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Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday Resources

Weekly Bible Notes and Worship Resources

Remembrance Sunday

Poppies for Remembrance

View the Remembrance Day Service

Related Material: Church Sermon Archive and Church Archive of Lectionary Material

Introduction

In our churches this week we will remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. We will join with people across the nation to pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our brave service men and women. We will observe the collective act of two minutes silence as we stand together and reflect on the price of freedom. That price is still being paid with more than 12,000 British Servicemen and women have been killed or injured on active service since 1945.

Remembrance Sunday Sermon

Opening Verse of Scripture Genesis Chapter 9:15

I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh.
 

Collect Prayer for the Day — Before we read we pray

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.  Amen.  Common Worship

God, our refuge and strength, bring near the day when wars shall cease and poverty and pain shall end, that the earth may know the peace of heaven through Jesus Christ our lord.  Amen. Common Worship Shorter Collect.

Eternal God, in whose perfect realm no sword is drawn but the sword of justice, and no strength known but the strength of love: guide and inspire all who seek your kingdom, that peoples and nations may find their security in the love which casts out fear; through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

First Bible Reading Micah Chapter 4:1-5

In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from erusalem. He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. NRSV

Second Reading Romans Chapter 8:31- end

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. NRSV

Gospel Reading John Chapter 15 Verses 9-17

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. NRSV

New Testament Readings

Revelation Chapter 21

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. NRSV

1 Corinthians Chapter 15:50 - end

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. NRSV

Post Communion Prayer

God of peace, whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom and restored the broken to wholeness of life: look with compassion on the anguish of the world, and by your healing power make whole both people and nations; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Remembrance poppy drawingCommentary

Each year at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, our country observes a Two Minute Silence. Armistice Day on 11 November marks the end of the First World War and is a day to remember and honour those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. This silence is held in our churches on Remembrance Sunday because we wish to honour and remember those who fought not only in World Wars, but the more than 12,000 British Servicemen and women killed or injured since 1945. The war which was meant to end all wars has not done so. When evil forces are at work in the world there are times when war can be a justifiable as a last resort to stop such atrocities. So we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country in the pursuit of freedom, justice and peace. We also inevitably remember those we love and from whom we are parted.

Jesus was quite clear in his teachings that he had conquered death and it should no longer hold power. Jesus gave real hope with his promise of a kingdom which was yet to come. Jesus spoke in pictures about a time when there would be feasting and laughter. The time to come would be different, the hungry would be filled and those who had been downtrodden would be freed.
This gives us hope as we entrust to God those who have died.

However, in his teachings Jesus also made clear that real change must start to take place now in the hearts and minds of his followers. We therefore use this service to remind ourselves of our part in seeking to bring about the desperate need for change. So for Christians this Remembrance Sunday is more than an act of remembrance it is a promise that we will do our best to serve Christ by serving others in the cause of peace, for the relief of want and suffering. By his Holy Spirit may he give us wisdom, courage, and hope and keep us faithful now and always. Amen. Charles Royden


Remembrance PoppiesMeditation

Christ be with you, Christ before you, Christ behind you,
Christ in us, Christ beneath us, Christ above us,
Christ on your right, Christ on your left,
Christ where we lie, Christ where we sit, Christ where we arise,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of you,
Christ in every eye that sees us,
Christ in every ear that hears you.
Salvation is of the Lord, Salvation is of the Christ,
May your salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.
Go in peace to serve the Lord and all you meet.
And the blessing of the Three in One God keep you in eternal life. Amen.

When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today.

I believe in the sun,
even when it does not shine.
I believe in love,
even when I cannot feel it.
I believe in God,
even when he is silent.

Prayer scratched on the wall of a prison cell in Cologne during the Second World War

Hymns

  1. God who weeps when we are weeping (Tune: Austria)
  2. National Anthem
  3. As the deer pants
  4. I vow to thee (Tune: Thaxted)
  5. God is love (Tune: Abbot’s Leigh)
  6. O Father on your Love we call (Tune: Melita)
  7. Blest are the pure in heart
  8. All my hope on God is founded
  9. Judge eternal, throned in splendour
  10. God, our help in ages past
  11. Beauty for brokenness
  12. (God save our gracious queen)
  13. Thy kingdom come, O God
  14. For the healing of the nations

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

representation of prayer as seed growing

"Prayer is a plant, the seed of which is sown in the heart of every Christian. If it is well cultivated and nourished it will produce fruit, but if it is neglected, it will wither and die."

