As we remember those who have given their lives in the wars and conflicts from the past to the present, all our readings today help us look back on what has been, help us make sense of and gives assurance for the present and look forward to the future with hope, however uncertain it can seem.
And looking on some of the world events of the last week, some would say it does seem more uncertain than it did a few weeks ago.
Remembrance is important to us. The much publicised exchanges between the English and Scottish FA’s and FIFA show that, it’s still significant. We look back with gratitude, hoping to learn for the future.
We can never explain fully the suffering of wars, but its right to remember those who suffered and died as a result of them
We hold fast to their memory and our beliefs, however dark the horror of war, for they did not die in vain, and as we look back we remember that Jesus Christ is the light of the world and no darkness can overcome that light, a phrase we use week by week in our prayers of intercession.
The light of the risen Christ, through which, as Paul expresses it in his letter the Romans, we are more than conquerors, even though sometimes it’s difficult to believe it
The reading from Romans comes at the end of the first ‘half’ of the book for Romans. Paul who is probably in Corinth at the time of this epistle is writing to a group of people who are understood to be mainly gentile Christians in Rome.
He is planning to go to Rome after he’s been to Jerusalem to give them the proceeds of the missionary fund he’s been collecting from where he will head to Spain before coming to Rome.
After Chapter 8 Paul then goes on to speak about the place of Israel in God’s plan for the world
In the first part of his epistle he makes clear his key themes, salvation is about grace and we come to God and are justified through faith in a Christ alone and in what he has done for us.
And as a people who are saved and have a new life in Christ the way we live should be impacted and our old ways changed. Our faith should have a practical outworking.
Our reading today, titled ‘A hymn to God’s love’ in the Jerusalem Bible, underpins and summarises much of what Paul has been speaking about up to now.
As we read the final words of the chapter they could look more like a battle victory speech than Paul’s normal step by step arguments.
Look at what God has done. Look at what the Jesus has done, and is still doing. Think of anything that might have separated us from God. They’re gone, defeated, history! Let’s celebrate the victory of God! Quite a finale.
He starts off by saying ‘God is for us’. It’s a summary of the gospel message. Our God who is not a God who is remote and uninterested. A God who demands our worship and life be structured in rigid and pre-determined ways. He is with us. He’s on our side. He’s on everyone’s side.
It was a salutary experience for many people following the First World War when every party expected God to be on their side.
It was a theologian called Carl Barth who helped theologians and the church think through what had happened and helped them understand it is not people who judge God and what He will do but God is the yardstick to whom we should compare ourselves. (Neo-orthodoxy)
Whatever the conflicts of the past, God is with each person through their times of trial, not as some sort of avenging angel or Roman style emperor or conqueror on one side or the other, but as a personal God who comes along side each one of us in Christ, whatever we are going through.
Christ died for us, was raised from the dead and now sits with God and intercedes for each one of us. A he builds up to the finale of the chapter and of what Christ has done, and continues to do, Paul reminds us that Christ Himself prays for us, all the time, including when the times get tough.
The Christians Paul was writing through were probably still to go through tough times, not least of which was the persecution under Nero, who, irrespective of the cause or who started it, blamed them for great fire of Rome and the flames that ensued for six days in AD 64.
They would know conflict and difficulty but through it all Paul assures them that God is with them, whatever happens and that Christ is interceding for them, they weren’t on their own.
Paul then goes on to quote from the Psalms (Ps 44 v 22). Are we like sheep to be slaughtered? Perhaps implying that God has seen it all throughout history. The times of the Old Testament and the times of the New Testament.
Whatever we may thing about what’s happening in our world, it would seem God has experienced it, He understands. And we see that despite the suffering, and perhaps through the suffering, time and time again God intervenes through history. He cares about His people and He will and does save His people.
God has been with us in the past, He is with us in the present and will be with us in the future.
Nothing will happen that can separate us from the love of God, know to us through in Christ Jesus, in the past nor in the future.
The challenge for us in today’s world is that it is so easy to forget that it is God who is in control and it’s on Him we depend.
With the power and wealth that we have as individuals and nations we so easily become self-sufficient and believe we are in control of the destiny of the world. So much so that we try to impose what we think on others, often with questionable outcomes.
We can save ourselves we seem to think, but so often it seems to go wrong when we try.
Leonard Cohen, who died this week in his last album released just before he died speaks of Jesus turning water into wine, but also of the wine being changed back into water. As humans sometimes it’s like we take the water that Jesus has transformed into wine and turn it back into water again by our own actions.
Through our efforts and sacrifice we can and do make the world a better place and indeed bring about some important breakthroughs regarding oppression and freedom. Some of our actions are truly sacrificial.
But despite all our efforts our world is still far from the way God intends it to be. A world where all live in freedom and harmony and acceptance. Where the worlds resources are shared equally and equitable among all its peoples.
As we remember those who gave everything for us in war we are reminded once again of our dependence on God and all that He has done for us through Jesus.
We look back with a sense of reflection. We remember what those who have given their lives have done for the nations. We remember too what God has done for the world, and still continues to do through His Son and Holy Spirit.
We have the assurance that God is with us, whatever our trials and tribulations of the present age.
And we can have a hope for the future, however uncertain that may be if we that hope is based on our faith in God, not in our own strength, wealth and power, but knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ.