Sermon – 14 November 2004

As I was thinking about what to say this Remembrance Sunday morning, I was thinking back to some of the things that I remember saying a year ago. I never thought when I was preparing for ministry and thinking about Remembrance Sunday services that the time would come when I was leading this kind of service at a time of war ? at a time when members of the forces, mostly young men and young women and many of them from central Scotland would be at war. At war in an alien land ? fighting for a peace which seems more elusive than when the conflict began.

I had said before that I am full of admiration for those who are engaged in fighting in the armed forces. And I remain utterly unconvinced that the hostilities in Iraq were either necessary or advisable.

However, I have said as much before. If I just repeat that in the sermon this morning, you will all go away thinking that you have heard the rector say all that before.
I am struck this morning as I look at the gospel reading that people have read it through so many centuries. It speaks of nation rising against nation, earthquakes and famines and plagues, portents and signs from heaven. It speaks of people being arrested and handed over. It speaks of people being betrayed and of false rulers.

How many Christians have read these gospel words and thought ? yes, the Day of the Lord is at hand.

Certainly, I have known a lot of preaching like that. People who believe, because of texts like this, that we are living in special times, the end times, facing the latter day.

Such preaching influences people to all kinds of strange religion. And strange political decisions are made, especially in America, because of faith like that.

Yet the truth is, that through the centuries, it has always felt like that. It has always felt that the latter day is at hand because such is what it means to be human in a world which is often cruel and unkind.

The truth, the gospel truth which we are to take away from a gospel reading like that is that there is no great latter day on the horizon. Today is the day in which the Lord meets human beings. Today is the day on which we can meet our God. Today is the only day that we have.

And the God of creation is still at work in a world where there are earthquakes. And the Holy Spirit still breathes in the breath of those who suffer. And Christ still faces false imprisonment in occupied territories, jumped up charges, torture and even death at the hands of those who would kill and maim him.

Today is no different to any day that the gospel has been read since it was written. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of the Lord.

I was thinking about remembrance Sunday during the summer. I was on holiday on Crete, a place I had never visited before and about whose history I knew almost nothing.

On the last day, just before returning to the airport to catch the flight home, I had time to spend. Three hours to kill near the airport. I had a car, and followed a signpost down to a place called Souda bay ? one of the most extraordinary natural harbours in the world.

And at the head of the bay, there is a large cemetery ? one of the commonwealth war graves. The place where most of those who died trying to liberate Crete in the second world war are buried.

It is no clich? to say that it was a small corner of the UK carved out in the middle of a foreign country. The grass was green and watered. The lawns were kept clipped, unlike any other grass I saw in my time there. The place was flat and green.

On the one side of me there were the cliffs up to the airport peninsular where so many of those buried had died. All around me were the graves stretching out ? known and unknown. Some buried alone. Others buried side by side with those with whom they had served and shared their service life. And beyond there was a beach. And then the bay. And in the bay, large military supply ships loading up with cargo, bound for the gulf ? on their way to Iraq.

On the beach, there were children playing, running in and out of the sea. Squealing. Shouting. Having a good time. Oblivious to what had happened on the land and sea around them all those years ago. Oblivious to the boats heading out to the current war now.

How much we live our lives like those children, for we are unable to face reality. It is too hard to bear.

Yet I do believe that facing reality is the first step on the journey that is living a spiritual life.

For only in facing things as they are can we work to change things. Only by facing the horror of war can we work and pray for peace. Only by knowing that there are those who are hungry can we work and pray for that hunger to be relieved.

That is what is happening in the first reading that we had this morning.

Sometimes we don?t know how to pray at this time of year. Later in the service, the choir will sing a new song written for this time of year by John Bell ? What shall we pray for those who died?

If you want to try to pray this week, can I suggest that you take the passage from Isaiah as a starting place.

Take the leaflets home and pray through this passage. Sit with it. Read it. Think about it. Turn it into reality for yourself and you will begin to change the world around you.

For the Lord is at work in you, to create new heavens and a new earth. It is God who is poised to rejoice with us as we usher in as world where there is no weeping and a world where there is no distress.

Isaiah?s song is of a whole new world. A world where the wolf and the lamb shall feed together. A world where there is peace.

It is a world vision that is worth praying for, hoping for and sometimes dying for.

God?s view of the world is of a world at peace with itself.

When we pray at this time of year, remembering those who died, let us pledge to turn ourselves around.

Let us work and pray for peace.

On this day. And every day.


Speak Your Mind