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life. Hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all whom we remember this day; fulfil in them the purpose of thy love; and bring us all, with them, to thine eternal joy; though Christ our Lord.
Amen

Be to us, O Lord, the affection of our hearts, the closest of our companions, our everlasting love, our enduring happiness and the fulfilment of all our desires. Through your Spirit, create in us holy fire and purity of life, that loving you above all things and our neighbours ardently, we may come at last to the glories of your everlasting kingdom; through Christ our Lord. Amen Thomas a Kempis, 1380-1471

O Almighty God, grant we beseech thee, that we, who here do honour to the memory of those who have died in the service of their country and of the crown, may be so inspired by the spirit of their love and fortitude that, forgetting all selfish and unworthy motives, we may live only to thy glory and to the service of mankind through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God of wisdom and truth, we pray for the leaders of the nations, for wisdom and courage in those who stand firm against terrorism; for patience and persistence in all who work to secure freedom, justice and peace on earth.
God of mercy, we pray for peoples and nations bleeding still from the unhealed wounds of their history. Deliver them from violence and vengeance; nurture in them the ancient wisdom of respect and mutual understanding
God of time and eternity, you travel with us through deep waters yet never abandon us in the storm. We live still in darkened days yet never without your healing light. Renew our confidence, rekindle our hope, deepen our faith, guide us in truth and give us peace in our day.
Merciful Father of all, in darkness and in light, in trouble and in joy, in death and in life, help us to trust your love, to serve your purpose and to praise your name for ever.

God of unending mercy, we pray with those who cry: For women and men who are battered in body or spirit, for children who sleep the fitful sleep of grief, for all who are imprisoned by walls or worries, for all who wonder if they can ever live again, for the least, the lost and the last, and for the dead. 
Christ, have mercy on those who cry;
Christ have mercy on us when we turn away from the cries of others.
Give us the strength of compassion, that we may never shield our eyes and hearts from pain, but seek to heal and bless.
Bless us with courage and arm us with hope, that we may lessen the suffering of our world.
Hear this our common prayer and those of our hearts which we offer now. (Paul Sheppy)

A prayer for those who mourn O God our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble, we seek your comfort and your blessing for those who mourn the death of those they love, for all whose lives are torn apart by violence, for all the suffering people of the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord

A prayer for the leaders of the nations
O God our heavenly father, whose love sets no boundaries and whose strength is in service; grant to the leaders of the nations wisdom courage and insight at this time of darkness and fear. Give to all who exercise authority a determination to defend the principles of freedom, love and tolerance strength to protect and safeguard the innocent and clarity of vision to guide the world into the paths of justice and peace. This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

A prayer for those who suffer
Father, we remember how your Son, during the time of his ministry on earth, had great compassion for those who suffered. We bring to you those who still suffer as the result of war. Hear our prayer, Father, for those who live with the pain and scars of bodily injury; for those whose minds are shattered by the horrors which they witnessed or endured; for those who have been bereaved; for those who do not believe in you or trust their fellow men. Grant to them peace of mind and heart, and relief from all their suffering,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A prayer for peace
O Prince of peace, Bring your peace into our disorded world. Come now to live in our hearts. Bring your order into our chaos. Hasten the day when you will come again, and all men will acknowledge your sovereign rule. In your name we ask this. Amen.

For our nation
Grant, O Lord, that our people may devote themselves unselfishly to the common good, giving much and taking little. Grant that we may love your Word and seek to obey your commandments, so that justice and peace, unity and concord, may reign in our land. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For ourselves
O God our Father, help us to realise that all striving after justice must begin with ourselves, and not with others. Make us to be those who work for peace and seek always to express your love in the world. Help us to encourage the spirit of reconciliation, by being those who forgive, rather than those who try to establish their rights. We ask this in the name of the One who forgave those who persecuted him, even Jesus Christ

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict, and ask that God may give us peace: for the service men and women who have died in the violence of war, each one remembered by and known to God;
May God give peace God give peace
For those who love them in death as in life, offering the distress of our grief and the sadness of our loss;
May God give peace God give peace
For all members of the armed forces who are in danger this day, remembering family, friends and all who pray for their safe return;
May God give peace God give peace
For civilian women, children and men whose lives are disfigured by war or terror, calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity;
May God give peace God give peace
For peace-makers and peace-keepers, who seek to keep this world secure and free;
May God give peace God give peace
For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership, political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.
May God give peace God give peace

 


