This morning we mark Remembrance Sunday in a very different way. If we’d been told last year that we wouldn’t have churches across the country full and parades taking place we would have been incredulous. Even just a couple of months ago, weeks ago, days ago, we were hopeful that we would be able to hold a service, all be it somewhat cut down, in our places of worship. But here we are, responding, once again, to the changing nature of life in response to the pandemic.
It is vital that we keep our communities safe by abiding by the rules and in doing so, it is hoped that we will arrive at a point where we can resume those activities that, for the time being, must go on hold.
We continue to pray for all who are being impacted by Covid-19, whether through illness, anxiety over livelihoods or a sense of isolation. We know that we face the prospect of a challenging winter and the buoyancy that was perhaps felt at the beginning of the first lockdown, when we were heading into spring with the assumption that it would all be over soon, has all but evaporated. More than ever we need occasions that bring us together, that set markers in the ground of our community life. Remembrance Sunday is one such marker. Exercising our collective memory to hold on to the men and women who gave their lives in the two world wars and all conflicts since is a vital part of our shared identity. Taking time to hold before God the many service men and women who continue to struggle with the effect of conflict, through physical, mental or emotional injury at this time is vital if we are to continue to pursue the road of peace and justice. We will remember them; we must remember them and as we remember we must recommit ourselves to the cause of peace and justice.
We truly live in a world that is full of anxiety and pain. As we look around us we see that the normal things that we can be tempted to cling to for security are increasingly fragile. The news is full of stories that heighten our fear of the stranger and, sadly, many in the world of politics would use our fear to gain support for inward looking policies that seek to protect us at the expense of them.So, what do we do? How, in the face of so much difficulty, do we live? How does our faith shape our response?
Well, one thing that is for certain is that glib, off the cuff, platitudes will not do here. These times do not call for practiced one-liners. No, now is the time for us to dare to look deep into our own understanding of our faith. To dare to challenge some of the views we have simply taken on without much thought and to stare into the mystery of God’s love for his broken world.
When we do that, we recognise that there are no easy answers; answers that are out there – away from us personally. We come to the understanding that WE, through our faith in Jesus Christ, are part of the answer and we must take our place.
What does God require of us but to do Justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God?
Our place is to stand in the gap between what we know the world to be and what we hope it to be and to be light to others. To be signposts of grace, service and love.I read a piece recently by Quaker author and activist, Parker Palmer, that struck a chord with me as I was thinking about today, he writes;
“Of all the tensions we must hold in personal and political life, perhaps the most fundamental and most challenging is standing and acting with hope in the “tragic gap.”
On one side of that gap, we see the hard realities of the world, realities that can crush our spirits and defeat our hopes. On the other side of that gap, we see real-world possibilities, life as we know it could be because we have seen it that way. . . .If we are to stand and act with hope in the tragic gap and do it for the long haul, we cannot settle for mere “effectiveness” as the ultimate measure of our failure or success. Yes, we want to be effective in pursuit of important goals. . . [But] we must judge ourselves by a higher standard than effectiveness, the standard called faithfulness. Are we faithful to the community on which we depend, to doing what we can in response to its pressing needs? Are we faithful to the better angels of our nature and to what they call forth from us? Are we faithful to the eternal conversation of the human race, to speaking and listening in a way that takes us closer to truth? Are we faithful to the call of courage that summons us to witness to the common good, even against great odds? When faithfulness is our standard, we are more likely to sustain our engagement with tasks that will never end: doing justice, loving mercy, and calling the beloved community into being.”
Father Richard Rhor writes that “Parker Palmer’s understanding of the “tragic gap” recognizes that no matter what we do, we can never completely solve the problem. In all our actions, there is always a space left incomplete, imperfect, which God alone can fill. The search for “the perfect” often keeps us from “the good.” The demand for one single issue about which we can be totally right actually keeps us from reading the whole picture—often this is true in regard to voting.”
Perhaps as we mark Remembrance this year in the way that feels so very far from perfect, we could commit ourselves to standing, alongside others ‘in the gap’ with a willingness to add our incomplete, imperfect but honest and faithful contribution to bringing about a better world for the whole of creation.
Revd Louise Holliday
Come as you are to our special online Remembrance Sunday service today…
Led by Revd Louise Holliday and Canon John Chambers, joined by Ian and Linda Lawrence, John Dodd and Alison Wilson.
Church of England Remembrance Sunday Service
Led from the Royal Military Chapel by Rev John Vincent CF, the service honours those who gave their lives for the peace of our nation.