Homily St George’s Preshute, Remembrance Sunday 10th November 2019
Today we are joining people throughout our nation to mark Remembrance Sunday. In our Act of Remembrance that follows this Communion service, we bring to mind those who have lost their lives fighting for peace and freedom. As we hear the names of those of this parish who died during the two Great Wars, we are once more reminded of the scale of loss that this country, and other nations, suffered.
Remembering is at the heart of our Christian faith. It is what Jesus told his disciples to do, every time they eat the bread and drink the wine: do this to remember me. The act of remembering is not just a mental exercise of calling to mind those things in the past, but it is a collective act of bringing to the fore those events and people who have shaped us into who we are.
That is the reason that Remembrance Sunday is as important today as it was the first time it was observed 100 years ago: we would not be here, and we would certainly not be who we are, without the sacrifices others have made for us. Of course, this applies directly do the celebration of our Eucharist too, as we remember the sacrifice Christ made for us.
Our Gospel reading this morning challenges our way of remembering. We hear about a woman who married seven brothers and was widowed childless seven times. The Sadducees present Jesus with this religious controversy to undermine his authority. But Jesus points out that there only is a controversy if we assume that God sees as we see; that God knows as we know; that God remembers as we remember.
However, as Jesus points out, God is not like us, and His kingdom is not like our world. With God, the woman is not defined by her childless marriages, but her identity is first and foremost a child of God. And that applies to each of us: we are children of God. So also for those whose names we will hear in a few moments. After each of these names we could add the epithet ‘child of God’: William Bambridge, child of God. William Besant, child of God.
Doing this, we realise that this shared identity as children of God does not diminish the sacrifice they made, the heroic acts so many did. In contrast, it makes us realise that each of these men was not just someone, but a child of God, one of us. They were not only someone’s son, father or brother, but they were also one of us.
If we try to see others as God sees them, the first thing we discover is our common humanity. Too often we think about others in terms of our differences, and too often we forget how much we share. But we see that real remembrance unities us, rather than divides us.
So as we remember, we also make a commitment. One cannot go without the other. We will commit ourselves to striving for peace, to seeking to heal the wounds of war, and to working for a just future for all humanity. That commitment we make collectively, as children of God. Today our divided nation joins in the Act of Remembrance. For a moment, maybe even only just those two minutes of silence, we are joined together as one. But let us hope and pray that the commitment we make will last a little longer.
The best, if not the only way, to honour those who went before us, those who gave their lives, is to commit ourselves to what we have in common, and to seek all that is good and all that is true. God does not give as the world gives, and does not see as the world sees. Let us try to see others a little more as God sees them, and give a little more as God has given to us.