Remembrance Sunday address – Rev Mary Bowden

Remembrance 2017

Wisdom 6 12-16

John 15 9-17

Last night at the Royal albert Hall, amongst the uniforms and brass and moving magnificence of the Festival of Remembrance, there were six young people in somewhat incongruous bright yellow polo shirts. They were part of a centenary intern scheme at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, set up in 1917 as the need for fitting remembrance and commemoration of the fallen began to be fully recognised.  Each of the interns said something about what the experience of working in a war cemetery had meant to them. One of them said something very simple: remembrance isn’t about wars and battles, it’s about people. others spoke about relatives: great grandparents, great uncles, some more recent, who died in wars and conflicts. It was clear that each had been deeply moved and changed by coming close to the loss and sacrifice of war.

One could say that they had gained in wisdom, and come to a new understanding of love. Our first reading tells us that wisdom is not hard to find for those who seek it.  I don’t know about you, but there are times, as I listen to the news, when I find that hard to believe. The world seems to be such a threatened, threatening, divided place; and what seems like wisdom to some people is folly to others.  Perhaps the only touchstone is love “which can indeed seem like folly, as St Paul famously said of the cross.  And yet, the love that puts others before itself is at the root of everything that is good about our society. It’s at the root of the sense of duty that we have seen demonstrated this year not only by the military, but by emergency services and volunteers, passers by, going to the aid of the victims of terrorism and disasters.

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Most of us aren’t called to do that literally, but Jesus goes on to say that we are all called to bear fruit, fruit that will last. What fruit are we bearing as the community here in Haslemere? What fruit are you bearing? What have you done recently that helps others to feel loved and valued? The decisions you take, in your private life, at work, as you go about in the community “how will those decisions make yours a better street to live in, make our town a kinder place, or this country a fairer, more equal place?  We live in a complex world where it can be hard to decide what the right thing is “as a former civil servant of 30 years standing I do know the value of pragmatism. But there is something else too, and I know that our mayor, Malcolm Carter, won’t mind me quoting something he said to me only yesterday as we talked about public and private life “something you might perhaps think that as Rector I should have been saying to him. What would Jesus do? he asked.  What would Jesus do?

Jesus would do the loving thing. It isn’t often the easy thing, it may not always be the obvious thing, especially in matters that affect other people. It won’t look churchy or pious “Jesus was a man of passion and action, anger and righteousness, love and compassion..

With hindsight we will know by its fruit whether it was indeed the right thing. And wisdom will help us to discern all these things.  Wisdom who hastens to make herself known to us if we will only allow her.

We don’t know what will happen in the world or in our lives before we meet here again next Remembrance Sunday. 10 November 2018 to remember the centenary of the ending of the FWW. There will be wonderful things and frightening things, events that divide us and others that unite us. Whatever may come, lets resolve to meet it with wisdom and love.  Let’s pray for the wisdom and love we will need to keep the pledge we will make in a few minutes to serve one another, to help, encourage and comfort others, and to support those working for the relief of others and the peace and welfare of nations.

It’s what Jesus would do.

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