Canons Veronica and Roy
whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Our Collect Prayer seems to strike the right note for Remembrance Sunday, as it brings to mind that it is sin which divides us and which causes wars, and that it is only when the world is subject to God’s just and gentle rule that then (and only then) wars will cease. Perhaps we forget that the point of remembering on this special day the trenches, the dead and the dying, the heartache, is that we don’t want anyone to experience such terrible times of war ever again. In sorrow we name aloud those who were traumatised, wounded or fell in battle (and recall that so many of them weren’t professional soldiers, sailors or air crew).
Jesus spoke this parable to the disciples: “The kingdom of heavenMatthew 25:1-13
will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Every year, when we say “we will remember” all of this, we are in all good conscience saying “we won’t let it happen again”. But sadly, even as once more we bow our heads in silence before the memorial boards here in church commemorating our local lads, we cannot escape the fact that wars and killing still go on unabated across the world. Our Gospel for this Sunday reminds us that we all need to stay alert and awake, prepared to listen out primarily for God’s commands, and “with oil in our lamps” to respond positively to the deep yearning of humanity to be at peace… the sort of peace that passes understanding (whether in the midst of fears of conflict or coronavirus), the peace of Christ that we all long for.
The First World War was rounded off by a pandemic as deadly as the present one – exacerbated by the weariness of a world worn down by the fighting and hatred of war. Our present crisis may not have been brought about by wars, yet we may feel ourselves bogged down in the mire of divisive politics and entangled in the insidious barbed wire of different “tribes” seeking narrow self-interest above the well-being of “the other”. The world awaits the distant bugle call signalling that somewhere an effective vaccine has been found, while vainly hoping to “be home by Christmas”. But let us not despair: let us keep our lamps lit by being wise enough to go on replenishing the oil of human kindness, and in the gloom of our remembrances today, let us be determined to fix our eyes on the light of Christ, which no amount of darkness can ever extinguish, and so hold fast to the importance of God’s command to love one another.