Additional Resources

Meditation: Poppies

On this day in 1918, at 11.00am - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - the First World War came to an end. Much of the war had been fought in dug-out trenches across Belgium and France. It is thought that about 9 million soldiers lost their lives, and about 27 million were wounded - many of them permanently disabled. At 11.00am, the fighting stopped everywhere, six hours after the Armistice was signed in a railway carriage in Compiègne, northern France. Two years later the body of an unknown British soldier from one of the battlefields was laid in a coffin and brought over to England. On this day in 1920 the coffin of the unknown soldier was taken in procession to Westminster Abbey, past thousands of people lining the streets. During the service, the coffin was laid to rest with some soil from France in the floor of the central aisle of Westminster Abbey. The tomb commemorates all British casualties, especially those who have no known grave, and all who suffered during that war and since. Lying there amongst the tombs of kings and queens and many famous people, this “Tomb of the Unknown Warrior” bears the inscription, “Beneath this stone rests the body of a British warrior, unknown by name or rank, brought from France to be among the most illustrious of the land.” During that service, the hymn “Lead Kindly Light” was sung,. During the First World War, the soldiers in their dug-outs could see red poppies growing in the fields of Flanders, the name for an area that covers parts of Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Each year, the Royal British Legion sells artificial red poppies to raise money for injured soldiers, sailors and airmen who have served their country up to the present day. Some countries mark Remembrance Day on the 11th of November itself, and others on the nearest Sunday. At 11.00am, many people remain silent for two minutes.

Commentary

There is a sense in which Remembrance Sunday is a bit like a funeral service. Each have an important threefold theme and structure. At a funeral we look back at the life of the deceased person, often remembering them with fondness and gratitude for what they have done. Each of our memories of the deceased will be different, some will be clearer than others, but we look back and give thanks. Today we do that today as we remember all those who have given their lives for this country in war and in conflict. Some of whom we may have known, some of whom are distant relatives or names we know from our family. We remember all those with gratitude.

At a funeral, we are also marking a specific, current and important event in each of our lives, and especially those of the recently bereaved, the passing of a human life. Each Remembrance Sunday we similarly mark a specific event, it’s another year further since the wars and conflicts that we are remembering and another year of relative peace which their sacrifice, at least in part, helped to bring about. And at a funeral we also look to the future as we commit the deceased to God, sure of a certain hope in the eternal future God has for each one of us.
As we mark Remembrance Sunday we too look back as we remember, we mark a specific event in our current lives, another year passed, but also look forward with hope to an even more peaceful and equitable world and society.

In our Old Testament reading today from Micah, he too picks up this threefold theme. Micah is active around the 8th century BC, the same time as Amos and Hosea in the North and Isaiah in the South. Micah’s message is to the capital cities of both regions; Samaria in the North (Israel) and Jerusalem in the South (Judah), and he denounces the things that have happened in the past, the exploitation of the helpless and the emptiness of their religion. He marks a current event in the judgement of those nations. And finally, he offers a future with fresh hope for the people of God as they repent and turn to Him.

The reading from Micah is an appropriate one for Remembrance Sunday as Micah speaks against a background of armed conflicts and had almost certainly witnessed war and its effects first-hand. In 722 BC the Assyrians destroyed Samaria (in the North) and 20 years later attacked Jerusalem, only for the city to escape by a miracle. Micah almost certainly lived through both of these events and appears to have been deeply affected by them. Micah decries the fallacy of human plans compared to the wisdom of God and His ways, and he rebukes the leaders and prophets who have led the people into this situation. The reading today speaks of the new hope that there will be when restoration and God’s rule comes, and God Himself will judge the disputes ‘for strong nations far and wide’. It is then, and only then, will the people beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Having witnessed the horrors of war, Micah is clear that true peace can only come to the world when God’s rule reigns supreme. In a world where many deeply desire peace, we too need to remember that it is God alone who can bring true peace. God alone who is the author of peace. God alone who can bring true justice. Micah explains that our role in this new world order is ‘to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’. We are to work hand in hand with God to bring about the peace which he describes. As the world desires peace, we do well to remember that true peace can only come when we do work hand in hand with God rather than try to engineer or create peace purely through diplomatic, political or military means. Politics, diplomacy and armed forces can be an important supporting element for peace, but true peace can only come when God is at the centre of all our efforts.

As Christians we should not seek to usurp Remembrance Sunday and make it into something it is not. We should not seek to hijack it and make it into some kind of religious ceremony. Be we should also be clear that real peace and genuine hope for the future can only come when God is allowed to reign supreme on the earth, and when His rule is over all. He invites us to join with Him in making His peace and hope known on the earth. To offer true hope to a world which seems increasingly in conflict with itself and determined to shatter itself apart with civil wars and unrest. A world which increasingly seems to focus on our differences rather than what we have in common, and on the individual rather than the community. A world which today marks and remembers the past, but continues to looks to the future for the hope which God alone can offer. Sam Cappleman

Commentary

The Cenotaph Charlotte Mew, 1919 first published 1919

Not yet will those measureless fields be green again
Where only yesterday the wild sweet blood of wonderful youth was shed;
There is a grave whose earth must hold too long, too deep a stain,
Though for ever over it we may speak as proudly as we may tread.
But here, where the watchers by lonely hearths from the thrust of an
inward sword have more slowly bled,
We shall build the Cenotaph: Victory, winged, with Peace, winged too, at the column’s head.
And over the stairway, at the foot -- oh! here, leave desolate, passionate hands to spread
Violets, roses, and laurel, with the small, sweet, tinkling country things
Speaking so wistfully of other Springs,
From the little gardens of little places where son or sweetheart was born and bred
In splendid sleep, with a thousand brothers
To lovers - to mothers
Here, too, lies he: Under the purple, the green, the red,
It is all young life: it must break some women’s hearts to see
Such a brave, gay coverlet to such a bed!
Only, when all is done and said,
God is not mocked and neither are the dead
For this will stand in our Market-place -
Who’ll sell, who’ll buy?
(Will you or I
Lie each to each with the better grace?)
While looking into every busy whore’s and huckster’s face
As they drive their bargains, is the Face
Of God: and some young, piteous, murdered face.

