Service of Remembrance sermon
The text from Father David's sermon at the Bath Abbey Service of Remembrance.
Remembrance Sunday 8th November 2015
Remembrance Sunday allows us to reflect on the events that has led to our freedom and to honour the lives of our fellow men and women who have sacrificed themselves on our behalf. Each of us will have our own personal memories and our own heroes whose stories we tell today and who lives inspire us anew. For me it is a very moving moment as I recall to you my memories in the hope that you too will be as moved as myself and inspired for a new season of hope for our world.
I am what is called a war baby as I was born in 1945, the year of the closing of the Great War. But rather than be called a War Baby I would prefer to be known as a Peace Baby for the war ceased on the day I was born. Yet I am well aware I was conceived as a consequence of the Normandy invasion of 1944 in which my dad was a casualty. From those waters where one hero survived my dad, a thousand others died. Many a mother wept that day for the son that did not come home but my mum comforted my dad and nine months later I was born. In those waters of Normandy a sailors hand pulled my dad from the raging sea and he told me with great faith,"David, that was God's hand that rescued me and you never forget it"; and I never have.
For today we not only remember the many boys who came to manhood in the face of war but the many who have found faith in God in the midst of their battles. Today as I thank God for the faith in God given to me my my dad so we commend all who have died to protect our freedom into the loving hands of God and commend them to his Peace.
This year is the Centenary of the First World War, the 70th Anniversary of the Great War and the end of the conflict in Afghanistan. Recent figures reveal 435 losses of British Personnel, alongside some returning with severe injuries needing much support from the sterling work of the British Legion. This service we pray for the souls of the deceased that they rest in peace and encouragement for those returning from war facing disability.
Our Scripture reading from St Paul to the Philippians reminds us "have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God".
This word from God is so important for us today as so many of us are anxious for our world, which seems so troubled with the threat of fundamentalism through ISIS, and the heartbreaking wave of refugees and asylum seekers. Solutions for peace seem so difficult to find and life can seem more and more turbulent. Yet this word written by St Paul was also written in troubled times; Paul in prison in Philippi, a stopover spot for refugees making there way from Asia Minor to Europe via Greece. Philippi the first church founded by Paul on European soil was also a difficult mission for him. Yet the Apostle Paul tells them not to be anxious, not to worry and follow some clear instructions that will bring them God's peace in their country and their lives. He also says, "let your request be known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus".
Did you know that anxiety is one of the most common of our problems. We often worry about everything, our health, our finances, our family, the state of our world, what to do about ISIS, should we remain in The European Union and even the state of Bath Rugby! Did you also know that most people's anxiety is focussed with 40% of things that will never happen. 30% of things related to the past can't be changed, 12% of things relating to other people's criticism, which is generally untrue, and 10% of things relating to health, which often gets worse with stress. Only about 8% of the time do they worry about real concerns that will need to be faced. So this word of the apostle Paul has tremendous value for our lives for the real concerns, the 8% we can give to God, hand them over to him to deal with. Today, in thinking of our loved ones, do not worry about them, they are in the hands of God. In prayer we can commend them to God's mercy, let them rest in peace and cease our concerns are their behalf. This is a necessary part of the healing process of Remembrance, letting them go so that we can be free of all anxiety. And St Paul adds something important too for today, hand them into God's hands with thanksgiving. Today's remembering is a source of thanksgiving for their lives, a celebration of their personality, their gifts, their bravery and their love of Queen, Country and their regimental family. Being grateful for their lives is part of the transforming of grief and loss into peace and joy.
The Apostle Paul has more to offer us in this inspiring passage in Philippians. Today has many symbols to express our love for the deceased; the flags of their regiment, the bugler's last post, the moment of silence. Each symbol conveying an important message. Today I would like to link the words of Paul in this scripture with the Poppy, the symbol of hope, the symbol of resurrection, the sign of life beyond death. In the fields of Flanders, Angus Macgrae spent time pondering the bloodied war zones where so many had died. In his grief he watched one day the beginning of new life in the fields as the spring time poppies immersed from that devastated earth. He saw the significance of both God's victory in nature over death and the ultimate victory of Jesus over sin and death in his resurrection. His poem writes of the hope of us all for peace to conquer evil and love to conquer hate.
Our reading from St Paul to the Philippians gives us a path to healing and reconciliation. In the face of the loss of a loved one we are tempted to think hatred, revenge, anger, violence, bitterness and a range of negative thinking but the Apostle Paul invites us to think in a different direction. He says think about these things, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. For St Paul the battle to defeat the evil around him was a mental battle. It was the battle to win hearts and minds through teaching the truths of faith. This is still the battle of today, to win the hearts and minds of today's youth with the Christian values that Paul outlines. Yes, dear friends in our remembrance there are all these noble things, each life lost give us the opportunity to rise above the negative mindset of our age. Each life bids us think beyond this life and soar to the bright horizons of a new world. The old mindset is bound by the ethics of a war-torn world but today our loved ones call us like St Paul to think on the new world to come where peace reigns on earth, where every child has a right to life with abundance. For this to happen we must feed on the mindset of the great values of our nation, the principles of all faiths and the reality that good will triumph over evil. I cannot think of better words to express these sentiments than in the hymn of Jerusalem by William Blake, " I will not cease from mental fight nor shall my sword sleep in my hand till we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land."
So may this a Service of Remembrance renew our lives through giving over our worries to the Lord and asking God to give us a strong and positive mindset.
May God bless all our endeavours and the faithful departed rest from their labours.
Philippians 4: 6-9 6
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.