Preacher: Canon Neil Thompson, Precentor
9 November 2008, 09:30 (Remembrance Sunday)
In our worship at this Eucharist there is a tiny sound inaudible to most of the congregation as the bread is broken.
That moment is called the fraction – and this breaking lies at the heart of the drama and action of our remembering. We are able to share in God’s redeeming love because Jesus gives himself to the Father and to the world in his broken body and his risen life. This tiny action signifies and enables us to share and participate in eternity and it completes and transforms our brokenness.
On this Remembrance Sunday, some people will have first-hand memories of war; even more have only the second-hand experience of report and newsreel and documentary. Yet we all have experienced terror of one sort or another – when our mouths go dry, our minds freeze, our blood runs cold and we are paralysed by fear and dread. There seems to be no way out – and yet we have survived these moments - and the kindly mind has buried them deep out of harm’s way in our sub-conscious.
We don’t really want to remember or recall them. We will watch war films or even news reports and documentaries but the real horror of mortal dread and overwhelming pain and violence is unbearable. We might remember war and the obscenity and the nobility of conflict but we never wish to cross over beyond the bounds of comfort. Our readings this morning seem a far cry from the battlefield, the bomb target and the concentration camp.
Yet wisdom surpasses information and knowledge and takes us beyond the merely rational into the intuition of God and his eternal values. And St Paul reminds us that the coming of Christ at the end of time will take us out of our power and material dimensions: ‘we will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord’ – an experience quite different from the hyperbole of political programmes and propaganda.
A new hope may have dawned in the United States this past week but we all know that no individual or administration can heal all and create utopia. And the warning of the gospel parable about being unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom, the Lord of all, reminds us that we do not own or control time - and can never presume that the next moment is ours. It is God’s alone to share.
So it is only now, in the present moment and in our remembrance of the past, that our ‘lamps’, our lives, can be filled with the oil that enables us to see God in Christ and his truth. That is what the Eucharist does. It fills us with that love and wisdom and grace which comes alone from God. On our own we human beings just do not have what it takes to live at peace with one another and to uphold truth, justice, mercy and compassion. Human rights are crushed day by day across the face of the earth and it is easy to become resigned to it if the suffering and affliction is far enough away from us. But no – that snap of the host, that remembering of Jesus’ life-giving crucified love, comes into our hearing and challenges us as to how we shall live.
We must remember - and we must follow where that remembering takes us. The Eucharist takes us to Calvary and to everywhere where Christ is crucified this morning. Remembrance Sunday must be more than our human honour and resolve; more than the precious memories of heroism and unremembered sacrifice; more than the horror of war and the imperative for peace and justice.
It is about the action of God: on the cross, in the throes of death and in the broken body of Golgotha and the altar. And we cannot be bystanders – we have to commit. My life, our life, only has meaning through Christ’s death and resurrection. And so we die now, as the baptised; as Christians as we offer ourselves and the world here at the altar. This remembrance is the touch of eternity and the taste of heaven. No army or earthly power can win or deliver this.
Do this to remember me, says Jesus.
This is a command. It is a command we must obey for such remembrance is eternal life and salvation.