A sermon for Remembrance Day by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod, Dean
By anyone’s estimation war is a terrible and wasteful thing. When remembering those who served in the theatres of war, we do not glorify war by any means. We pray that all wars may cease and the need for war may be avoided at all costs. However, we remember with deep gratitude those who have served, and those who continue to serve in the armed forces in defense of our country.
- Remembering – more than just retelling the story.
There is a Hebrew concept captured by the Greek word ‘Anamnesis’. It is the type of remembering that we find in the Jewish celebration of the Passover. In the celebration of the Passover people are taken back to the great defining story of the Jewish people – the Exodus from Egypt. It may be also said that it is not only a going back, but a bringing forward into the present that great event of the past. The idea is that those who are participating in the Passover are there, being freed from slavery, leaving Egypt for the long journey to the promised land.
Christians embrace this concept in the celebration of the Eucharist, which is not a mere calling to mind, but we break the bread and drink the cup in ‘Anamnesis’ of Christ. We are there at the Last Supper with Jesus as he shares with us his body and his blood.
This form of remembering is much deeper than taking note, or a recalling to mind for a few moments. It is a living and perpetual memory. It is an engrafted memory in our hearts and minds. It is a form of remembering that becomes a part of who we are. It is a transforming memory that doesn’t leave us the same. We are impacted by it and changed by it.
It is this sort of remembering that is important for ‘Remembrance Day’. We are one with those young men and women who gave their lives in the First World War, and subsequent wars. They have become one with us. Their blood has enriched the soil from which we have grown to be the nation we are. To remember them is to be with them, and, importantly, not to see their lives given in vain.
Hebrews 10: 34 For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.
There is a link to what I have just said, I think, to the New Testament lesson and that is ‘Compassion’. Compassion is more than just sympathy, but it is a deep a connection between our souls with another’s. We feel what they feel, and their pain is our pain. The Hebrew church, to whom the epistle (but it is more like a sermon than a letter) is directed, was a persecuted and struggling church; on the verge of giving up. The members of that church were being persecuted for their faith, and it seems were able to do little about it, but to live by faith. Those who had escaped prison, and other punishments, were called to compassion. To be with those who were suffering. The author of the epistle is encouraging the church not to walk away from compassion for others. They were no less involved. Compassion joined them with those who suffered.
3. A compassionate and remembering church
This is our call as Christians. We stand in solidarity and compassion with those who suffer. In the time of war, it is with those who served, and the families and friends of those who did not return; it is with those who returned but left a big part of themselves behind and suffered because of what they experienced; it is those who returned scarred and maimed; it is with those who presently serve with the uncertainties and experiences of serving their country with a war just gone or one that might come; it is with those who are refugees and displaced, it is with those who suffered in a war not of their own making, because war has taken everything from them and very few people really care … it is being in simple terms, compassionate.
If we as Christians don’t care, then who does?
- Remembering is more than just calling to mind. It is being there.
- Compassion is much more than offering sympathy.
- A Christian Church worthy of the name, remembers, and stands with others.