remembrance

We interrupt the occasional thoughts about prayer to bring you my sermonette from Sunday morning – Remembrance Sunday…

Poppies Worship Background

It always feels very poignant when I share communion on Remembrance Sunday, as we did last Sunday morning – Remembrance Sunday. The poppies are a moving remembrance of the death of many who have died in war. So there is something really profound about Jesus’ words ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ in the context of a service where we spend time in silence remembering the sacrifice others have made for the freedom of many. Yet, and please bear with me here, the word ‘remembrance’ causes me to ask some questions.

You see I have always thought of ‘remembering’ as something I do for something I might forget – requiring a reminder like a knot in a handkerchief – or events, people and experiences that I have encountered. How I am supposed to remember events and people that were hundreds or thousands of years ago where I was not present?

I know that Jesus is alive today, but I wasn’t at the Last Supper. I haven’t been in armed conflict. I don’t know anyone who has been killed in battle. How can I remember them?

And what did Jesus mean when he used the bread and wine of the Passover to tell his followers to remember him? They were very unlikely to forget him, although the events as the evening unfolded perhaps make us question that. It’s poignant to me that after Peter had denied Jesus three times and the cock crowed, Luke’s gospel tells us that then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the cock crows today, you will disown me three times.’ 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Remembering what Jesus had said led to a moment of clarity and conviction for Peter that broke his heart. And the remembrance of Jesus in communion can also remind us of our failings – causing us to come to the foot of the cross in repentance.

There’s no doubt that Remembrance Sunday can also evoke strong emotions. When the nation stands together in silence it is a deep and solemn moment: some will be remembering friends and relatives; others will be reflecting on the many who died in conflict to ensure our freedom. We can’t possibly know all of the millions who have died to preserve our liberty, but we can contemplate their bravery, their service and their sacrifice.

The Apostle Paul (especially in 1 Corinthians 11) affirms the idea that sharing bread and wine is something all followers of Jesus are meant to do ‘in remembrance’ of Jesus. We are using bread and wine as reminders of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. Maybe, but if that’s the case, why not say ‘do this to remind you of me’? Why ‘in remembrance’? There is something more here than simply not forgetting.

I think there is something here about about a related word: ‘commemoration’. A dictionary definition seems to open this possibility – a commemoration is something that is done to remember officially and give respect to a great person or event. That sounds a little like what we do on remembrance Sunday, and at Communion.

And there’s another related word: memorial. A grammatical analysis of the Greek word that we translate as ‘remembrance’ from the New Testament narratives around the Last Supper suggests that ‘memorial’ is a fairer translation – something that honours the one being celebrated. “Do this as a memorial to me.”

It’s complex isn’t it? But then perhaps that’s the point.

I have reached the conclusion that all the above and so much more are represented for me in remembrance. All of these ideas and concepts combine so that remembrance becomes an encounter – an encounter with bravery and sacrifice, an encounter with grief and loss, an encounter with love and hope, a moment of forgiveness and reconciliation.

And an encounter with Jesus: the One whose body and blood were given “for you”.

Simple things lead to profound moments: silence, bread, wine. In remembrance.

Be blessed, be a blessing

nocturnal niggles and nudges

“Have you ever had the feeling that you have forgotten something important but can’t quite put your finger on it? It’s quite unnerving. It nags away at you. It niggles in the back of your mind. Even more unnerving is when you finally remember what it was when you wake up in the middle of the night and have to work out what to do about it. Do you hope you will remember when you wake up, roll over and go back to sleep? Do you write yourself a note and then go back to sleep? Or do you do something about it then and there?”

Cue gratuitous cute kitten picture because that’s what the internet is for, apparently:

Embed from Getty Images

This is how I began an email that I sent out today. Each week one of the Regional Ministers in our team will write a ‘thought for the week’ and send it around on a Thursday to all of our Ministers. This week it was my turn and, despite having a reminder in my diary, I forgot. Yesterday I had a sense that there was something I should have done, but I could not remember it.

I did remember it at 4 o’clock this morning. I was left with the dilemma above and decided that, because I was awake, I should write it then rather than wait until later this morning when I might have forgotten it again. I also decided that I would use my memory lapse as a ‘way in’ to the thought (which I have set out below in case you are interested*).

Once I had written the ‘thought’ and added items from the prayer diaries from across the Association I selected the email address groups and hit ‘send’. I relaxed and was just starting to get my head around the idea of going back to bed when my email program splurged out an error message saying (rather bluntly) that it had stopped. It then flashed up a message saying that it was trying to restart.

My heart sank. Silently I thought, “Aaaaaargh!”

I didn’t want to have to rewrite the email. I didn’t think that in my semi-conscious state I could remember what I had written – certainly not in the same way.

The program restarted and I anxiously opened the ‘Drafts’ folder to see if any remnants of my work had been saved.

And, wonderfully, most of what I had written had been kept. Only the bits I had written in the last five minutes had gone.

Silently I thought, “Pheeeew.”

I could just about remember what I had written in the previous five minutes so I re-wrote those bits, saved the email, added in the addresses again and clicked ‘send’…

It sent successfully.

Relief.

I am so glad that my computer program now has an autosave feature in it and that even when it crashes it retains most of what I have been doing. It’s needed because computers are still unreliable. It’s a shame that this is the case, but I am glad that the autosave feature exists.

We’re a bit like that. Like computers we are not always reliable. We crash. We let people down. We let God down. We sometimes (often) need to restart, and God’s grace is such that when we come to him and seek a fresh start he will do just that. And his grace is such that, even when we have crashed, he doesn’t make us start from scratch again. He has an autosave. We may need to do some work to help restore the damage or the hurt we have caused. We might need to look again at our attitudes and approaches and seek new ones. But the Jesus response is: “Go and sin no more”

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*I wonder whether we Baptists are a bit like that when it comes to this coming Sunday. We have had Easter, then we had Ascension Day, last week it was Pentecost and now, isn’t there something important about this coming Sunday? I’m sure there is, but I can’t put my finger on it…

…Oh, yes. It’s Trinity Sunday. The Sunday when traditionally vicars get their curates to preach to explain the Trinity to their congregations so they don’t have to try (allegedly). If I am honest it’s a Sunday that I can’t remember observing much in our non-liturgical, non-conformist Baptist churches. I don’t think I have preached much specifically on the theme of ‘The Trinity’ even though I know that God is Three in One and that permeates my experience and understanding of God and (I hope) all my preaching.

The lectionary readings set for this Sunday are momentous. Yes I know all Scripture is momentous, but you know what I mean. I invite you to read these passages in their entirety, but I give you a small passage from each to whet your appetite:

Isaiah 6.1–8 – “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

Psalm 29 – “”Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name; worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness.”

Romans 8.12–17 – “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

John 3.1–17 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his One and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

By now you will probably have chosen what you are preaching on this Sunday. You may well have written your sermon. But give yourself a treat. Take the time to read those passages above and allow yourself to bask in them, to soak them up, to feel the weight of them, and to experience Father, Son and Spirit through them: the Father who commissions, sends and loves; the Son who comes and calls and dies because of that love; the Spirit who is given, who indwells, who leads. Don’t read them to explain the Trinity to your people, read them to have an encounter with him/them for yourself. Don’t read them to prepare a sermon, read them to prepare yourself. God the Three in One wants you to feel, hear and know how much they love you.