stones and buildings. It was a comment that recognised the incredible grandness and majesty of the surroundings, but Jesus replied, 'not one stone will be left; all will be thrown down'.

Though it doesn't immediately sound it the reading reflects hope - not hope in the way it is seen often in worldly terms - hope of a good job, hope of lots of money or good health, hope of winning the lottery perhaps but hope in terms of knowing that whatever happens in our lives with Jesus on our side, nothing can ever destroy us.

 

That is part of our thanksgiving – to know that in whatever destruction there has been, in whatever pain that has occurred or will occur, Jesus has won a victory greater than any that can be won on a battlefield – the victory over death and the promise of everlasting life. 

 

And the second thing about remembering is that we remember in order to learn. The number of wars throughout history will tell us that we don’t learn well enough, but it is important that as part of our honour to those who have sacrificed so much in the past, that we try to learn lessons for the future – lessons about peace, lessons about reconciliation, about living together, about tolerance, about trying to understand and live with differences… 

There’s a powerful true story about a volunteer tutor who was asked to visit a nine-year-old in a large hospital. She took the boy's name and room number and was told by the boy's teacher that they were studying nouns and adverbs in class. It wasn't until the tutor got to the boy's room that she realised the boy was a patient in the hospital's burns unit.

No one had prepared her to find a nine-year-old so horribly burned and in such great pain. Though she wanted to, she felt she couldn't just turn and leave, so she gathered her courage and entered the room. "Hi, I'm the hospital teacher," she stammered. "Your teacher asked me to help you with nouns and adverbs." And, clumsily, she launched into the lesson.

The next morning a nurse called the tutor. "What did you do to that boy?" The tutor immediately began a tearful apology, but the nurse interrupted her. "No, no, no. You don't understand. We've been very worried about him. But since you were here, he's fighting back, he's responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live." The boy explained that he had given up hope, until the tutor came. "I figured they wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with someone who's dying, would they?"

Hope is something that everyone needs – through the darkest times of life, it is often only hope that keeps people going, and in the reading from Mark’s gospel (13:1-8) Jesus tells us that that hope must be placed in the only absolute unchangeable thing in life, and that is God. And that hope reminds us of a future that is possible – a future that will be brightened as we learn from tragedies and horrors of the past… 

 

And following on from that we remember in order to move forward. Yes, we remember and give thanks; Yes, we learn from the past but we are also called to live here and now and look to the future. Our remembering, thanksgiving and learning mean more if we are willing to be changed by those things today and into the future. 

Many of you will remember the incredible scenes back in 1989 as the Berlin Wall was destroyed and people ploughed over the border seeking something – they weren’t sure what, but that something was based on a hope of something better…

What seemed an almost indestructible wall with all the political and military systems associated with it crumbled almost overnight. Today what is left of the wall are small sections set up for tourists as a reminder of what was. The time since in Germany has often been painful as two very separate systems have struggled to come together, but,founded on hope, things have improved and the unification process continues.

But going back to the words of Jesus in our gospel reading, Jesus talked of an even more dramatic fall. As the disciples pointed out the wonderful Temple structure with its incredible stonework and size, Jesus told them that it would crumble. The Temple had of course taken years to complete – the Jewish people, not just the religious authorities, were incredibly proud of it – the Temple represented far more than a place of worship…. It was a place of power….

When Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple he wasn’t talking about just the building. The destruction of the Temple meant the destruction of the whole of the political, economic, religious and social system of the nation. Nothing was unchangeable, nothing unbreakable, nothing would last forever.... Nothing in terms of buildings and earthly powers and riches that is, but of course Jesus came to offer us something that would last forever – something that would last far beyond wealth or buildings or beauty or any number of material goods…

So Jesus, as he spoke these words, was talking about the future, he was talking about a time that was to come, a time when our earthly lives will end, but he wasn’t telling us to dwell just on the future – in fact quite the opposite – Jesus was reminding his disciples that the future is irrelevant if we don’t get the present right…

Amidst the remains of the Jewish Temple and the Berlin Wall today we can find personal stories of broken dreams and shattered hopes – the Temple builders built a Temple for God’s glory, and yet, unlike God’s glory, it wouldn’t last. They built it with great hopes that one day their Saviour would come and would overthrow the Romans or any other invading force and establish his base right there.

Their hopes would be shattered because they didn’t understand God. God, who can never be captured in a single building… God, who is interested in people not in things…

The builders of the Berlin Wall – whatever we might thinksome of those builders built that wall with principles. They had dreams and hopes of a society that would be equal, a society that wouldn’t favour the rich or the poor, that wouldn’t discriminate between the intellectual and the manual worker and so on. Of course, as we all know, that system became corrupted and that corruption and lack of freedom ultimately brought about the collapse of the wall and the death of the system.

Today many people have put their hopes in shares, and seen those hopes shattered. Some have worked so hard to build a good life for themselves that they have no time to enjoy it. Some have bought properties which they couldn’t even afford which have reduced in value so that they are left with huge debts, some tragically put their hopes in expensive loans, or in drink or drugs…

The hopes and dreams for so many are hopes and dreams that will never be fulfilled, because all of those things we think of can destroy or be destroyed...

And so what Jesus was offering his disciples was a message not to be taken in by outward signs of wealth or happiness or prosperity or power but to decide on living for the present and concentrating on what is lasting – God, through the centuries, unlike anything or anyone else, has remained unchanged.

God is the only absolutely solid rock upon which we can build our lives, the guaranteed unchangeable in whom we can put our faith and our trust.

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and scholar who did some incredibly detailed studies and wrote books which are well beyond my understanding was once asked if he believed in God, and he replied, ‘I don’t believe in God, I know God’. We can do all the academic work we want, we can study hard, we can read everything, but what Carl Jung said is the essence of a Christian – knowing God and knowing him personally…

God wants to interfere in our lives, but he won’t unless we invite him to…

He wants to share every moment with us, and he wants us to seek his vision and his wisdom and to use those things to show his glory certainly, but also to provide us with a life more abundant than anything else can ever offer… and a life of peace whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in….

And so today we remember, we give thanks, we learn and we look at the present and the future reminding ourselves that we have hope,as we have the confidence of knowing that Jesus died to bring hope and peace and eternal life to all who believe in him.... because he loves us, with a love more powerful and unbreakable than we can ever fully understand. AMEN

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