Remembering

What, I wonder is your first memory, something major,  or something trivial but personally significant – mine is both. The moon landing and my grandparents moving house on the same day.

Vera Brittain in Testament of Youth recalls that her first memory was the celebrations at the relief of Mafeking –

I wonder if a life lived in the shadow of war made that more likely to have remained a memory?!

Remembering is a vital and important part of a human existence

Memories are part of us, they shape how we view the world, our earliest experiences colour our character, later ones form us and shape our opinions.

Good memories, bad memories

Half remembered memories

The memories we’d rather forget, traumatic events, loss, grief

The things we cling to

Memories that are half forgotten, evoked by a smell, a sound, a face.

Memory plays tricks on us too, yesterday Tim & I went back to see a house we’d viewed previously. Each of us had remembered things differently, smaller, larger, brighter, darker.

We have all I’m sure been back to a place we knew when young and exclaimed at how small it seems now.

Part of the reasons we want to forget some things is because we want to change what happened, and we know we can’t

We block out, either deliberately or our neurological system does it for us, the bad, traumatic things that have occurred, it’s a form of self-protection.

However, some things are so bad that we must remember

War is one of those things.

The commemoration of Armistice day is a multi-layered thing,

100 years on there are few alive today who lost fathers brothers and friends in the 14-18 conflict, but families and communities still remember the holes in their collective lives, we mourn the loss of potential, of individuals, of memories that were never made.

And of course, we remember and mourn those lost in successive conflicts, WW2 and others almost too many to name.

Corporately, nationally, one of the reasons we must remember is to prevent such a wholesale disaster recurring

The Great War was known as the war to end all wars.

The Peace of 1919 also saw the beginnings of organisations such as the Peace pledge Union, the League of Nations -now the UN, and post WW2 the rise of peace campaigning such as CND and others,

 

And yet, we live in a world that is riven by violence, war terrorism and all manner of conflict.

Clearly just remembering is not enough.

Are we doing the right kind of remembering?

Are we drawing the kindly veil of time over events in the past?

Are we romanticising history?

The philosopher George Santayana said;  Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it;

 

It’s a particular kind of remembering that enables us to change…

As Christians the centre of our faith is remembering.

Every Sunday we obey the command of Jesus to “do this is remembrance of me”

For some, this becomes ritual, habit, tradition

The bread and the wine are just part of what we do, moving perhaps, important of course, but they have no impact beyond the door of a church

But what Jesus asked us to do was to bring that moment, the moment of his death and resurrection, in to our present.

To remember afresh each time as if it was now.

To be overwhelmed by his love and his presence each time bread is broken and wine outpoured

And for it to make a difference.

For us to experience that love so deeply, so transformatively

that we are changed, and we leave the building where we are, equipped to make a difference in our world.

This is what Jesus meant when he said “do this to remember me”

We commemorate A,rmistice in church because in 1919 the church was the centre of the community, a bedrock for many a gathering place.

But if we are to do that, if we are to remember the war dead and to pray for an end to war then our remembrance must be active

It must enable us to bring the horror and grief of war to the foot of the cross, right here in this place of worship and enable us to be transformed to work for peace in the power of the Prince of peace

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, he had not simply taken up the nearest and cheapest available form of transport

He was smashing the expectation that people had of the coming Messiah.

Many had already hailed him as the Messiah, but they were mistaken in how his messiahship would be exercised.

They were after a warlord, a rebel, someone to rid them of occupying forces and to establish the Kingdom of Israel, by force and might

Jesus came on a donkey instead of a warhorse to show them he was different, his Kingdom was to be one of peace, and justice.

Not weak and pathetic and a walkover

But powerful, transformative, seeking equity, freedom and justice for all peoples.

It was brave move and he was much misunderstood, and it led to his execution. After his resurrection his disciples spoke out, they risked the same fate, and indeed often suffered it for preaching the Kingdom of God and Jesus as Messiah rather than a ‘still to come’ warlord rebel.

The early church spoke out and lived out the truths of the Kingdom;

The upside down topsy turvey first shall be last Kingdom of God. They shared their life together, the cared for those rejected by society.

When we remember Jesus at the eucharist as he commanded, we too are proclaiming that Kingdom, a kingdom that stands against the values of our world, the Eucharist is not about  status quo and establishment,

it is a radical act of defiance against those things.

A proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

As we remember all those, who died in so many conflicts we must also find our voice, and in their memory fearlessly speak out against injustice, violence and war, working towards the time when swords will be turned into ploughshares, the lion will lie with the lamb and there will be peace on earth. We won’t necesarily make friends that way, but if we’re here for anything it is to speak out, and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

If those we remember today died for anything it was the hope that evil violence and war would end.

Remembrance is active, the greatest memorial to those who died is a world striving for peace.

In Jesus, who we remember at the altar, and in whose power we live, we have a command and a mandate to speak and live and work for that day when his kingdom comes, and justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.

Lest we forget…Amen

 

 

 

 

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