Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in 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.
God, our refuge and strength, bring near the day when wars shall cease and poverty and pain shall end, that earth may know the peace of heaven through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, not light;
as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
17 The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
18 and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality,
19 and immortality brings one near to God;
20 so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Sermon on Remembrance Sunday
Paul wrote, that he does “not want you, brothers and sisters, to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” This is the reason for this season of remembrance, but for this Sunday in particular in the anglican year. It is a national day of mourning, isn’t it? When everyone is reminded of the death of the young by the red poppy on the lapels of everyone.
The young we remember “do not grow old as we grow old.” Instead many lie in makeshift graves in the middle of foreign lands, never to be English, but are nonetheless England because of the humus of the dead which lies beneath the turf so far away from this isle. We remember the young men and women who fulfilled their country’s calling, those duties imposed by their country, and we grieve. We grieve, however, unlike those with no hope. We grieve while at the same time hoping to live lives worthy of their sacrifices.
I grieve for my parents, with the hope that my actions will be commensurate with all that they have given me, by their sacrifices, so that I can live a life of value to others, as theirs were for me.
Christian grief plumbs the depths of human being. Christian grief founds life on a sure foundation, a ground valuing all. Nothing should be forgotten, nothing should be demeaned. All things fit into that seamless garment of the mystical body of Christ, which the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church should be. I suppose this is the reason for the Remembrance season, for all the souls and for all the saints. Today we remember the dead of conflict in every age.
Today could be a reflection on the nature of all conflict, all of which culminates in likening conflict’s deaths to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, even though all of that conflict pales into insignificance in light of the death on the cross of an innocent man for the sake of universal salvation. That message of the futility of conflict has already been done by those without our faith as well as our own preachers. We have heard it and we have exclaimed the loud “Amen”, haven’t we?
What I would like to do is examine the nature of our love of country, the love of any person of any thing, actually. In our OT lesson, we heard that Wisdom “hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.” The beloved does this for the lover, don’t you think? For the patriot, the homeland reveals itself as the promised land and no one can take that vision away. The patriot lives out his life for his country, in his or her own way, sometimes laudable, sometimes ignoble. Today we are remembering those who have been laudable patriots, those who have given their lives for the sake of those who have come after. Every war has its heroes, and we are to celebrate all the heroes, both the decorated commemorated by monuments in public squares and also the forgotten, those who lie hidden, without their story being heard. We have gathered before this holy table, the altar of our communion to remember those who have died in war, just as we remembered all the saints and all the souls last week.
I would like to take a step back, to examine the love of country, and to see whether our country does the same thing Wisdom does. Does our country “hasten to make herself known to those who desire her”? This is a very important question to address, I think, for if our true country does not make herself known to us, we who desire her, then the country defeats itself without any enemy pressing against the borders of this, our homeland.
We have been rocked by scandals in the arts and politics, even in the church we fear the exposure of yet more “dirty linen”. We know that our world is collapsing, where once we were proud to be. Our heroes have been blasted by a new iconoclasm, one more ferocious than that of the Reformation, for this one has no scruples. The icons are being destroyed because it is possible, but what values have been revealed in the light of so much perversity? What have the journalists who have proudly signed their articles about the peccadilloes of others, put in the place of these images of the once heroic? Have they melted everything down to create new golden calves for us to be confused by? Today I am bereft. I mourn the loved ones of the past who have sacrificed their tomorrows for my today. We do not see anything to take their place, do we? Or are you seeing news bulletins different from the ones I have?
Our patriotism should be like love, that love which wisdom draws out as it calls to those who thirst after it. Wisdom “hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.” Don’t our lovers do this as well? Nothing is worse than someone loving another who does not even recognise that person. Imagine our homeland doing that. Who would be a patriot? Who would want to give their lives for that cause? Our homeland does call us, but we need to desire to know our home. That may the problem today, with all our dismay and disappointment with our leaders, whoever they may be, whatever the stage they may be on. Our leaders must make the homeland known to the population, a population whom they request to defend her.
The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church proclaims the final homeland for all, that resting place of the Kingdom of God. The preaching from the pulpit needs to proclaim the joy of the homeland. Then would martyrs stand up in defence of the gospel, that good news of heaven. The martyrs of the ages are to be likened to the people who have lost their lives in war. They stand for the homeland, defending her for the future, the generations who live on their tomorrows never realised in their own times.
I wonder if we have that strength to stand on the gospel, to defend the gospel with the very fibre of our being. I know that I quake in my boots when I consider possibility of torture and death. What about you? I do pray earnestly for those who have undergone and are suffering torment in any way, because I know I probably would not hold out. I pray for their enemies too – because I want them to repent of their actions. I want everyone to see that homeland none of us can define, the one just out of reach for me now, that heavenly homeland. That is why I pray for patriot and enemy alike – that they may see their ownmost possibility to be the same, a peace which the world cannot give, a peace from outside all human endeavour, but a peace which we can all live out.
“So the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom,” as we read and Paul asks us to “encourage one another with these words” that “the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven,” that the Kingdom of God will indeed reveal itself as our homeland, true patriots as we are, as those are who have died in conflict throughout time and space whom we remember today.