On 11 November this week is Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. At 11 am on 11 November 1918 the Armistice began that was the end of World War One. In 1919, on the first anniversary of the Armistice, a service was held and now each year on the Sunday nearest to 11 November, at 11 o’clock in the morning, a Remembrance service is held at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London. The Cenotaph (which means empty tomb) was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in Portland Stone and unveiled by King George V on 11 November 1920. It replaced the original and identical wood and plaster cenotaph erected in 1919 for the Allied victory parade. The first Cenotaph was covered in wreaths to the dead and those missing in the war. Although it was originally to commemorate the First World War heroes, it is now used to commemorate all British troops who have died in wars.

We are familiar with many poems inspired by war written by men, less so the writings of a woman. The Cenotaph written by Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) was first published in 1919 after the end of the First World War. The poem is about the enormous loss and the ongoing pain of war, about sacrifice and futility and scars.
Reading the poem from the start we are captured by the words
’Not yet will those measureless fields be green again’
War leaves unresolved grief and pain and as the battle fields bear the scars and wounds of war, so has the beautiful colour of the green grass been removed. Wounded minds bore the deep scars of war. Nowadays we understand post traumatic stress, in the First World War men were shot before their pain was understood. When the Cenotaph was built, the suffering of war was fresh in the minds of all concerned, healing would take a long time.

Charlotte Mew writes ‘there is a grave whose earth must hold too, too deep a stain.’
This woman poet speaks profoundly and full of regret concerning the suffering borne by earth itself and inflicted by this terrible great war. Nature too is stained by war, made barren and is ‘too’ a victim. The heart and minds of those who lived through the conflict would not quickly or easily recover, she understands that the damage is so extensive that is has affected even earth.

The poignant line ‘an inward sword have more slowly bled’ recalls to mind the words spoken to Mary by the prophet Simeon who told the mother of Jesus that ‘a sword shall pierce your own soul too.’ Jesus was pierced with a spear drawing blood from his side, his mother must surely have suffered that ‘inward sword’ as she watched the death of her beloved son. Those who waited back home by ‘lonely hearths’ knew the slow death of hope which pierced their inner being as loved ones spilled their blood on the fields of France.

And so ‘We shall build the Cenotaph’ shows the country coming together in an act of solidarity. Wreaths and flowers are brought in an outpouring of national grief and respect, ‘Violets, roses and laurel, with the small, sweet, twinkling country things’
This reminds me of the mountain of spontaneous floral tributes left in London following the death of Princess Diana. The horror and destructive images of war contrasted with the flowers which nature produces when peace prevails. Young brave, gay lives are laid to rest on a bed made with the covering of ‘purple, green and red’ flowers, the colours symbolic of the vitality of their spent youth .

However Charlotte Mew is prophetic and makes no mistake that this war has somehow healed humanity of the urge to kill. Note the strange length of the lines of the poem, some short others long. The usual and often trite poetic patterns are forsaken for irregular lines, lacking conformity, perhaps mocking the uniform or military discipline of war. There is a sense that all is not well, no public ceremony will straighten out the crooked legacy of war or the twisted nature of humanity.
Then she brings in God, ‘God is not mocked and neither are the dead.’ Therein lies the wastefulness of war for nothing has changed to justify broken ‘women’s hearts’. Life continues as before with ‘whore’s and hucksters.’ Young lives have been murdered and God is together with them, there on the last line. The Cenotaph today is inscribed with the words ‘The Glorious Dead.’ Charlotte Mew uses the words ‘young, piteous, murdered face.’ She is not disrespectful of the soldiers, but has clear anger towards how they have suffered, there is no glory in the waste of their lives which have been taken from them.

