Remembrance Sunday

Rev'd Heather
Sunday, November 10, 2019 - 10:00am

Sunday 10th November – Remembrance Sunday 10am A legacy of freedom and peace

Legacies. What would you like to be remembered for? Would you like to be remembered for your character – kind, tender-hearted, forgiving? Would you like to be remembered for achievements – being the best at something? Would you like to be remembered as living a life of Christian love, faithfulness and generosity?

Today we remember those who lived through the horrors of war and the legacy that they gave us. War that touched the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds, whether as ones who went to fight, or stayed to support the efforts at home. War that saw men and women facing trauma and loss. War that asked for many sacrifices great and small. War that took the lives of children, partners, parents, friends. We remember the suffering, the horror, the pain, the lives lost, of all those, who having been called up to serve in war, have given us a legacy of freedom and peace.

What a generous legacy.
What a gift to future generations.

Our poem that we heard today acknowledges that, and then challenges us to consider our response, how will we live? ‘I owe them my life and I live it today, a life lived in freedom because of that day.’

How will our lives and the ways we live continue to bring that gift of freedom and peace for us and future generations?

One place where this question is lived out is at Coventry Cathedral, a place where the cost of the Second World War was heavily felt. You may have heard what happened: one night in November 1940, Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe; the Cathedral was hit by several devices and burned. The following morning, the priest in charge made the decision that the Cathedral would be rebuilt, not as an act of defiance, but as an act of faith, hope and trust for the future of the world; and he had the words ‘Father, forgive’ inscribed on the ruins. ‘Father, forgive’ – those words prayed by Jesus for those who were killing him as he suffered death on the cross. Those words ‘Father, forgive’ set the tone for how war would be remembered in that place, what they wanted their legacy to be – one of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation.

And for Christians that sums up well not only what our response to war should be, but how we should seek to live our lives going forwards. Our reading from St Paul from the Romans reminds us that we are not to repay evil with evil, but do all that we can to seek peace. We are not called to take revenge, but to forgive and work for reconciliation.

Now that is no easy calling. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, sets out reconciliation as one of the priorities of the church today. Reconciliatory work is an area that he has been involved with many years. Reconciliation literally means to bring together or heal that which was broken. It is about so much more than an absence of conflict. It is about acknowledging differences, hurts, pain. It is about listening to one another. It is about transforming relationships that have become destructive into relationships of trust that bring new life. And it takes time, humility, patience. It requires us to let go of past hurts. It is hard. But it is so much better than war. As Archbishop Welby reminds us, it is ‘precisely because reconciliation is so difficult that it is so powerful.’1

Reconciliation and forgiveness continue to be desperately needed in our country and our world today. With ever growing political uncertainty, we are only too aware of the divisions that have widened in this country over the past few years. We are only too aware of the dangerous tone of language that has been used in debates and stirred up hatred. Yet as Christians we are called to seek to bring together healing. To listen carefully to one another, to build relationships of trust, to work to protect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, which sadly so often includes those traumatised by serving in wars around the world in recent years.

Reconciliation and forgiveness always begins with our hearts, as we acknowledged as we prayed the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation at the beginning of our service today. Reconciliation calls us to overcome hatred, covetous desire, greed, envy, indifference, lust, pride... So often we need to begin with changing ourselves, and our attitudes, before we can change anything around us. Yet that wider change is also needed, for brokenness also exists in national and international contexts.

This Remembrance Sunday we are challenged to consider the part we are called to ply in our world and the legacy that we would like to leave for future generations. Do we wish to continue to pass on a world in which brokenness allows fractures to deepen, or do we want to work for reconciliation and forgiveness, so that we may confidently pass our legacy of freedom and peace onto future generations.

( message-reconciliation-archbishop-justin-welby)