Sunday 12 November 2023 Remembrance Sunday
Ecclesiastes 3:1–8; 1 Corinthians 13
Context: an elderly congregation from the rural community, service personnel of all ages from the local Army barracks, together with veterans and the uniformed organisations
Aim: to emphasise that God’s love for us is eternal. Remembrance Sunday gives the opportunity to remember those who lost their lives through conflict and war with a timely reminder of the enduring love of Jesus which gives comfort to all
I’m wondering how this year has been for you. How did it start, where did it begin? My work is with the British Army and the beginning of the year saw the regiment deployed to Canada, Texas and Kuwait. Many are currently serving a long tour of duty in Poland. Others have and will be dispersed to other places across the world; some of course will have remained at home on camp. Army life. It is difficult, and the pace of change is relentless not only for soldiers and officers but also for their families.
I’m conscious now of changing seasons. A warm and mild winter drove into a cooler, wet spring and then summer with ever-changing weather which often makes boundaries between the seasons blurred, and undefined. But autumn, autumn I think is different. It’s slower. It gets darker slowly in the evenings, the air cools over time and the colours change around us at an easy pace from green to rich reds, golds and copper. It’s a beautiful time of year, my favourite – and my sister’s which sees her very favourite day of the year – the day the clocks go back, and she gets an extra hour in bed!
As a child, my sister would not turn the clock back until she woke up the following day, thus ensuring she ‘could really enjoy that extra hour in bed!’ If only we could turn the clock back. If we could turn back the clock of history perhaps things might be different. No Covid! No war in Ukraine. No wars.
If we could turn back the clock on decisions made, the outcomes might be different. There might be no conflict, no war to stand and remember here today. If we could turn the clock back, we could perhaps avoid so much loss of life, so much suffering, so much pain.
We cannot turn the clock back. But we can remember. Because all too often it is too easy to forget the price of peace. Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday give us time to stop, to remember. We stop the clock. Not literally. But for two minutes in the year, we are given the opportunity to reflect. To be still and remember the significant loss of life that conflict and war have caused. We come together as a nation to give thanks, and the silence gathers us into a shared emotion which for those who have lost loved ones, is almost unbearable. And it is those we loved and all those lost that we remember today.
There is a time for everything we are told in Ecclesiastes, including a time to kill, a time for war and a time for peace. We know that sadly to secure that peace, there sometimes must be conflict, and that comes with terrible consequences. But the passage also mentions a time to love.
Love, a beautiful sound, just the four letters, but such a powerful word. And no matter what you believe, we know as human beings, that love endures as Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians. Throughout all eternity love will never end, love reigns supreme, and the greatest is love.
Unlike a poppy which will fall to the ground, wither, and decay, God’s love for us and our love for all those we remember today will not fall, wither or decay. Love will endure. The two minutes of silence we observe is barely enough time for the chatter of our minds to settle, but all the same, as we sit or stand together, we have an invitation to find space in the busyness of our own lives, for a silent opening to all that war has meant for our country and for those who have died fighting for it. As we join in that collective silence, what we do is stop our own clocks and become quiet just for a moment to bear witness to what happened. We don’t need to figure it out or think about how it can be put right, but I know that compassion will emerge, and along with this, God’s love for us all.
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