Charlotte Mew seems brutally aware of the horrors of war, no soothing to be found in the passing flags and marching bands. Life must have been extraordinarily difficult for one refusing to draw comfort from pretence. She took her own life in 1928 by drinking Lysol, a cleaning disinfectant. Sadly of course she was correct in expressing the futility of war in this powerful poem. The Great War, never was ‘the war to end wars’, the Cenotaph is inscribed in Roman numerals with not one but two dates 1939 & 1945. We should never be under any illusion that war solves problems or that it is anything other than the last resort. Charles Royden

Commentary

We gather together today and there are several different aspects to our service. We thank God for those who have suffered as a result of war, and for those who have been disabled and injured in recent wars who suffer daily. We remember those who have been called upon by our country to put themselves in danger who are currently engaged in war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Increasingly Remembrance Sunday has overtaken All Souls as the yearly time in our society to remember all of those who have died. So we remember loved ones and bring to mind our own loss. This means that this service is inevitably a time of mixed emotions. There is thanksgiving for memories. There is pride - and quite rightly some of it is national pride for the courage of our armed forces. There is also pain, possibly anger, emptiness and all of the other things we feel when faced with death and suffering. Inevitably there is also a great deal of questioning whether war is really necessary in some circumstances and whether we are right to invade other countries.

So it is that Remembrance Sunday confronts us with some difficult questions about ourselves.
Wars happen as a result of what we humans do to one another. They come from human anger, resentment, greed. Religion is often blamed for war, sadly doing away with religion would never stop wars. At the heart of war lies a willingness to kill other human beings because they are different, or because they have something which we want. We would fight with or without a God who we use to try and justify ourselves. However, if there was no religion we would have to stop some of the nonsense which we think when we do go to war. In wars we often convince ourselves that somehow God is on our side. Sometimes we imagine that the people we are bombing are somehow not God’s children too, so it doesn’t matter how many of the other side are killed, the casualties which really matter are our own.

Remembrance Sunday also confronts us with difficult questions about God. The recognition that life originated 15 billion years ago and that creation has been evolving ever since is truly remarkable and awe inspiring. Looking at the wonder of the natural world many people find it difficult not to be drawn to the conclusion that there is a creator God. Yet looking into the face of evil and suffering challenges our faith in God and evil and suffering appears to be built into the very fabric of the universe as much as beauty itself "I cannot persuade myself", wrote Darwin, "that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae (wasp) with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars". Their macabre habits are shared by their cousin the Digger Wasp. The female not only lays her eggs in a caterpillar so that her larvae can feed on it but she carefully guides her sting into each ganglion of the prey's central nervous system so as to paralyse but not kill it. In this way she keeps the meat fresh. Maybe the prey is aware of being eaten alive from inside yet unable to move a muscle to do anything about it. Darwin asked the right question about the Ichneumonidae. Could a kind God deliberately create this? He said no. His challenge led many after him to question their pre-scientific understanding of God. Truthfully, when faced with suffering, many good people find it impossible to believe in God.

A Jewish survivor of Treblinka told how the Nazi’s kept a squad of Jewish slaves to clear out the gas chambers and bury the bodies. The Jewish prisoners had to open the doors of the gas chambers and drag the bodies to the grave. He said that sometimes they found living children, still alive, clinging to their mothers. They strangled them before throwing them into the grave. People who visit Auschwitz say that the thing that most shatters them is the pile of children’s shoes.

The dilemma is simple, if God is good God cannot be almighty, if God is almighty, God cannot be good. Some suffering is human in origin and we all need to know that there are consequences of our actions. We make choices and those choices can be good or bad. But, ultimately no answer is given for the great sufferings, many caused through natural disasters like eathquakes, over which we have no control, only the realisation that we have to learn to live with the mystery of suffering and continue to trust in God.

We might all shout at God asking why he allows it. But ultimately the question is what are we going to do after the shouting has stopped?  In one of the great texts of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel describes the execution by hanging of a young boy in one of the concentration camps. He tells us that the boy twitched in his death throes on the end of the rope, a voice was heard crying out ‘Where is God now’ To which came back the answer, ‘God is there; hanging on the gallows’ There is an ambiguity in the reply.  Was God killed with the boy, because it is impossible to believe in God amidst such dreadful suffering. Or was God so identified with us in our sorrows that God dies our deaths and suffers our pains.

So for many people ideas about God have to be challenged. It is not defensible to believe in a loving, omnipotent God who sits and observes impassively. The denial of God as one who feels the world's joys and sufferings was largely due to the Greek notion that perfection involves immutability - if God is perfect then God cannot be changed in any way by what happens in the world. But on the contrary, to be enriched by the enrichment of the world is to be responsive to the world and therefore to be more loving. Responsiveness, not immutability, is the nature of perfection. The only God who can be worshipped is a God who suffers with us. At the heart of our faith as Christians lies the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, who reveals God to us, dies. The crucifixion of Jesus rescues us from naïve optimism because it identifies God with our pain and suffering. The death of Jesus shows God bearing the pain most visibly, God suffers. There is no easy way out, no legions of angels flying to the rescue. God like us suffers. Like us when faced with unbearable grief, Jesus shouts ‘why me?’ or ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’  Yes we have pain, yes we have doubt, but we believe in a God who speaks to us of goodness in the world. We are confronted all around us by evil, but so too are we faced daily by goodness. There are great saints as well as appalling sinners, some a mixture of both. The great love that we know in others is a love which finds its source not in a meaningless universe, the result of an accident.

