Remembrance Day Sermons

This is the text for the Sermons preached by the Rev Amanda at the 9am Eucharist and at the Kirklees Civic Remembrance Service on Sunday November 13th 2022.

You can watch the whole Civic service or just the sermon here on YouTube. (Sermon is at 30:00)

9am Eucharist –

There are some memories so precious that we’d like to remember them forever – aren’t there?   Those moments where you wish you could just make time stand still – and imprint those feelings and sights on your brain so you never forget them. 

There are equally some things that happen in life that we’d like to completely blot out and have no memory of at all – regrets, failures, pains, injustices, humiliations and sadness.  Times when life has simply fallen to bits.  Perhaps through things that we have done, things we have seen and things that have been done to us and people we love. Today we gather to remember war and trauma, death and loss.

Memory and remembering is such a strange thing – it can inspire us – give us purpose and meaning and help us feel warm and good and safe But memories can also be like ice – a cold hand at the centre of our hearts – holding us back in fear and bitterness – numbing our emotions and lives.   

Memories and remembering can shape us for good or for ill.  This is why the Church gives us these special weeks of remembering beginning a couple of weeks ago with All Saints –remembering with thanks those who have followed Jesus before us, All Souls when we remember the dead, and today remembrance Sunday when we remember all those caught up in war and conflicts past and present.  It is important that we have times to remember the painful and difficult parts of life and God’s constant presence with us through these times as well as the good.

But the question that often gets ignored is how we actually LIVE with our memories and the things that happen to us.  How do we LIVE with what we remember and has happened to us or keeps happening to us and other people we care about.

Our gospel reading today give us some help with how to live with our memories of the past and things that happen to us in life.

Some of the followers of Jesus were talking about their temple – the most beautiful building you could ever imagine!  But a building adored and decorated by the skill and love of Jewish people.  A building with a central place in the lives of Jesus and the Jewish people. 

There are some wonderful descriptions of the temple in the Bible.  The temple they are talking about is the second Temple.  The first temple was destroyed 587BC after the Babylonians burnt Jerusalem and the temple to the ground and took many of the people into slavery. 

This second temple of Herod the Great was started 20 years before birth of Jesus – still being built at the time through Jesus’ lifetime. 

Herod wanted to restore the temple built on the foundations of others. 

And what a glorious sight it must have been -it was the largest temple complex in the Roman world.  Sanctuary – holy of holies – most holy place.

The disciples were enjoying the beauty of the Temple – but Jesus points them past the illusion of the permanence of the present to the future –

“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.”

It can be tempting to live in the past and in our precious memories of past times and think that this is it – how it will be forever – yet Jesus always points us on to the future.  Don’t let your fear of what will happen lead you to put your trust in the wrong people or things. 

When we find ourselves in the midst of these times the words of our gospel reading today come to mind.  Jesus promises us that whenever (not if but WHENEVER – ie this is normal) whenever we face hard times – wars and rumours of wars, persecution and difficult situations – Jesus promises to give us what we need to face these situations.  “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

As we remember this morning in our two services all of those who have lost their lives in war we are reminded what a powerful tool memory is. What then is the purpose of remembering? What will we do as we leave this place today? The Gospel reminds us to cling to the hope of God. When we cling to God that is not a passive clinging we have to as we are told in our Thessalonians reading never be weary in doing what is right.

We hear those traumatic and real experiences of war and hold to God and work to do the next right thing. The memories that we carry from this service today we use to influence our daily lives, memories are not passive but can be transformative, as we remember the horror of loss of life and trauma of war may that transform the way we vote, the way we work towards good sometimes with no choice, the way we look after displaced people the way we care for one another’s broken memories, the way we vote in the memory of those we remember today always for peacemakers and never for warmongers.

We are not abandoned and we do not have to face things alone, God will be with us, alongside us through all we have to endure.  The darkness and destruction however terrible will not have the last word.  This isn’t how it will always be.  God is able to bring new creation and life out of even the worst the chaos can do the mud, trenches and death that we remember today.  As disciples we just need to have faith, and strive always, never to weary of doing the right thing, transforming memories of war into living for peace.

Amen.

