Eucharist – Rememberance Sunday – 8th Nov
THE COLLECT FOR TODAY:
Almighty Father, whose will it is to restore all thingsin your beloved Son, the King of all; govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Wisdom of Solomon 6.12-16 OR Amos 5. 18-24:1Thessalonians 4.13-18: Matt 25.1-13
As you know, which bits of the Bible we read on which days are fixed in advance, on a two- or three-year cycle, except for a few special occasions, and just go round and round like clockwork. By that reckoning we start the countdown to Advent, which is the season of preparation for either Christmas or the end of the world (take your pick) today. But, as you also know, the Sunday nearest to 11 November has, for about a century, been observed as “Remembrance” Sunday, when we recall the coming of peace after the First World War (and all others subsequent) and honour the memory of those who fought and died in them. It’s always interesting (to me) that that memorial shifted from the annual recurrence of the very moment (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 11. 11.11) when the Armistice was signed, to a more convenient “slot” on a Sunday, when people would be at prayer, in church, anyhow, so as not to pause in the course of daily life. In the last few years there has been a return to that pause, on whichever day of the week, briefly and truly: remembering on the occasion itself, not some other. It never feels quite the same (does it?) to have a birthday or wedding anniversary “do” on the wrong date. It may be the best you can do, but it’s just not the Real Thing. Some years, lately, the Sunday readings have been special ones, for “Remembrance” service, but others (like today) are more general.
This begs the question “What does it mean to remember?” Well, for a start, you can only do it backwards – looking to history, not the future – and doing something about it helps it to stick. The first war I remember fought (for example) was the one in Vietnam, but I grew up when the consequences of WWII were all too visible, in bomb-sites and craters all over the town, and disabled ex-serviceman on the streets. The idea of war was planted firmly within us, even if not the experience, and reinforced, once a term, by the testing of air-raid sirens on the school roof. The “Cuban Missile Crisis” (when I was six) had everyone worried the end of the world might have come, in the form of a nuclear war in which ALL would be lost.
“Remembering”, it seems, must be about putting those understandings, and feelings, of history into some sort of order, to make better sense: something unique to everyone’s particular life, but overlapping, and shared, with those of others. That’s (perhaps) part of what makes a community a community: a network of accumulated wisdom, from which our children (please God) may learn; so long as that “sharing” is open to all, not a once-sided view by the winners, in which case we haven’t really learned much at all, and the loss and the pain were for nothing.That’s where the God-bit comes in. Every Sunday (not only this one) church comes together to remember all that Jesus did, joining not only with each other in a matter of collective history, but with him as a person – being “members” not of some holy club or social society but as parts of his Body, in the same way our own arms and legs are. When that happens we can live and move and have our being as much with him as each other. It’s a bit of a mystery quite how, of course, but if something ever goes wrong, and you find yourself dis-membered, by heck! don’t you know it! I suppose that’s why, even now, we still feed not only on reading and prayer but (if we can) on actual, physical food. Until which we pray, like those dead unnamed yet “known unto God”, that Christ “re-member” us in his kingdom.