We do not have the answers to the suffering and pain in the world. But the death of Christ shows us that the idea of a God who watches impassively is wrong. We do not know why God allows suffering, but we do know that it hurts God as much as it hurts us and there is nothing which he is able to do to wave a wand and make it go away.  A love that leaves the lover unaffected by the joys and suffering of the one who is loved is not love at all. A lot of this is expressed in the hymn God is Love. I leave you with the second verse as a meditation. Charles Royden

God is Love: and he enfoldeth
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp he holdeth
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow's iron rod,
then they find that selfsame aching
deep within the heart of God.

Commentary

Do you remember the thieves on the cross with Jesus and the conversation which took place? One thief challenged Jesus and hurled insults at him, telling him that if he was the Christ he should save himself and them. The other thief recognised that Jesus was an innocent victim and did not deserve this punishment. He showed faith in Jesus when he asked if he would remember him when he came into his kingdom.

In her book ‘Eats, shoots and leaves’ Lynne Truss draws attention to the importance of the comma. She does this by reference to how Cecil Hartley in his 1818 Principles of Punctuality, considered the difference between the following

‘verily I say unto thee, This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.’

And:

‘verily I say unto thee this day, Thou shalt be with me in Paradise.’

Huge doctrinal differences hang on the placing of this comma. The first version, which is how Protestants interpret the passage (Luke 23:43), lightly skips over the whole unpleasant business of purgatory and takes the thief straight to heaven to meet the Lord. The second promises Paradise at some later date (to be confirmed as it were) and leaves Purgatory nicely in the picture for Catholics who believe in it.

We are all at a loss when talking about life after death, simply because none of us have any first hand experience and those who claim to have visited the other side in ‘near death’ or ‘out of body experiences’ all have remarkably little to tell of any significance considering where they have supposedly been.

So we have to be very careful when making bold statements about what happens to us when we depart this earthly life for pastures new.

However, we can say some things with confidence. Clearly Jesus believed that after death came paradise, the better place. Where the comma should be placed in Jesus reply is ultimately a matter for God to reveal to us, and questions of timing may be irrelevant, since at death we pass beyond the earthly measurements of time. We should concentrate on the fact that Jesus assures us, just as he assured the thief, that those who trust themselves to him will not be disappointed and are secure in his love forever. This is the message of Romans Chapter 8:31, our second reading today, there is nothing which can separate us from the love of God in Jesus. Where human reasoning fails, the love of God assures us that his promises are true.

Without hope our lives are pretty meaningless. Thankfully in his teaching Jesus gave us all something to look forward to. Jesus left the early church with his clear teaching that he had conquered death and it should no longer hold power. He spoke of his kingdom being something which was already present, but he also had a clear vision of a kingdom which was yet to come. Jesus spoke in pictures about a time when there would be feasting and laughter. The time to come would be different, the hungry would be filled and those who had been downtrodden would be freed.

In the passage from Corinthians we read about flesh and blood not inheriting the kingdom and the perishable and the imperishable. It is all very confusing ! Perhaps it is no wonder that the writings of the first Christians were lacking in detail what happens after death. The Gospel accounts show that after his resurrection from the dead, the disciples did not even recognise Jesus. It was only when he said something familiar or did some characteristic thing, that they recognised it was clearly Jesus. However those early disciples believed that Jesus really did triumph over the grave, they had such confidence and conviction that they were willing to die for their beliefs, believing that ultimately death would only open for them the path to life. Charles Royden

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of conflict, and ask that God may give us peace:

For the service men and women who have died in the violence of war, each one remembered by and known to God;
May God give peace, God give peace

For those who love them in death as in life, offering the distress of our grief and the sadness of our loss;
May God give peace, God give peace

For all members of the armed forces who are in danger this day, remembering family, friends and all who pray for their safe return;
May God give peace, God give peace

For civilian women, children and men whose lives are disfigured by war or terror, calling to mind in penitence the anger and hatreds of humanity;
May God give peace, God give peace

For peace-makers and peace-keepers, who seek to keep this world secure and free;
May God give peace, God give peace

For all who bear the burden and privilege of leadership, political, military and religious; asking for gifts of wisdom and resolve in the search for reconciliation and peace.
May God give peace, God give peace

O God of truth and justice, we hold before you those whose memory we cherish, and those whose names we will never know. Help us to lift our eyes above the torment of this broken world, and grant us the grace to pray for those who wish us harm. As we honour the past, may we put our faith in your future; for you are the source of life and hope, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer of Supplication
Loving God, in a world where justice has not rolled down as waters, nor righteousness as a mighty stream, where knowledge floods in, but there is only a trickle of wisdom, we pray for this church. Turn our efforts to good, so that as our understanding increases, our sense of responsibility will deepen, and we will complete our time here having made the world more habitable, and ourselves more humane. We pray this, O God, in the power of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Prayer of Petition

Almighty God, surrounded by a host of demands, we seek direction for our lives. Give us patience in the face of provocation. Sustain our hope that disturbed relationships can be improved. Sway us away from indifference and indolence. Show us the way we can produce love in action in our families. Encourage us when we are afraid of the demands of your righteousness. Amen.

