Remembrance Reflections

First Reflection – Remembrance Sunday 2022

Micah 4:1-8

  1. How many of us have been to the waste and recycling centre here in North Shields?
  2. What sort of things do we take there? The things we can’t fit into our council waste and recycling bins – garden soil, electrical goods, batteries, washing machines, furniture. We make a special trip to a special place
  3. ‘Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.’ (4:2) – the OT prophet, Micah said that at important moments Jewish people went to the temple which was on the hill at the centre of Jerusalem
  4. Today, we’re here in church – in the centre, not of Jerusalem, but North Shields
  5. The prophet Micah said that people should go to the temple at the centre of Jerusalem that God may ‘teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ (4:2)
  6. On that occasion it was not just the Jewish people, but other peoples also who should come to the temple in Jerusalem: ‘peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come.’ (4:1, 2)
  7. And all those peoples from all those nations were to come to the place where God was worshipped … in order to take part in a great, big recycling project.
  8. The place of worship was being turned a religious waste and recycling centre, but what were they invited to recycle?
  9. And the answer to that is that they were going to recycle their swords and spears: ‘They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks’ (4:3)
  10. The nations of the world were being called upon to take the items that were used for waging war and killing people and turn them into tools for feeding people – military equipment (swords and spears) would be turned into agricultural equipment for ploughing the ground and pruning the food grown upon it.
  11. There would also be a recycling of attitudes and practices: ‘nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall sit under their own vines and under their fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.’ (4:4)
  12. Of course, sadly, peoples have not given up making weapons with which to kill others, and nations have not given up on learning or waging wars. Today we have come together, remembering people who have died in wars, mostly but not exclusively, two world wars in the 20th century
  13. And, of course, wars continue in the 21st century in which we live today. Many of us will have the Ukraine and Russia in mind – war in Europe once again, but there are many other conflicts taking place elsewhere in the world
  14. But isn’t God’s great recycling project a wonderful vision: ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid’
  15. Prayer: Come quickly, O God. Make your will for peace, joy, and love in this world a replacement for the wars that continue plague us. Amen.

Second reflection – Remembrance Sunday 2022

Luke 1:68-79

  1. It almost feels as though we have got ahead of ourselves with today’s reading.
  2. Luke 1:68-79 is known as ‘The Benedictus’ or as ‘The Song of Zechariah’
  3. The ‘Zechariah’ here is the father of John the Baptist. Earlier in Luke 1 Zechariah has been struck dumb by an angelic visitation where he was told about the son that he and his wife Elizabeth were going to have, and that this child would have an important role in preparing the people for the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus.
  4. Now, in these verses, Zechariah’s tongue has been loosened, and he waxes lyrical about this child who ‘will be called the prophet of the Most High [and who] will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.’ (1:76)
  5. This all sounds a bit Christmassy, doesn’t it? News of the birth of John the Baptist, which is tied up with news about the imminent birth – the ‘advent’ – of his cousin, Jesus.
  6. Why, then, have this as a reading for Remembrance Sunday, when Advent isn’t due to kick off for another two Sundays yet?
  7. Well, I think the answer to that question is to be found in the final two verses of the passage just read to us: ‘By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and sit in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ (1:78-79)
  8. John the Baptist’s role, as a ‘prophet of the Most High’ God (1:76) is to point people in the direction of Jesus
  9. In Jesus, God brings ‘light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.’ (1:79) Like the shepherd in Psalm 23, who is identified as the Lord God – the ‘Most High’ as Zechariah puts it – Jesus has come to lead us out of the valley of ‘the shadow of death’ (23:4 / 1:79)
  10. And one of the great shadows of death that continues to lie heavily upon this world is human warfare.
  11. This came home to me (again) yesterday, when we were having a rehearsal for today’s service, watching the slideshow of names of those associated with this congregation who died in war, I noticed that one of those killed was just sixteen years old (the oldest was forty-one).
  12. Surely, if this world needs something today, it is to be led into the ways of peace, and we have hope in that we’re told that that’s what Jesus is born to do, and his cousin John (the Baptist) was born to point that out.
  13. Of course, though Jesus might be here to bring us peace, how we Christians try to make that a reality in today’s world is not straightforward.
  14. There are arguments between Christians about what this means for us in practice. Do we reject any part in war? Do we seek to place limits on when war can be resorted to and to how it may or may not be conducted?
  15. You won’t find an answer to those questions in this reflection.
  16. What you will find me doing is pointing us to Jesus and his ways, as we seek to understand and act appropriately in response to the ongoing reality of conflict between peoples and nations.
  17. God’s will, as seen in Jesus, is for peace, not war; for ploughshares and pruning hooks, not swords and spears. So God help us, we pray, to make that our intention and our path as we walk our way together in your world today. Amen.

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