A meditation for the Remembrance Day Service, 2007. Based on 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-17 and Luke 20:27-38
Resurrection and the Second Coming of Jesus. These are the themes of this morning’s readings and they are particularly challenging themes. Especially for 21st century Christians where we have lost all the cultural influences that made texts like the ones we just heard meaningful to first century Christians.
There is no doubt that the very early Church – those believers who were Jesus’ contemporaries – expected him to return in glory in their lifetime and to set up the reign of God on earth. The second letter to the Thessalonians is addressed to a group of believers whose faith has been shaken by the growing realisation that they are not going to see Jesus’ glorious return in their own lifetime.
And our Gospel reading is about resurrection. It’s about the blindness of the Sadducees and their inability to see Jesus for who he is, but it’s also most definitely about resurrection.
So what do we make of these two concepts, so difficult for contemporary society? And what, especially, do we make of them in the light of Remembrance Day?
It was the sentence of one commentator on the Gospel reading that really struck me as tying all of this together. I paraphrase what he wrote: The Sadducees belong to this age and are so preoccupied with the details of the marriage system that they are unable to contemplate something radically new, the miracle of the resurrection.
And so too, it seems to me, that part of what we remember today as Christians is our human inability to see beyond ‘this age’. Today we remember our human inability to imagine something new like the miracle of peace.
Remembering the Sacrifice of Others
We remember and recognise the preoccupation of human society with individual and national honour, and we mourn the fact that 89 years after Armistice Day and the end of World War I, the world is still caught up in a system of greed, revenge and violence.
And, of course, today we also remember all the men and women who are currently serving in the armed forces and who have served in the past. We remember especially those who have been injured and those who died in service of their country.
We remember those people on the home front who suffered hardship, who worked for the welfare of their neighbours and we remember those who died as casualties of war.
We also remember other public servants whose vocations require them to lay their lives on the line for the greater good of society, particularly police and fire brigades.
People who are called by vocation and circumstance to lay down their lives for others are living out the great commandment of Moses and Jesus to love their neighbours, whether or not they consider themselves to be people of faith. And as Christians, we recognise this sacrifice, we respect it, and we thank God for giving these people the courage and grace to consider the welfare of others before their own.
Such actions are not only examples for us, but they must certainly elicit within us a wellspring of gratitude, awe and thanksgiving. And it is for these reasons that today we remember them.
Remembering the Prince of Peace
However, as Christians we are called to remember these people and their sacrifices in the context of the Gospel. We are called to remember those fallen in the service of their country in the context of what Scripture tells us about God’s love for each and every human life.
Our Epistle and Gospel readings this morning remind us that we are also called to remember God’s vision of his Kingdom: a vision of a New Creation where Christ will reign in glory as the Prince of Peace. However we conceive of these difficult biblical notions of resurrection, New Creation and the reign of Christ, we are called to remember that God’s intention for all of his children is life in all its fullness.
As Christians, we remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And we remember that the origins of war and national conflict were the same in Jesus’ time as they are today: greed, empire-building, a desire for revenge and the world’s failure to understand that the person who we call an enemy is also a beloved child of God.
As Christians, we are called to stand back from the values of this age so that we can remember God’s vision of the Kingdom and the reign of the Prince of Peace. We are called to imagine a radical new world where the miracle of peace is made manifest.
However improbable it may seem, however cynical the pundits of the world may be about the Church’s message of hope, the Church is called to keep her light of hope burning until the bridegroom arrives. At the core of our faith is not only our conviction that God’s love is for all of humanity. It is also the conviction that the death and resurrection of Jesus proves conclusively that such an apparently mad and wide-eyed hope for peace on earth is not in vain.
At the core of the Christian faith is the conviction that the sacrifice of Jesus was worth something and that God himself knows exactly what it means to suffer and die at the hand of human sin.
On this Remembrance Day, let us remember the sacrifice made for us – and being made for us - by all men and women in uniform.
Let us remember the sacrifice of all those who went before us so that we – their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters – might enjoy freedom.
But, as Christians, let us most especially remember that the Church is called to keep alive God’s good news of the coming of his kingdom and of the reign of Christ, the Prince of Peace.
Let us not only imagine peace, but I pray that each and every one of us here today may live out peace in our daily lives.