Almighty God, keep us mindful of all your benefits and heedful of our high calling, that we may yield ourselves in new obedience to your holy will, and live henceforth as those who are not their own, but are bought with a price; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Slow us down, O Lord,
So we may "let the land lie fallow,"
So we may take the time
To view your Creation with Reverence,
To see the needs of all Your family,
To share with our brothers and sisters,
To celebrate with them
the abundant life You offer,
As we create Sabbath time in our own lives
And in our communities.
Help us to become sensitive to
The rhythms of Your seasons
And to rest in the security
Of Your grace. Amen.

On this Remembrance Sunday, we remember past wars: those who fought in them; those who lived through them; and those who died in them. Amen

We pray for the victims of past wars, remembering before you, loving God, those who died in battle, or from the consequences of injury or disease, and for those who mourned or still mourn them. We remember those permanently maimed or disabled, and those psychologically scarred or disturbed. We pray for an end to the suffering of war. Amen

We pray for the victims of current conflicts, remembering before you, loving God, children trained to hate or fight, families turned into homeless refugees, and lands laid waste and made barren. We remember those blinded or crippled and those driven insane by nightmare experiences. We pray for an end to the destructive hatred of war. Amen

We pray for the peace of the world remembering before you, loving God, areas where there is armed conflict and all those who are working for peace. We remember that you have called s to strive together for the coming of Your kingdom of love and peace. We pray that you will equip us for the task with the faith that knows that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Amen. [From Companion to the Revised Common Lectionary, Intercessions, Christine Odell]

God grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the people of every church and nation, peace and concord; and to us and all the servants of God, life everlasting; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen

Prayer for Peace Pope John Paul II

To you, Creator of nature and humanity, of truth and beauty, I pray:
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of the victims of all wars and violence among individuals and nations.
Hear my voice, for it is the voice of all children who suffer and will suffer when people put their faith in weapons and war.
Hear my voice, when I beg you to instil into the hearts of all human beings the wisdom of peace, the strength of justice and the joy of fellowship.
Hear my voice, for I speak for the multitudes in every country and every period of history who do not want war and are ready to walk the road of peace.
Hear my voice, and grant insight and strength so that we may always respond to hatred with love, to injustice with total dedication to justice, to need with sharing of self, to war with peace. O God, hear my voice, and grant unto the world your everlasting peace

We thank you Lord, for all those who have died for their nation. Almighty God in whose hand are the living and the dead: we give you thanks for all your servants who have laid down their lives in the service of their country. Grant to them your mercy, and the light of your presence, that the good work you have begun in them may be perfected, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most gracious God and Father, in whose will is our peace: turn our hearts and the hearts of all people to yourself, that by the power of your spirit, the peace which is founded on righteousness may be established throughout the world. Through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.

Poem

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow,
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army
Published by Punch 8 December 1915

1 O God, whose all-sustaining hand
is over this and every land,
whose laws from age to age have stood,
sure guardians of our common good,
may love of justice rule our days
and ordered freedom guide our ways.

2 Be near to those who strive to see
our homes from harm and terror free,
who live their lives at duty's call
and spend themselves in serving all:
receive for them your people's prayer,
uphold them by your constant care.

3 Teach us to serve our neighbour's need,
the homeless help, the hungry feed,
the poor protect, the weak defend,
and to the friendless prove a friend;
the wayward and the lost reclaim
for love of Christ and in his Name.

4 So may our hearts remember yet
that cross where love and justice met,
and find in Christ our fetters freed,
whose mercy answers all our need:
who lives and reigns, our risen Lord,
where justice sheathes her righteous sword.

Tune Melita

Timothy Dudley-Smith (born1926) written for a Justice Service in Chelmsford Cathedral.
© administered by Oxford University Press in Europe (including UK and Ireland) and Africa, and by Hope Publishing Company in all other territories (including USA)
8 8 8 8 8 8


church

A Prayer of Remembrance

Almighty and eternal God,
from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted,
either by death or life:
hear our prayers and thanksgivings
for all whom we remember this day;
fulfil in them the purpose of your love;
and bring us all, with them, to your eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

***

O God of truth and justice,
we hold before you those men and women
who have died in active service:
in Iraq, in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
As we honour their courage and cherish their memory,
may we put our faith in your future;
for you are the source of life and hope,
now and for ever.  Amen.

