Click to hear the Remembrance service.

James’ sermon on 8th Nov 2020. (Bible Readings were Amos 5.18-24, Matt 25.1-13).

Who do you think of in the 2 mins of silence? Or what do you think about?

My mind flitters. I remember my Dad who trained as a navigator for Lancaster Bombers but never actually flew an Op. I remember my Uncle who served in the Queens Lancashire Regiment in Northern Ireland and Cyprus and so on.

I remember someone who was on a bridge too far. He said “when I close my eyes I can still hear my captain apologising – I’m sorry, its every man for himself – and I can still see the hand grenade coming through the window”. 

I remember someone who was in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. When he was in the camp he would sing the Christmas carol: “Christians awake salute the happy morn, on which the saviour of the world was born!”.

And I remember and I give thanks to God for their sacrifice.

I remember a friend who said it’s my job to make sure that the right amount of ammunition and the right amount of toilet paper is in the right place at the right time. And the effect that a year in Afghanistan had upon him. I remember him And I give thanks to God for him.

And I wonder why there’s more war. Why there’s more fear, more distrust. Surely the War to end all wars was supposed to sort that out. Surely having the ultimate final weapon, the nuclear bomb was supposed to be such a threat as to stop all that.

And then my mind flits to this year and the weirdness of this year. And I think about others that are worthy of our Remembrance, of those who have sweated blood and tears in the line of duty and mostly I’m thinking of those who work for the NHS.

And so in the 2 minutes silence I will be giving thanks to God for their sacrifice.

And I think of this year and how we white English have had our history shaken up a bit. We have discovered, remembered, that we have not always been Great and when we have been Great it has sometimes been for the wrong reasons.

Olusoga’s book : Black and British a forgotten history, pointed out the deliberate exclusion of Black and Asian military being kept away from the official VE day celebrations. That’s quite appallingly astonishing – how blind we can be?

Jesus promised that the Truth would set us free – so let’s see if it does – let’s see if we can become a little more inclusive, a little kinder and more generous with each other, a good deal less racist.

What does God think about during our 2 minutes of silence? What does God see? I think God weeps. I think He feels the pain and sorrow, the fear and isolation, the struggle and sacrifice, I think God feels it more keenly than we do. I think He weeps.

So I think we need more religion in Schools not less. We’ve spent generations squeezing religion out of our education and it has not resulted in less war, in a kinder country, we have found other ways to divide and distrust.

I think engaging with other faiths, other ways of seeing the world, helps us to be more understanding, a little more humble.

It might be that you gave up on the Christian god shortly after you grew out of colouring in pictures of Noah’s ark. You were probably right to abandon that infantile faith, but I’m sorry that you didn’t take it to the next level. If you get a chance, get thee to an Alpha Course.

Christianity has not been tried found wanting, it’s been found difficult and left untried.

It is a difficult faith because our God invites us to forgive our enemies, calls us not to stand by while others are excluded. 

So if your religion causes you to hate, to stay silent while others are oppressed – then you’ve got it wrong. You’re holding your bible all wrong. 

But we have also seen a good deep faith and spirituality emerge this year. From the gratitude shown in appreciative clapping, through to the many food banks that have started up, and the many people who have come forward to help with that.

Credit to Seaford Football Club and the free meals that they’ve been putting on over halfterm. I hope that something like that can happen over Christmas.

We’ve heard a lot of people saying When this is all over we’re going to have a party.

How do you prepare for a party? You get all the stuff in, you get the invites sent out, you work out how everyone can have the best party ever.

The 2nd bible reading you heard 10 ladies preparing for a party. How shall I put it? 5 of them had their power cables for their mobile phones, 5 of them had forgotten theirs.

So just when the party was ready to start 5 of them had run out juice, no selfies for them! No instagramming the goom’s arrival.

There are two different ways to prepare for a party, one is to focus on who the party is for and get it ready for them – and the other is to get the party ready for yourself.

This is a parable about selfishness.

It asks who are you living for? 5 of them are living for themselves, 5 of them are living for others.

And oddly, in a time when we need to be careful with our own mental well being, it turns out that a hugely important method of keeping your own sanity – is to be a blessing to others. To serve others. To make life easier, lighter for others.

That’s why the First bible reading, from the prophet Amos, has God talking about how very fed up He is with our religion, with the way we busy ourselves with our religiosity – now don’t get comfortable and think that this is God having a go at Church and Churchyness – this is God having a go at us when we think we’re someone special and we get so wrapped up in our smug little worlds that we forget Justice. Let justice roll on like river.

We need to be constantly alert to where we might be a blockage to mercy and justice – in our blindspots, and prejudices. How can we encourage justice to flow on like a river?

(Supporting RBL poppy appeal)

Mostly when I preach I try to end it in a way that leaves you feeling good about yourself. You’ll have to come another day for that.

Today is a day when we remember others, and we give thanks to God for them.

I’ve talked to you about what I think about during the 2mins silence. I’ve wondered what God might be thinking about too. I came across this blessing and think there might be something in it that gives us an idea of what God is thinking about.

It’s an old Franciscan blessing

May God bless you with anger, at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for Justice, Freedom and peace .

May God bless you with tears, to shed for those who suffer pain, Rejection, hunger and war. So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen.

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