Remembrance Sunday 2020

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GOSPEL

A reading from the holy gospel according to St. John: Glory to Christ our Saviour.

Jesus said, My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Give thanks to the Lord for his glorious gospel. Praise to Christ our Lord.

SERMON

When many service personnel of our armed forces, both in the distant past and more recent times, were asked what was your reason for fighting on in the heat of battle, the worst of circumstances: the most common answer was: the person standing next to me. My friends are the reason I’m here, the reason I fight on. The close friendships that were forged between them in difficult and tense situations became more important in a sense, than the grand stories and policies of defending democracy or conquering terror and evil that brought them to a place. When those big reasons, spoken by politicians or written about in books, looked doubtful in the pale light of death; after a sober count of the cost to life; friendship remained and friendship prevailed in the hearts of those who made daily sacrifices, and who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace.

Some of you may have seen the cut outs, the poignant outlines of soldiers, with their heads bowed, displayed at remembrance events up and down the country. What might these now silent figures speak of and reminds us of today, if they could. As they did in life, might they speak of friendship more than they speak of political policies and courageous victories. They knew that friendship has the power to sustain them until peace was won. When Jesus himself explained why he insisted on going to Jerusalem to face his opponents and proclaim to them and the poor the good news, he said this: greater love has no man than this; that he lays down his life for his friends. Beyond all of the theology; the story of creation, the fall, redemption; lies a simple reason for what Jesus did: Jesus is our friend and so he made the ultimate sacrifice for us. He died that we might have spiritual and eternal friendship and peace with God.

The witness of soldiers, the witness of Jesus to the enduring power of friendship to bring peace is what we remember here and now. Just as friendship gave Jesus the motivation to go on to Jerusalem to that cross; just as it kept soldiers striving in the worst of times, so that better times could come; so too friendship must be the motivation to keep us going through our trials. Why should we follow health guidance: wear masks, stay apart, why should we check on vulnerable citizens around us? Because we must be friends, willing to lay down our normal comforts and convenience for the lives of others. Nurses and doctors have described how they have recently had to become friends and family to those dying alone because of covid restrictions, treating them not only as patients but as friends. At this remembrance tide we must remember their sacrifice as much as we do others who serve, especially those doctors, nurses and care professionals who have sadly passed away due to their care for others. But more than that: we must follow their example of friendship to protect others.

Friendship is basis of our democracy; our wonderful NHS, even our eternal salvation. How important it is that we remember that fact this remembrance, not only between nations but within nations. Here as well as in the United States, we have become too polarized. People have started to see each other as enemies because they think in terms of big ideas, agendas and movements; without seeing the people in front of them as human. It’s all about left and right; us and them; justice or freedom. But no one is talking in terms of friendship. The warning of history is that without the friendship that Jesus has shown us, that our armed services and health care workers exemplify, we are at risk of repeating the wars of yesterday, within countries and between countries today. So today, it is crucial that we remember. Remember the friendship of God and the friendship of others that will lead us to peace, both here and for eternity and do our part to lay down our comforts, our convenience, our very lives for the good of others.

INTERCESSIONS

On this Remembrance Sunday, let us bring before the God of peace our prayers for the world, the church and all who are in distress.

We pray…

For divided nations, where sisters and brothers cannot see their likeness in the image of God. Asking that the unity of friendship may once more flourish and common respect mark all political speech and action.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

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;

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For all members of the armed forces who are in danger this day, remembering family, friends and all who pray for their safe return;

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For heroic doctors, nurses and care professionals, constantly risking their lives for the health of others. Asking for your protection upon them and their families, and for your strength to sustain them during this battle,

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For those who are sick or in distress, struggling with uncertainty or lacking hope; we pray for your comforting Spirit to envelop them in your love and peace, casting out all of their fears.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

For those we remember fondly, who have faithfully loved and served in life who now enjoy the friendship and peace of God. Holding them before you and trusting that they finally rest in you.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

As we remember the past, may we learn lessons for the future so that we may enjoy friendship on earth as it is in heaven, in the one who died for us and rose again, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

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