***

Father,
you know our hearts and share our sorrows.
We are hurt by our parting from those whom we loved:
when we are angry at the loss we have sustained,
when we long for words of comfort,
yet find them hard to hear,
turn our grief to truer living,
our affliction to firmer hope
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

***


Lord, have mercy
on those who mourn
who feel numb and crushed
and are filled with the pain of grief,
whose strength has given up
You know all our sighing and longings:
be near to us and teach us to fix our hope on you
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 
Amen.

***


Lord, do not abandon us in our desolation.
Keep us safe in the midst of trouble,
and complete your purpose for us
through your steadfast love and faithfulness,
in Jesus Christ our Saviour. 
Amen.

***


Our eyes, Lord, are wasted with grief;
you know we are weary with groaning.
As we remember our death
in the dark emptiness of the night,
have mercy on us and heal us;
forgive us and take away our fear
through the dying and rising of Jesus your Son. 
Amen

Remembrance Sunday is observed on the second Sunday in November, generally
the Sunday nearest to 11 November.

An Order of Service for Remembrance Sunday has been prepared by a group
representing the churches and convened through Churches Together in Britain and
Ireland (CTBI), working in partnership with the Royal British Legion and the Joint
Liturgical Group. It is commended on behalf of the churches by the presidents of
CTBI and replaces the service that has been in use since 1968. It has been approved
by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York under Canon B 4 for use in their
respective provinces.


Notes


1Act of Public Remembrance
Advice on the use of this service as an act of public remembrance may be found in the
booklet published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland – in the Introduction
and in the Notes to the section ‘Responding in Hope and Commitment’. The booklet
also contains a Note on Music.


2 The Gathering
Local custom will determine whether standards are to be brought and presented.
If so, this should happen before any words are spoken.
If several sentences are used, they may be interspersed with silence or music.
The amount of material used will need to take account of the time available.
If used in full, the Gathering section takes roughly four minutes. If the two-minute
silence is to be observed at 11 a.m., the service should therefore be scheduled to
begin at 10.55 a.m.


3Binyon’s Lines
When the service begins other than shortly before 11 a.m., local custom may suggest
that the Remembering section should come later in the service, immediately prior to
the laying of wreaths and other tokens. If so, before Binyon’s words ‘They shall grow
not old …’ an introductory sentence will be required: ‘In peace let us remember.’
It will often be appropriate for the younger person reading the second sentence to be
a relative – perhaps the grandchild – of the older reader. In some places local custom
will require that both sets of words are said by the same reader.


4The Silence
The beginning of the Silence may be signalled by the chimes of a clock or bell, playing
of the Last Post, or some other aural signal. In some places the radio broadcast of the
chimes of Big Ben is used.
The completion of the Silence may be signalled by the chimes of a bell, playing
of reveille and/or a lament, the reading of the Kohima Epitaph (if it is not to be used
later), or some other aural signal.


5 Penitence
A note of penitence runs throughout the service. If, however, a specific act of
penitence is required, it would fit most naturally after the prayer ‘Ever-living God’.
For the Act of Penitence from the 1968 service, see pages 582–583.


6 Readings
In introducing the readings, the book may be named, e.g. ‘Hear these words from
the Gospel of John … and these words from the Letter of James.’
According to local circumstances, it may be appropriate to substitute one of the
following for the reading set:

Psalm 23                                   The Lord is my Shepherd
John 14.1-8                               Do not let your heart be troubled
John 15.9-17                             Love one another, as I have loved you
Romans 8.31-39                       Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God
1 Thessalonians 4.13-18          You need not grieve like those who have no hope
2 Thessalonians 2.13-16          Stand firm
Revelation 21.1-7                    Death will be no more


7Hymn
The hymn before the Act of Commitment should be an expression of commitment
to service in the cause of justice and peace, of the kind expressed in the traditional
hymn ‘I vow to thee my country’.

The History of the Poppy

During the First World War (1914–1918) much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud: bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow.

Bright red Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas) however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called 'In Flanders Fields'.

McCrae’s poem inspired an American academic, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guérin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever 'Poppy Appeal' raised over £106,000; a considerable amount of money at the time. This was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing. The following year, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory to employ disabled ex-Servicemen. Today, the factory and the Legion's warehouse in Aylesford produces millions of poppies each year.

The demand for poppies in England was so high that few were reaching Scotland. Earl Haig's wife established the 'Lady Haig Poppy Factory' in Edinburgh in 1926 to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies (which have four petals and no leaf unlike poppies in the rest of the UK) are still made by hand by disabled ex-Servicemen at Lady Haig's Poppy Factory each year and distributed by Poppyscotland.