Fr David's Sermon
10th November 2002
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For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. St Paul
Back in September the Clergy of the Diocese were summoned to a day conference at Haileybury College. I must admit to not be a great fan of large clerical gatherings nor of the kind of ecclesiastical navel gazing that takes place on such occasions, or of 'East Enders' the leading topic for our consideration.
So being of an historical bent, I found myself musing on what lay all around me; the architecture of a public school. The walls of dining hall were hung with rather stern portraits of former headmasters, generals and judges. On a lighter note on the wall of an outside walkway hung boards, carved with their names, by boys recovering from various diseases. ('Chicken pox - 1936' etc.) In another corner there was a memorial to old boys who were killed in the Indian Mutiny, for the school was founded to train boys for Imperial Service.
However it was the chapel that gave the most cause for thought. It is a large classical building with a dome, standing at the top of a hill. It still suggests boys being sent out to serve. Its walls are covered with memorial tablets, most of them to former pupils killed in the two world wars, especially the first which claimed some 800 or so. The death rate was particularly high amongst junior officers who came exclusively from such a background. Basically it was a powerful reminder of the human cost of war we are remembering today on Remembrance Sunday.
To remember is a natural human attribute. To remember those who died in war is to be grateful for the sacrifice for our freedom and appalled at the waste of life, the suffering and the loss of all that unfulfilled potential.
Memorial tablets in a school chapel suggest a desire to make sense, to restore order from chaos and above all to remember in a way that is personal. Each name was dear to someone, their son, husband or friend. Behind the official cult of remembrance lies the human tragedy that is always essentially personal before it is national or communal. There is the hope that those who we knew and loved will not be forgotten.
The beginning of November is the Church's time for remembering. That the Armistice, falling on Martinmas, at the 11th hour, on the 11th Day of the 11th month, in the season of remembering is one of those historical coincidences that has a rightness about it.
All Saints' tide is the time for rejoicing in the fellowship of all Christian people of sanctity, the great but especially the ordinary whose saintliness is now remembered only by God.
On All Souls' Day we can feel close our own departed as we pray for them and with them in the communion of saints. We can feel gratitude for all that was good in their lives and seek healing where the memory is mixed or painful.
Behind all our Christian remembering lays the belief that God always remembers in a way that is personal and loving. If the world forgets, he does not. In death we are held in his memory, in death as in life he offers us the possibility of eternal life, the possibility of reconciliation and an end to enmity.
Above all we are offered hope. Hope that death however cruel and futile is not the end. Hope through the resurrection of Jesus after the scandal of the cross. We are not, St. Paul tells us to grieve as others do without hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.
As we remember; whatever and whoever we remember; those words and others like them give us comfort and hope. They shine like a light in the dark November gloom.
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Last updated 14/11/2002 13:30:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd