See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
1 Sing to the Lord a new song, •
for he has done marvellous things.
2 His own right hand and his holy arm •
have won for him the victory.
3 The Lord has made known his salvation; •
his deliverance has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.
4 He has remembered his mercy and faithfulness
towards the house of Israel, •
and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
5 Sound praises to the Lord, all the earth; •
break into singing and make music.
6 Make music to the Lord with the lyre, •
with the lyre and the voice of melody.
7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn •
sound praises before the Lord, the King.
8 Let the sea thunder and all that fills it, •
the world and all that dwell upon it.
9 Let the rivers clap their hands •
and let the hills ring out together before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
10 In righteousness shall he judge the world •
and the peoples with equity.
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.
2 Thessalonians 3:6–13
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Sermon on Remembrance Sunday
Today we continue the remembrance season with Armistice Day – the eleventh day of the eleventh month – and our Remembrance Sunday.
So, how do we remember the dead, those saints of the past, the souls of all the departed, but especially today the souls of the military whose lives were sacrificed for the sake of future generations?
Is our remembrance of these glorious fallen any different to our remembrance of a blessed saint? Do we remember the anonymous “John Smiths” just as fondly as the saint of the day? And why do we remember both so warmly?
“They gave up their tomorrows for our today” the poem says. That is true of saints as well as every soldier or policeman who has died in the line of duty. Every one of us here in church takes the long view of such deaths, don’t we? Because we appreciate our own mortality in light of the divine. That, I think, forces us to contemplate eternity and such reflection encourages us to sacrifice for the sake of salvation, for life in all its fullness as Jesus promises – and that is not just personal: salvation is selfless.
We want those following us to experience life in all its fullness, don’t we? Or has the gospel been muted for us as well as our modern contemporaries? However, Paul pulls us up short with what we read today, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.” We are enjoined to live righteously, to do always what is right. The good life is something that can never be taken away from us, prisoners (whether justly or unjustly incarcerated) know this, just as the martyr saints do. The martyrs were held because of their faith, a faith which brought righteousness into their lives. They no longer could live falsely, false to themselves, false to those around them or false to their faith. They lived for their salvation and were beyond any confinement.
However, when we look at the news in the papers or on the television and radio, we feel a dis-ease, don’t we? Things are “off” in some way, but how?
I think we can see it as polarity, the dualism of them and us, good and bad, sacred and profane – it could be said that this polarity of life overwhelms us. The “they” over there, the bad and the profane would take over, wouldn’t it, if it weren’t for our own experience of the “we ourselves”, the good and the divine? These may be brief encounters, but in that instant of experience they illuminate our world, don’t they? They give us a meaning and substance to life. They give us hope for life. Indeed they are signs of the fullness of our lives.
The philosopher exhorts us to an examined life – and that examination, I have to say today, is the remembrance of those whose tomorrows became our today.
In remembering we contemplate how we have been encompassed and become that affirming “we” of a collective self, when country (however we may define it) – like family – right or wrong, is so strong, when the good of the past supplies a goal, when the divine inspires us into the future.
Paul’s words, “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right,” should bring us back to ourselves. These words are why we remember our brothers and sisters who have gone before. They have left us what is right.
The reading from the gospel tells us how things will go for us:
‘They will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.”
Things will go badly for us, but we have to keep on doing the right, just as Paul says. This will be our testimony – that we do what is right, as Paul did with his life, a life dedicated to Christ and the right, a way of life which is the pursuit of the good. What better memory for the future than that we have lived the right in our lives?
Paul’s letter is full of good advice, but we all know we should be productive people, don’t we? So let’s not dwell on getting a job and refraining from idleness and sloth. We all know it is better to be active and interested in the world around us. Paul, however, expects more of those he has taught about the faith. He enjoins us all to do what is right.
Such an exhortation is hard to fulfill, isn’t it? Just like loving our enemies – so very hard. The hero is the only one who comes near the right. The saint is the one who has his hand on it. That is why we remember them. They have done what we would do for ourselves and for those around us. That is why the general confession leaves such a bitter taste in our mouths. “We have not done the things which we ought to have done and we done the things which we ought not to have done.” In fact, we have done the things we should never have even contemplated, for they are far from what is right.
Lately I have been very philosophical, haven’t I? Today I have considered our motives for doing what is right. This is about morality and ethics, words we don’t hear normally. What is the right? What is the good? What is righteousness? These are the questions which should be at the heart of our everyday lives as people of faith and conscience. How often are they in mind generally though? Ethics is a perplexing question which arises because of our celebrations today and in this season – when we remember.
The fallen whom we honour today during this month-long season of remembrance have given their lives for the good and the right. We must continue that tradition. We must do the right without wearying of that task – in season and out, as the bible tells us. That is the true honouring of the dead, whether they are merely souls whose names we have forgotten or the glorious dead whose names we call on the roll. They are all the glorious dead of the battle with evil. Those of blessed memory are whom we should see as soldiers of the cross who will never weary of doing the right.