Message 13 November 2016
A message for Remembrance Sunday - What is Remembrance about?
My English thesaurus offers the following concerning the word Remembrance. Recollection, reminiscence, retrospection, keepsake, consideration, regard and thought among others. The words suggest a “gathering in” of that which we want to hold dear to. The word “Remember” bears echoes of Re-membering, a re-joining to a collective sense of our community. By the act of re-membering someone or something, we consciously bring that person or event within the walls of our community. We keep it safe, as we would a keepsake.
War takes people from the experiences of an ordinary life into extra- ordinary situations and experience. Many of these experiences are too horrific to speak about openly. Witnesses to man’s seeming insatiable desire to inflict suffering on each other often need help to re-join so called “Normal Society”. As individuals, we aim to re-member them into our communities (be it family, group or larger community). We help them to remember their place or position- their role. Equally, families of those who do not return face a similar task. A task of grieving and re-membering the lost individual back into their lives and into the lives of his or her friends/acquaintances. We seek to keep our loved ones safe and bring them home. This is far more than just a physical journey, it has emotional and often spiritual elements to it as well. The spiritual part is crucial perhaps, because isn’t it in God that we find and make peace with that which has been torn apart?
Jesus speaks into this, when on the night he was betrayed at a supper attended by his closest friends, he urges them to “do this in remembrance of me”
Remembering therefore is a key element in being human, created in the image of God.
Our Gospel reading today from Luke is one of those apocalyptic pieces of scripture that often can be misread as a warning of a coming Armageddon at the end of the world. There is good evidence that the Gospel writers placed events in order to help support their point and their aim of helping the reader understand. Skip back to the beginning of Luke’s chapter and we find him writing to Theophilus, “I have decided to write a careful account for you…so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught”
Apocalyptic literature like this piece in Luke, it’s partner in Matthew’s Gospel Ch 24, and in the Book of Revelations, is often written specifically about the time it was written in, not some far flung future event. Though there may be truths within in that can be applied. Jesus is talking about the coming judgement; and if we place this in context, Jesus is speaking in the middle of his last week alive when the atmosphere in Jerusalem is tense to say the least and the Temple leadership is out to get him. Jesus is aware of the threat, and of the likelihood of betrayal among his closest followers. He knows where this week is heading. And for Jesus it is more than him sacrificing himself for his principles, laudable though they may be, refusing to accept ways of violence and arguing strongly for peace at all costs, Jesus is convinced that he is God’s true representative and is acting out the end of the age.
The Judgement is imminent for Jesus, something cataclysmic is going to happen and the world will not be the same again, so Luke uses picture language for upheaval, such as war and earthquakes; Matthew has earthquakes and torment. What is it that is just around the corner. In hindsight, when we put this piece in context, we see the coming judgement quite clearly, it is of course the coming Friday when the forces of evil will combine and do their worst to defeat Jesus, to defeat God and will fail, for it is on them that Judgement is made.
So the point of our reading is that a new age is dawning, an age where God is King of Earth and Heaven, where Jesus has won the vital victory for us at such a great cost, and where we are called to follow him, to follow his way of peace, of love, of refusing to bow to the ways of pressure of self centred abuse of others, of lies, of deceit and of violence that we are often encouraged to accept as “human nature” or the way you get things done.
If we follow truly the way of Jesus, then we are invited to follow the way of non-violence, the way of peace, a rejection of armed struggle and armed conflict, however costly that may be. Jesus, in fact, left no confusion over this. We are to “take up our cross and follow him” – perhaps literally if necessary. Jesus’ way, God’s way, a way that rejects the pathway of worldly power and authority at the point of a sword or a Kalashnikov, is offered in the Gospel as the only way to break the repeated patterns of behaviour – oppression of the weak, exclusion of the poor, or those political power games where success and wealth come at the price of sickness and death for those not considered “valuable” to society.
So, when we stand in Remembrance of the tragedy of war – let us turn back to God in humility and prayer and ask for his forgiveness and mercy and for his strength so that we may walk in Jesus’ footsteps and “do this in remembrance of him”. One life, 2000 years ago has left a legacy that continues to change lives today. The very early church grasped this and shook the world to its foundations. Recently it seems that sometimes the church has been tamed by society and attempts are moulded to make it into a reflection of society rather than Society being a reflection of Jesus. There is increasingly a tendency to think that it has been put into its Sunday box.
But, Jesus cannot be boxed in. They tried that once and he broke free on the first Easter Day. So let us not act as though we can be boxed in either. Let us rather, follow Jesus and live our lives in remembrance of him. Who knows, if enough of us do so, there may be a stop to the slaughter of young men, women and children, on the altar of greed and selfishness. An end to the uprooting of refugees, torn apart families of those left behind and those caught up in conflict areas. Let us follow Jesus, let us “do this is remembrance of him”
In Jesus name