Last week we held various remembrance services and events- in a local care home, in a primary school, in both our churches on the 11th itself and on Sunday. We don’t glorify war, or at least I sincerely hope we don’t, but we focus on the loss and sacrifices made by many in the wars fought in the last 100 years, and those suffering today.
We used this introductory prayer, which a friend posted on Facebook…
Every week we gather in our church to worship God, and during the week we go out to serve him in our community. Through the year our feasts and festivals provide times when we invite others to draw closer to God as we celebrate the birth of Christ, his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today, however, is no feast day. It is not a celebration. It is a day when we, in our church, as part of our worship, serve our community simply by remembering all that has been suffered, all that has been lost, all that humanity has done and still does to itself. And we pray. We pray that the memories of war will one day fade into the past and that we will live in peace with our neighbours. But for now, we cannot forget, for that peace is but a dream and a hope that we have yet to bring to life.
Lest We Forget. War is not just a distant memory. Our world is tragically far from being at peace. In the last week alone 95 civilians have died in Afghanistan. Many of those deaths, including women and children, caused by US air strikes. Lest we forget.
The siege of Aleppo continues. 250,000 civilians are desperately trying to survive bombs, starvation and disease. Food prices have soared, clean drinking water is hard to find, fighting continues and Russian bombs are still falling. Lest we forget that Syria is still at war. And the battle against ISIL continues in Iraq too. Lest we forget.
In the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, ongoing violence has led to over 1 million refugees fleeing the country. Lest we forget.
Lest we forget Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Palestine and other nations where civil unrest, violence, man-made humanitarian crisis and rape affect countless civilians everyday. So yes, let’s remember those who fell serving our nation. Let’s remember those who gave their lives for us, and let’s remember those who continue to risk their lives in our armed forces. But lest we forget that war is far from a distant memory. Lest we forget that today many ordinary women, children and men, not too dissimilar to you or I, fear for their lives. Sadly, for them, war is very real today. Lest we forget them.
And here’s the talk I gave at one of our churches- which was to a mixed congregation including 40+ young people from our beavers, cubs, scouts & explorers…
If you were at the hut opening last Saturday you might have heard me mention the virtues that the scouting and our national flag stand for- gentleness, joy, peace, goodness, patience, faithfulness, self-control, kindness, and love; and we prayed that the young people and leaders involved with our village scout group would grow in them. In the Bible those parts of our character are called ‘fruit of the Spirit’- when someone is following God those things will be there, just like pears growing on pear trees, or grapes on a vine. The passage that Ellen and Emily just read comes from a place where Jesus makes just that comparison- if you’re following me, you’re like branches that are part of the vine- you will grow and fruit will grow on you- and then he goes on- that fruit will be love. And the ultimate demonstration of love for another person is being willing to give your life for them- as Jesus did for not only his followers and friends then, but through his death on the cross for all who would follow him and be known as his friends. Today we remember those who were willing to give their all for those they love, and we remember also those who’s lives were taken from them- the victims of bomb and gas and shell that target the innocent, the old and the young; those captured who died in concentration camps, those who died, on every side of conflict. We remember them, and we pray that we will learn to love peace.
When you’re at Beavers, Cubs, Scouts, or in any group pretty much- at home or in work, at church or playing sport, there are rules- the things that are written down or you’re told about and they tell you what to do- stand now, say this, try to kick the ball there… and there are values- the things that are often not written down- and they lead to ways of behaving too- good sportsmanship, looking out for the younger children, welcoming visitors… When I learned to climb years ago, the first thing we were taught were the rules- what to say to the person holding the rope, how to tie the knots that would keep you safe etc… but no one ever spent time telling me that you also checked out how other people were doing, gave any help needed, warned everyone about falling stones or other dangers… those were the things you just picked up, usually from someone looking out for you… gradually you don’t need anyone to remind you of the ‘obvious rules’- they just happen, and the other ones too- they become part of who you are. But at the start, you, me, we, we all need some instructions… and the easier they are to learn the better-
Jesus keeps it really simple for his disciples here- they’re one and the same- love each other. It’s the command that is at the heart of the Christian faith, and it’s the thing that all Christians are to do- love the people around you… By obeying that command we will be able to live the life that Jesus calls us to, and the fruit of that love will obvious to those around us, and, well, when you boil it down to that, when you really think about it, its not a difficult choice- Love- with kindness, care, consideration of others (which is way better than tolerance of others!), being happy for others etc… or ‘not-Love’- with well, whatever you get when there is no love… For most of us the difficulty comes in working out that it really is that simple (yes, it is), that there aren’t any catches (no, there aren’t) and in actually doing in our lives… that is the hard one. But you never get that one sorted unless you start. When I became a Christian, on an outdoors activity holiday at the age of 13, (in fact, it was because I loved hiking and climbing that I was there at all) it was really easy at first- I could manage praying, reading my Bible, learning and singing songs that praised God, being pretty good- and then I went home at the end of the week and I didn’t have a timetable, a team leader and a worship band living in my house- instead I had my mum and dad, my brother and my sister. And it was a lot harder. The Christian life is simple, but its not easy. A bit like climbing I guess- you just keep going up, and don’t fall off… It’s not just for kids, in fact you could say its not for kids- its too serious, but that would be like saying that you can’t learn to climb stairs or trees until you’re an adult… But life as a Christian has more meaning, more purpose and brings more joy than climbing or surfing or any other sport that I’ve done. It has risks- sure. But what doesn’t?