Remembrance Sunday

Bible Readings

Hebrews 10:11-25 (NLT)

11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honour at God’s right hand. 13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, 16 “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” 18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

19 And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Mark 13:1-8 (NLT)

As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

Homily by Rev’d Kate Massey

In the summer, I was privileged to lead an ordination retreat at the Cathedral of St Edmund in Bury St Edmunds. It is an amazing building, but only a fraction as impressive as the Abbey it replaced. The old Abbey had a tower several times as high as the existing cathedral tower. On those flat fenlands, it must have been visible for miles – to the peasants of the area, a remarkable reminder of the all-powerful God they served. It must have been such a shock when the dissolution of the monasteries after the English reformation meant this incredible building was reduced to ruins.

The temple in Jerusalem would have a similar impact on visiting pilgrims. If you have ever seen a photograph of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, you can see what the disciples were talking about in our gospel reading today. Huge shaped stones make up the remaining wall of the temple the Herods built. They would be impressive in any age, but in an age when there were only basic tools, the impact must have been quite something. It would be unthinkable that only a few short years after its completion – a task of building which had taken many decades – the temple would be reduced to rubble.

Although no one is completely certain, most scholars believe that Mark’s Gospel was written shortly after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. The Jewish people revolted against their Roman occupiers in the late 60s AD, with some initial success. But the uprising ended in a siege, and then most of the inhabitants of the city were killed and its beautiful temple destroyed. It was a cataclysmic event for the people of the time.

Regardless of their new faith in Jesus, it must have been a very difficult time for the early church. In Acts, we hear how they regularly met in the Temple courts. For Jews and Christians alike, the destruction of the Temple must have been a blow. And so, as part of his gospel, to encourage new believers, Mark records this conversation between Jesus and his friends. Jesus knew such things were coming and that, apocalyptic as they seemed, they weren’t the end of the world – yet.

I wonder what are the defining moment for generations? For Jesus’ contemporaries, the fall of Jerusalem. For the peasants of 16th century Suffolk, the reformation. For my great-grandparents, it would have been the Great War; for my grandparents, world war two. For my parents, the cold war and unrest in Northern Ireland. For mine, 9/11. For my children, covid and the climate crisis. Each has been cataclysmic in its own way and shaped us and how we see the world.

On Remembrance Sunday, we remember the victims of war, especially in the two great conflicts of the last century and especially the servicemen and women who lost their lives. As the generation who lived through these events leave us, there can be a real risk of romanticizing these wars. However, if covid has taught us anything, it has taught us that living through a global crisis is anything but romantic. It gave us just a small taste of what it was like to be separated from loved ones for months at a time, to have to put our own liberties and preferences second to the wellbeing of all, to live through something not knowing how many of us would see the end of it, to face uncertainty, insecurity and even death. Some people have been heroic, but others have been selfish. Some have given their all, while others have made a killing – metaphorically speaking. Bits of the pandemic were exciting and inspiring – the incredible development and roll out of a vaccine in record time, for example. But much of it was tedious, frustrating and depressing. Should we expect our ancestors’ experiences of great crisis to be anything else? One of my friends is a military chaplain and she once told me that a huge amount of being on active service was a boring, stressful waiting…

Just as there will always be wars and rumours of wars in the world which is struggling and straining to become the world God made it to be, there will be all varieties of human behaviour – the unselfish and selfish, the heroic and the feeble, We, too, are in the process of becoming. Neither of these things is a surprise to Jesus. Our reading from Hebrews reminds us that Jesus has given himself so that our sins could be forgiven, so we could be made holy and approach with confidence the God who loves us – so we could have hope, a hope which we can hold to without wavering because God can be trusted. The challenges each generation faces are not the end of the world. Our human failings are not an insurmountable obstacle to God’s love. Have hope. One day our broken world and our broken humanity will be made new.

And so, in the light of that hope, we are to encourage one another to acts of love and kindness. Today, we remember those people who were human and flawed like you and me, yet found it in themselves to be unselfish and brave as they fought for a world they might never see. How can we honour them by doing likewise in the challenges that face our generations. What might generosity and courage look like as we continue to live through a pandemic, or as we face the climate crisis? Can we like the people we remember today give our best, give our all, for what we believe to be right, for the future our children and grandchildren will inhabit?

One of my favourite quotes is from Lord of the Rings. “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

There are many things we wish were not happening in our times, but for humankind it has been ever thus. All each generation has to decide is how it will play its part. If Remembrance Sunday is only about the past, it will soon become nothing but a self-indulgent fairy tale. However, if our remembering helps us live well in our present, it will be a true tribute to those who gave their all in previous generations, in previous struggles.

And we do not do this alone, but in the love and equipping of Jesus, to whom our brokenness and the brokenness of the world is no surprise, but rather something he came and gave his all that we might overcome. That we might have hope.

Intercessions

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.

All   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.

All   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.

All   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.

All   God give peace.

For peacemakers and peacekeepers,
who seek to keep this world secure and free;
may God give peace.

All   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.

All   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.

All   Amen.

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