Saturday, 8 November 2008

Notes for Sunday

These may be even more 'note-like' than usual - since I'm not sure what kind of congregation we'll get on Sunday (whether we'll have any children present, whether there might be a bigger turnout than usual, etc, etc) so I'll have to play things a bit by ear.

Remembrance Amos 5: 18-24 Matthew 25: 1-13

What is the purpose of Remembrance Sunday ?
Surely this question is what they call a no-brainer – Remembrance – it’s for remembering – duh!
As a child I used to watch my grandad (who fought at the Somme) watching the festival of remembrance, with tears rolling down his cheeks as he watched the poppies fall in memory of his dead friends. We must not forget those who die at war.
But it’s not enough to remember, it’s not enough - even though it can be very costly if our memories are painful.

Of course it’s vital that we do not take for granted the lives laid down in war - but our Bible readings remind us that there is more to life than simply remembering – or even remembering and being grateful.

The prophet Amos delivers a very scathing message from God.
God does not want empty gestures or mere thoughts – ‘I hate, I despise your festivals’. God requires people to live what they proclaim – ‘let justice roll down like waters’.
Amos is warning people who feel they are OK because they are the people of God that it’s time to act. They talk of ‘the day of the lord’ – a time when God will come and sort everything out for good. On the day of the Lord, the wicked better watch out, because God will punish them. But Amos warns that God’s own people are not blameless, and that it’s not enough to rest back on your identity as God’s own. If the people of God are to truly be the people of God they must act like it, and not just talk like it.

Similarly our remembrance of war must show itself in action – in a commitment to peace.
It is not enough to remember, even to cry, if we are not changed and our resolve to work for peace is not strengthened by our remembrance. Our remembrance should lead to our commitment to peace - not in spite of those who go to war, but in honour of them. We remember, we give thanks and we commit ourselves to peace in the future. Our remembrance should lead to action.

In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Jesus is also concerned about action. At many levels this is a strange parable. It comes in a little collection which are all about the final coming of God’s kingdom – what will happen on the ‘day of the Lord’, when time as we know it will end, and what followers of Jesus should do to be faithful.
The bit at the end of the parable ‘Keep awake therefore..’ doesn’t really fit the story – because all 10 of the bridesmaids fall asleep.
It’s not the lack of sleepiness that makes half of the10 wise – they are wise because they have done something to be ready for the coming of God’s party – they have gone out and bought spare oil.
They are wise because they wanted to see God’s kingdom come and they were willing to do something to get ready for it.

They didn’t just sit back and doze and wait for the arrival of the bridegroom and hope it would all be alright then – they were wise because they were active and prepared and they thought about what the coming of the bridegroom might mean.

So what does this mean for us?
There are some people who say there will always be war, it’s human nature and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it in Whittlesford.
But we know it is God’s will that there should be peace and justice for all people – and the Bible tells us that at some point in history (and we don’t know when) God will step in and stop war forever and bring all conflict and suffering to an end. Our task is to be active in trying to help make this world more like God’s place. We can’t perform an act of remembrance and then shrug our shoulders at the state of the world. We are to be active workers for peace – in small ways or large ways: praying for peace with justice for all people; treating anyone we meet with love and fairness; never taking human lives for granted; being part of the people of God who long for peace.

Our communion meal, too, is all about remembrance – remembering Jesus’ life which was given to bring peace to all the world.
When we eat and drink we give thanks for Jesus’ life, and we share in the bread & wine to show that we are ready to be active workers for peace in the world, as followers of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
To God’s praise and glory
Amen.

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