KMC Civic Remembrance Service

It is a deep privilege to be a part of this day as we gather to remember those who have died as a result of war and conflict.

I wonder as you come here today to mark Remembrance what remembering means to you? Do we gather to simply bring to mind those who have died in war and conflict? That would be a valid thing to do to bring to mind and never forget the colossal cost of life of war. Or do we come together to re-member remind ourselves of the horror and loss that we gather today to recollect and then to commit to do things differently to reconcile and align our traumatic memories with hope.

We know as we come to remember together that everyone’s memories are different. People can be at the scene of the same crime or accident and yet see things differently. As we move away from a traumatic memory we have to work with it, to make it possible to live with to alter it. As we remember those women, men and children who died in the wars, we also remember those who came home unrecognisable as they dealt with their traumatic memories of being a part of war. The impact that had on their lives and the lives of their families.

We will come today with memories of those we have heard talk about war. Those different experiences and memories of those who lived through the first and second world wars that we have heard. The people that as I prepared this today I could not stop thinking about were those who came back and couldn’t speak, could not articulate their horror of war. Frank – a neighbour of my Grandparents – who had been a prisoner of war with the Japanese who would not talk about the war at all. The patient detained on section who had fought in the Falklands whose memories were so traumatic that they could not be accessed but affected him every day of his life. My Grandad who was on a ship bound for Japan when the war ended and only talked at the end of his life about the abject fear of heading into war and the deep shame he felt at not making it to war that stayed with him for the rest of his life. Those who having fought the war ended their war liberating the Nazi death camps and the deeply shocking horror and trauma that they experienced.

How we remember then is vital. It is easy to sanitise our memories to make them nice. But perhaps this remembrance day we are asked to share the painful memories of rats, mud, blood, limbs, fear, conscription, people who were sold a lie, trauma, death and more death and more death and more death. We will remember those that we knew that fell but we remember also those that are unremembered.

As I remembered conscription I was reminded of a solidarity with Christ. We sometimes like to forget about conscription because of a fear that it does something to the memory of bravery that we want to have of soldiers going to war. In the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus is arrested he lays on the floor distressed and agitated, he begs God for another way. Jesus like the many who died in the first and second world war was conscripted he had no choice but he didn’t want to face his violent traumatic death. The reality of the memory seems to make it all the more powerful, Jesus went to his traumatic, violent death in obedience to God despite the very real and human desire not to have to do it. Despite the very real fear and pain he felt. I wonder if this is an experience that is shared by those men who went over the top, not willingly, with the reality of mortality and fear but as with Jesus obediently to a greater good. That is true courage, that is true bravery! In the depth of remembering the true horror we uncover something more.

As we remember we are reminded what a powerful tool memory is. If we reflect we can all bring to mind those painful memories of when we have done something that we wish we hadn’t wish we could turn away from and then we have two choices we can turn away from the wrong thing, commit that we have learned from our mistakes or continue on in a cycle of remembering but doing it again anyway.

What then is the purpose of remembering? What will we do as we leave this place today? The Gospel reminds us to cling to the hope of God. When we cling to God that is not a passive clinging we have to as we are told by Paul never be weary in doing what is right. There is a song in the film Frozen 2 – ‘Do the next right thing’ that I cannot listen to without crying and I wonder if that is because it speaks to the heart of our human condition and why we remember today. We don’t leave it until next year to remember again, we hear those traumatic and real experiences of war and hold to God or good whichever we believe in and work to do the next right thing. The memories that we carry from this service today we use to influence our daily lives, memories are not passive but can be transformative. As we remember the horror of loss of life and trauma of war may that transform the way we vote, the way we work towards good sometimes with no choice, the way we look after displaced people, the way we care for one another’s broken memories, the way we vote in the memory of those we remember today always for peacemakers and never for warmongers.

So in the words of Anna from Frozen 2

So I’ll walk through this night

Stumbling blindly toward the light

And do the next right thing

And with the dawn what comes then

When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again?

Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice and do the next right thing.

Help the real memories that we gather to remember today transform us always into whether with obedience despite the full known fear of what is next or just because we are turned to God or good, in memory of those who we remember today may we all do the next right thing.

Amen.

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