Remembrance 2011

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Given by Reverend Linda Liversidge and using the Bible Reading Fellowship's All-Age material for Remembrance Sunday 2011

This Remembrance Day Service is about two things:

1) Remembering those who died and gave their lives in the service of this country and others in order to set them free from oppressions and attack.

2) It is also a service of worship to the God who also came and died in order to set us free from sin and death and to give us life in all its fullness, both for the present and into eternity.

In bringing those two things together we can hopefully make sense of the former, the horror of war and suffering, in the light of the latter, a good God.

Much of the Old Testament takes place within the context of war or the threat of war. Whatever our personal attitudes to war and killing, we can’t avoid the sad truth that this continues to be a fact of life on earth for the human race. It is clearly not God's plan for us, and there is no doubt that the taking of life is condemned in the Commandments, but it is not always easy to define what is right and what is wrong.

For example:
• What about self-defence?
• What about peace-making that involves a necessary show of force and the willingness to use it?
• What about the greater threats that would ensue to innocent lives, if evil were allowed to continue unchecked?
• What about the possibility of there being a just war?

These are some of the big questions that we as Christians must face when we come to Remembrance Sunday alongside the compassion we want to express towards those who have died in the world's many wars, past and present, and towards those who still suffer because of fighting and indiscriminate violence.

In this service, let us ask God to help us remember that peace is better than war; talking better than fighting; arming ourselves with the weapons of love and prayer is better than bombs and bullets; and compassion for those who suffer is better than indifference and hatred. Let us also remind ourselves that God is there. We may ignore or forget Him but He constantly awaits our turning to Him in times of trouble.

The scouts are now going to read Psalm 46 to us.

Poppies aren't the only flower that is used for remembrance. In France, after the First World War, the cornflower was used; and traditionally the herb rosemary is for remembrance. And in today’s society it isn't just flowers. Ribbons are widely used to mark various special charity focus days and also to remember important causes, global injustices and the plight of individuals. Yellow ribbons tied to trees, for example, are often reminders of loved ones who are missing, those who have been captured as the result of conflict and soldiers still on active service.

Many colours for many things:
• Puzzle ribbon - autism awareness
• Blue ribbon - human trafficking
• Orange ribbon - animal cruelty
• Red ribbon - aids awareness
• Black ribbon - remembrance of a mass killing
• Red and Blue ribbon - remembering Haiti
• Red, white & blue ribbon - remember the Omaha bombing

What sort of coloured ribbon(s) would help us to remember to choose peace not war, compassion not apathy and support for peacekeepers rather than disinterest.

(Hand out strips of wide, plain white ribbon along with safety pins and felt pens. Show everyone how the ribbon, once decorated, will be twisted over itself and fixed with the pin to become a ribbon of remembrance. Ask children to come and take a white ribbon and pens to make their own ribbon to remember peace.)

Examples might be:

• Camouflage colouring to remember soldiers on active duty.
• Outlines of doves and olive branches to help us remember peace.
• Purple colouring with dark tear drops to speak of sadness.
• Images of sad faces or a broken sword or hands clasping each other
• Maybe words even?

War starts in our hearts (James 4: 1 – 3)
When we think of the big questions of war and peace, injury, death, pain and suffering, it’s easy to imagine it’s a problem 'out there' somewhere; something beyond our control, not something that we have caused. However, St James wrote a very practical letter to Christians which is in the Bible and it says quite the opposite. He says that wars start with our attitudes to each other and each one of is guilty! He even says it might start with unanswered prayer!

Just think for a moment though about your own heart:

Can you remember a time of feeling envious - wanting what others have?
Can you remember a time of feeling frustrated and therefore irritated by others?
Can you remember a time of feeling really anger?
Can you remember a time of feeling that you wanted to hurt someone, not necessarily physically, maybe by saying something hurtful?

I think it would be safe to say that we’ve all at some point felt some, if not all of those things?

God cares about our hearts (James 4:6)
The heart of the problem is, as far as God is concerned, the problem of the human heart. Each one of us could potentially start a war!

This is why God has given us his Holy Spirit to live in our hearts. This is possible because Jesus went to war against all that was evil on our behalf on the cross. His coming back to life again makes it possible for us now to be a friend of God's ways, and not the ways of killing war and death.

James explains that God treats us with kindness and gives grace. He wants his Spirit of peace and compassion to be inside each of us. This will be the way to end wars and put the world back together again. In the meantime the world, like our hearts, will be a battleground, in which we are called to be peacemakers. Sometimes that may even involve a call to arms but most often it calls for a sacrifice.

Imagine if two people are fighting and you step between them in order to stop that fight in an effort to bring peace.

You might be standing in the sort of position that Jesus was when He died in order to become peacemaker between us and God.

Have a heart to heart with God (James 4:7 - 10)
But none of this 'just happens' says James. We need to say 'no' to evil and 'yes' to God. We need to want to change. We need to come back to God. We need to stop blaming others and look into our own hearts honestly.

One day wars will cease, promises (Micah 4:1 - 4). One day we won't have to have poppies or ribbons to remember to care for those who suffer and to be reminded to be different in the future (Revelation 21:4). One day all creation will be at peace (Isaiah 11:6 - 9). But in the meantime we need our poppies and ribbons to remind ourselves of God's ways.

See if any ribbons finished – show them if so. Invite people to feel free to take a ribbon later on – something they can make to remind them to be a person of peace. 

Let’s ask God to help us realise that in order for us to play our part in bringing peace to the world it has to start with us.