Sunday, 9 November 2014

Can't make it to church - November 9

Today the nation stops for two minutes to remember ALL who have lost their lives as a result of war. A day when war is most definitely not glorified, for when we speak of the 'Glorious dead' we refer to those who are in 'Glory'; a day when we remember also all those who have been broken in body, mind or spirit as a result of conflict and commit ourselves to peace.

Traditionally we will find ourselves using one of a select set of readings - the most common being the  'Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for another' as it speaks of the Selfless Commitment that is found in Jesus' journey to the cross and the Values and Standards of the British forces. So let's have a look at it in a bit of detail:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other."

There are a few interesting themes to be found in this passage; the first rather fittingly focuses on the what it means to have a chain of command for Jesus has 'kept His Father's commands and He calls on us to accept those He issues. To remain in relationship with Him (love being that relationship) and from that relationship we have a unity in that we do what is right (God's commands) as the outworking of that love. This is the brotherly live, the camaraderie, that amazing bond of 'brothers in arms' that is part of Christian living and reflected, and celebrated (rightly) as poppies are worn and silence is observed.

The 'you are my friends if you do what I command', in this context, is not some Elizabeth Violet Bott* toe-pointing, breath-holding, petulance but a statement of relationship and unity. If we were to rephrase it as:

"We are brothers in arms if we live within the same chain of command - you're not servants but part of the same body, we all obey that which comes from above, we all hear from the one above and make it known to those who we lead - and they in turn pass this to those who lead."

Remembrance is about remembering, that's simple innit?

Remembrance is about reflecting on the past and determining not to repeat it.

It is about remembering, and celebrating (and that's the right word), acts of courage and rightly placed response to wrong that causes people to make a stand and 'take up arms' with proportionality and the requirements of Micah 6 (humility, justice and mercy) a forethought.

It is about honest reflection - eschewing jingoistic rhetoric, blind praise and the bitterness of those who have lost loved ones or been themselves wounded and broken by conflict - for are not those who have lost loved ones also 'victims of war'? 

War is never great and yet when politics and diplomacy fail; when genocide and oppression of the weak, marginalised and vulnerable is obvious and unchallenged - it is also inevitable (and right). Recently I had a rather heated discussion (well they were heated) over the situation in Syria and Iraq. The person I was speaking to wanted 'us' to stand aside and avoid 'getting involved' in anything military because they were 'pacifists' - which in this context meant leaving those who are acting wrongly to continue to do so because 'it isn't our business'.

When asked what we should be doing the only solution they offered was to mumble about sanctions and peace accords and diplomacy and how the loss of life was 'unfortunate' but didn't warrant others 'meddling' in their situation. The 'Christian' response was to pray from peace and call on the governments of the world to put sanctions and embargoes in place ad to hope for an end to the murders - "This is what is right, this is what is Christian," they said.

Meanwhile Psalm 82 calls us to reflect thus:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked."
And this is why today we remember those who marched away never to return and, until the return of Jesus, the Christ, will continue to need to take up arms at times. This is why we utter the words  'Never Again' and pray they will hold true. This is why the words from Binyon's poem 'For the fallen' echo true as we remember:

"They went with songs to the battle, they were young, straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, they fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them."
I hope, and pray, the words of this reflection touch, help and inform those who read it.
The Collect
Almighty and eternal God, you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints: grant to us the same faith and power of love, that, as we rejoice in their triumphs, we may be sustained by their example and fellowship; through Jesus Christ your son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, Amen.

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