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Sermon for Remembrance Sunday Evening Prayer

October 26, 2014

war graves‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See 1 am doing a new thing! Words from Isaiah chapter 44

In the name …..

Flo could never forgive her husband.

She hadn’t seen him for ages.

He’d been in the war.

It meant separation.

But the reunion would be joyful.

What did he do?

After he was demobbed at Portsmouth he went to see his mother in Southampton first.

It was on the way home.

It made sense to him.

Flo was not best pleased.

Putting his mother first again.

When he DID get home she gave him a piece of her mind.

After that, she never spoke to him again.

He slept in the spare room

She put his food on a tray outside the door.

The first thing he knew about his daughter’s wedding was when a posh car turned up

and she left the house in while.

Flo, (I’ve changed the name, of course), was my mother’s best friend.

She did not forgive.

She did not forget.

Memory effects the way we handle reality.

If we had a bad time at school,

as parents perhaps we feel hostile towards our children’s teachers.

If we had a bad experience of one person,

we dislike other people who remind us of them.

We can meet a complete stranger and feel bad vibes.

Maybe something about their appearance rings bells,

deep down, we’re not even aware we are doing it.

 

A child’s reality is shaped by his experiences.

If father was always away on business

if mother was too busy

the child searches for surrogate father or mother figures.

Some people latch on to clergy to parent them.

Some latch on to therapists.

Some expect their wives to mother them.

Or they expect God to be some super daddy in the sky who will comfort them, give them all they ask for.

 

‘The past is not dead and gone,’ wrote William Faulkner, ‘it isn’t even past.’

If we don’t want to forgive and forget,

if we want simply to stay with our memories

We are trapped by them, stuck in them.

The Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote:

‘Without being released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would be confined to a single deed from which we could never recover. We remain the victim of its consequences for ever. The discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth.’

Too much of our human history has been a history of reaction rather than acting anew.

The holocaust victim cannot seriously be expected to forgive and forget the concentration camps.

But 1 can’t help thinking that the way some Israelis have treated Palestinians seems oddly reminiscent of the ways in which Nazis treated Jews.

We cannot forget the way that Chamberlain’s appeasement policy towards Hitler led to a reduction in our weapons while Hitler was arming Germany to the teeth.

That memory seemed to underlie the suspicion the British establishment had towards CND and the peace movement in the 1960s and 1980s.

The suspicion of some people towards European growth into unity seems to be part of that too.

The anti‑muslim feelings stirred up by the Gulf War and by the Salman Rushdie affair seem to go back deep into history, to the myths and stereotypes at the time of the Crusades in the Middle Ages.

We need to get over our past in order to get to the future.

We might go to a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist.

Here, we will be encouraged to dredge up our memories of the past.

We shall start to see how those memories affect the way we handle the present.

We shall see how gut reactions towards other people are really acting out past hurts.

 

Healed memories will make us less destructive.

On a national and international scale there is the hope that healed memories wilI lead to a less destructive, more peaceful world.

We cannot go into the future and make a fresh start until we have done this memory work,

until we REMEMBER.

REmember.

Literally, to put things together.

Today is RE MEMBER ance Sunday.

Not memory Sunday but Remembrance Sunday.

Flo lived her memories

She did not RE Member, put things together for the future.

She could have put the past behind her and forgiven her husband.

Israel could model a new kind of society in which people from different races and religions coexist harmoniously.

Britain could work for peace more than it does.

Muslims could be made more welcome in our life here in Britain.

 

A real RE Memberance Sunday could do more than honour those who died on our side.

It could remember the people they dropped bombs on

it could remember children alive in Baghdad now.

Children not old enough to know who Saddam Hussein is.

Children who don’t know why there is no medicine in the hospitals there

who don’t know why there is no sewer system.

Children who might well die before they reach the age of five

all because of a conflict which happened before they were born.

A conflict which reduced one of the oldest cities of the world to a heap of rubble.

 

God, said psalm 130, does not count our sins.

‘If thou Lord wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss, 0 Lord who may abide it?’

The world can’t abide, won’t last, if we count sins instead of RE membering.

Isaiah, in our first lesson, says that God does not judge by what he sees and hears but with justice.

We humans make up our minds on surface impressions, by things we see in newspapers, things we hear from other people.

A deeper look at reality would enable us to make our judgements, like God, based on justice.

The Hebrew word Isaiah used for justice is tsedeq.

That word means more than fairness, more than sound ethics. It refers to a way of dealing with people which topples over into benevolence.

God loves justice, but, more, he loves human beings in their attempts to restore just relationships.

Flo’s relationship needed restoring with her husband.

Arab and Israeli need restored relationships.

Christian and Islamic cultures need restoring to a just relationship.

Britain needs a just relationship with the rest of Europe.

The rich Northern hemisphere needs a just relationship with the poor South.

 

My grandad went into the first world war believing it was the war to end all wars.

Yet there have been countless wars since.

My dad went into the air force in World War 2 to fight for freedom.

Yet people are not free.

In many parts of the world,

innocent children walk through fields and are blown up by land mines.

1 read about a little boy, aged nine, who went looking for his friend.

A minute later his legs and genitals were sliced off as a mine exploded.

People are not free to go where they please.

Not even free to farm their own land.

20 thousand are killed or maimed every year

 

All because of conflicts now over.

Unexploded mines left behind.

30% more land could be cultivated in Cambodia and Afghanistan if it weren’t for these mines.

 

I find it odd that the programme for the British Legion festival Remembrance at the Albert Hall contains adverts for British Aerospace and GEC

Two of Britain’s largest arms dealers.

Do honour those who fought in the war to end all wars by encouraging people to buy weapons for a future war?

 

We can honour the past by remembering it.

We remember the war to end all wars

and the fight for freedom,

by trying to end war now

by trying to free people now

by negotiating settlements

clearing land mines as Princess Diana urged.

resettling refugees

rebuilding communities ‑ here and abroad

restoring the environment

fairly sharing natural resources

developing international law.

Currently, ten per cent of all our taxes go towards military spending.

£22.5 billion a year,

twice what we spend on education.

Yet 1/3 of the world has 2/3 of the worlds resources

In Mozambique, there are two doctors for every 300,000 people

and only one on duty at a time

these facts create and maintain the tensions which lead to wars

 

Think what we could achieve in building for the future, for the next millennium.

In the words of Paul, in our second lesson, if God is on our side, who can be against us?

We are like sheep being slaughtered

sheep being slaughtered

so it seemed to my dad and my grandad

for all those who have lived through and fought a war

yet we are assured of victory

and the victory is not our country over someone else’s

but the victory of love, of justice, of peace.

Truly to remember is to RE MEMBER to build to reconcile

The victory, not of arms but of brotherhood and justice.

 

‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing!’ In the name …..

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