Sermon by The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman
Last Sunday I went down to Twickenham to see England play New Zealand
On many of the seats was a piece of white or red card which we were asked to hold up during the playing of the National Anthem, each person responsible for his or her own piece of card
As we did all the pieces of card held up together formed an image of the George Cross and we all became part of a tapestry of patriotic endeavour
Every one of us was part of a bigger picture which we couldn’t see for ourselves, because we were part of it, but everyone knew that if we didn’t play our part the image would not be perfect
Today we too are part of a bigger picture as we remember those who died in the 2 World Wars and the many conflicts around the world since then. We are part of that same picture, linked by family ties and our national heritage
Perhaps we don’t understand the picture fully, partly because we were not involved in the wars or conflicts personally or because the people we know who were a part of it, who lived through the war, have passed on
Perhaps we understand the picture all too well as someone know to us died in the wars or one of the many conflicts between nations that are still ongoing
Whatever our understanding, however clearly we see the picture today we remember those who lost their lives in the cause of freedom and creating a better world, and it is appropriate that we do
We remember once a year. In Ypres (Ieper) the last post still is sounded every day at 20:00 to remember those who lost their lives. The so called ‘lost generation’. Those young men and women who went off to war and never returned
Our Old Testament reading was from Micah, the sixth of the Old Testament so called Minor Prophets.
Micah too had lived through a war. He was prophesying around 720BC around the time that the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria fell to the Assyrians
He was warning the nations about the threat from the Assyrians: to both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah
Should Samaria and the Northern Kingdom fall, the enemy would literally be at the gates of Judah and Jerusalem
And that’s exactly what happened. The alliance the Northern Kingdom of Israel had formed with Syria to try to hold back the Assyrians failed. Ultimately the Assyrian king Shalmaneser V attacked the Northern Kingdom and the capital Samaria and although he was killed in battle, Sargon II took over and finished the job and the kingdom of Israel was no more
It was a painful time for Micah. Not only did this involve heavy fighting but also a 3 year siege of Samaria, after which his records show he deported 27,290 people to Persia and repopulated the land with colonists from Babylonia, Elam and, of course, Syria. Micah wasn’t even particularly focused with the political landscape; he was more concerned with the social injustices he saw, especially between the rich and the poor
For Micah too, not only was there the horror of living through war, he also experienced a lost generation, in his case the 10 lost tribes of Israel
After the fall of Israel, the 10 tribes of the Northern Kingdom effectively disappeared. There are some groups who claim to be descended from them even now but they are in reality the Lost Tribes of Israel, a lost generation.
We should never forget our lost generation, that is all those who loose their lives in battle fighting for freedom and liberty. We should never trivialise the fact that they gave everything in the cause for peace and freedom and the incredible loss they and their families suffered, and is some cases are still suffering.
But as we reflect on society today there is a real sense that we too have a lost generation on our hands.
There are so many people, young and old, who will be lost if we do not reach them with the love of God
And that is where the message of Micah is as important today as it was over 2500 years ago
Micah spoke about the judgement and salvation of the Kingdom of God. But he was also able to look past the carnage of war and see the ultimate and peace that we have in God. He had a vision of a better world.
There may be wars and carnage in the future that Micah saw but ultimately nations truly would turn their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks and train for war no longer and sit under their own vines and fig trees as not only was the land peaceful, there would be a fair and equitable distribution of wealth
Despite the desperate situation, Micah showed that in God there was hope.
It is that hope which we as Christians hold out for our society, the generations in our culture that are lost, lost not perhaps in the geographic sense but in the sense of the Jews of Israel and Judah, lost spiritually and therefore wandering aimlessly and potentially lost eternally
Christians we are all part of that tapestry and we can choose to hold up our piece of the picture, our identity and responsibility or not. As Christians we are called to hold up the flag of hope in our own country, our own lost generation. We all have a role to play, whatever the piece of the flag we’re called to hold, whether in the centre or on the outer edges
Today reminds us that without the sacrifice of others we would not have the nation we have today
We should not trivialise their sacrifice, nor mix metaphors or images
Our calling is of a completely different nature to theirs, but it is a calling nonetheless
Who are our lost generation, who are those who we should be engaging with? The young people? Politicians? Our neighbours? Our friends?
Like Micah we should speak out to our leaders about the hope we have in Christ, the real peace that He brings, the economics that drives fair distribution of the world’s resources
Like Micah too we need to speak out to individuals so that their lives can be changed and transformed by the hope that we all have in Christ
Today we remember all those who lost their lives in the service of their country. As they responded to their call, will we respond to ours?
A call that is very different in its nature to their but in our current times, no less urgent.