The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Worship Together: a Service of the Word      8th November 2020
Remembrance Sunday Sermon 2020
Jan Rushton

Well, the first thing I want to do this morning is to thank God 

for the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris!

Thank God for a return to Truth and genuine public service.

It has been so wonderful to watch those joyful celebrations!

And to hear their powerful and healing speeches.  

 

On Remembrance Day we remember and give thanks

for the fallen of the First World War - the 'Glorious Dead' .   

No longer pursuing glory, we soberly remember the greater number 

who died for the freedom of their fellow men and women 

in the Second World War.

We remember those who have died in more recent wars,  

once again on European soil and in the Middle East.

We remember with gratitude their ultimate sacrifice for our futures.

We remember with gratitude what that sacrifice has achieved for the world.

We offer our gratitude to God for the enormous and continuing sacrifices 

made by our military to keep us safe - and free.

 

And certainly my generation in particular, 

has been enabled to enjoy unimaginable freedom and prosperity 

as a result of the changes brought about 

in the wake of the Second World War.  

 

At the end of that most deadly war, the rebuilding of our country 

was in large measure ‘jump-started’ by the generosity 

of the American population who sent aid known as the Marshall Plan, 

an astonishing 5% of American GDP at the time! 

Aid which enabled the recovery of Europe’s infrastructure.

 

Of course the motivation was not entirely selfless.

The best aid is always mutual!   We remember with thanksgiving.

 

Especially do we remember here in the UK where we received, 

a perhaps unfair, quarter of the aid given.  Special relationship indeed!

We remember, American lives that were risked and lost 

on the battlefields of Europe as America moved to join the Allies 

when exhausted European military was faltering in its war on fascism. 

Without this partnership we would be living in a very different Europe today.

We remember with gratitude this life-changing support, 

and pray for our friends across the pond at this time of transition, 

pray for Joe and Kamala!   And indeed, for the outgoing President!

 

If we have been appalled by the shenanigans 

of the present incumbent of the White House, his policies of divide and rule, then today we can rejoice that democracy does work!

More people than ever before have determined to cast their vote - 

and that despite so many obstacles put in their way! 

Young Americans have been motivated to vote for the first time 

in record numbers.  Decency has prevailed!   Let us pray 

for great wisdom for America’s leaders of every party in the coming weeks.

 

Remembering!  Jesus knew how important remembering is.

And he gave his friends a ritual through which they could reflect, absorb, 

all that he had done for them, the manner of living he had taught them.

A sacrament through which his followers down the centuries 

can receive grace and power to live our Christian lives.

His words recalled for us in our gospel this morning.

The sacrament we sadly witness remotely at a distance once more.

Nevertheless, we receive God’s grace as we join together in worship 

on whatever platform that may be.

 

And then those comforting words from the Book of Revelation: 

the promise of God’s presence with his people, 

and a vision of the future where all tears will be wiped from every face!

Death shall be no more! 

And to the thirsty God will give water, gift from the well-springs of life!

Hope to hold onto!  Hope to warm the heart!

 

The Book of Revelation is a highly symbolic and veiled missive, 

a letter of encouragement 

to a beleaguered and persecuted Christian community.

A political document written with hidden allusion 

to actual historical events as they were at the time on the ground - 

that is, persecution under the Roman empire, 

in particular under Domitian in whose time this book is thought to be written, 

and looking back to the time of terror in Nero’s rule.

It is also a fierce document, a document where fury and fire are to be found.

 

 

Some of the perspectives in this Book of Revelation 

0we might wish to question: can it be consistent with the teaching of Christ

-456to find comfort in the suffering of your enemy?!

I confess there have been times when I rather wished President Trump 

had not recovered quite so swiftly from his bout with coronavirus!   Nevertheless, even as we resist evil, at times deeply sacrificial resistance 

and for which we give thanks today, nevertheless Jesus’ command remains, 

that we persist in caring about, loving, our enemy!

An outlook vital for our own well-being as well as that of our communities!

All our remembering needs to lead us 

into creative thinking together for our futures.

It has never been more vital for Trump’s supporters to be heard, 

to feel it, to know that their real concerns will be heeded.

 

In the last year of that Great War, 1918, a pandemic spread across the world, initially in Europe and America, eventually spreading to infect 

a third of the world’s population, and killing fifty million - 

ten million more than the total worldwide deaths in the entire war.

 

 

The origins of this pandemic are still unknown.

At the time in order to avoid depressing further 

already challenged Allied morale,  reporting was censored - 

with the exception of the epidemic in neutral Spain. Hence the Spanish Flu.  This pandemic lasted two years and came in four waves.

Of course, populations at the end of world-wide war were both exhausted 

and malnourished, far less able to resist infection than we are today.

 

Right now we are once more locked-down in a time of pandemic.

Locked down to protect us from contagion. 

We journey through the traumas of this crisis together, 

not only nationally but internationally, 

and, as we know from history, we will swim - or sink together!

If we choose not to help each other - not to share our vaccine,

choose not to support the developing world, 

this virus will surely come back to bite us again.

In recent years we have somehow imagined that 0.7% of GDP is generous.

And perhaps it could be said that we are generous compared to other nations!

Nevertheless, 0.7% hardly compares with the 5% a people who, 

while in turmoil right now, understood their generosity to be vital in 1947.

How will we honour those we remember this Remembrance Sunday?

 

With determination, trust in God, our thankfulness transformed into action - and prayer, prayer especially for those deeply disappointed 

through these last days, we remember the sacrifices 

that former generations have made for our futures. Amen.

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Sermons from previous years are here | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005