Hello everyone! This morning I walked down to church, as May was unwell, but I ended up arriving at the last minute as the procession for Remembrance Sunday was filling the whole square near the Cenotaph, where quite a crowd of people were applauding the soldiers arriving; I had to turn round and then go behind the banks to be able to get to church! As always our service was begun with the prayer for peace. A retired minister Gordon Lister led the start of our service until our deacon was able to join us from the Cenotaph Service; our opening hymn was ‘O God our help in ages past’, which is often chosen today. I was struck by Gordon’s opening prayers, which drew attention not only to service men who suffer and die but also to those innocent civilians caught up in the horror of war. These verses from the next hymn written by Fred Kaan are pertinent I feel;
We turn to you, that we may be forgiven
For crucifying Christ on earth again;
We know that we have never wholly striven,
Forgetting self, to love the other man.
Free every heart from pride and self-reliance;
Our ways of thought inspire with simple grace;
Break down among us barriers of defiance;
Speak to the soul of all the human race.
Teach us, good Lord, to serve the need of others;
Help us to give and not to count the cost;
Unite us all, for we are born as brothers;
Defeat our Babel with your Pentecost.
The Bible reading from Micah reminded us of the hope that swords could be made into ploughshares. In the reading from Romans Paul assured his readers when he said, ‘For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love; neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above or the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord’ – Romans 8v38-39 In life there would be struggles and suffering but God was in the suffering with them.
The words of the last verse of the next hymn by F. Pratt Green could help us build a better world if we took note:
He (God) reminds us every sunrise that the world is ours on lease:
For the sake of life tomorrow may our love for it increase;
May all races live together, share its riches, be at peace:
May the living God be praised!
Gordon announced the hymn in the hope that our deacon would make it in time to deliver the sermon, planned to follow it! Sure enough he walked up to the pulpit during that hymn and gave a thoughtful sermon, reflecting on what he had learnt from his parents and grandparents about the reality of war. He then went on to say that we could only give a proper tribute to those who fell in war, both in the armed forces and in civilian populations, if we work for peace and justice and love another; that task should start here and right now. Maybe we could dream that the world has made an end to war, so that no more money is spent on the military or weapons but instead the hungry are fed and the poor have a good quality of life. Let there, as David Hunt our deacon said in the words of the song, be peace on earth and let it begin with me. This is the day that the Lord has made and I rejoice and am glad in it.