Sunday, November 8, 2015

Peace Memorials, Peace Babies - reflections for Remembrance Sunday

Welcome to our services for Remembrance Sunday.

During this morning’s service we shall observe the two minutes silence at 11-00.  Memories of those who have lost their lives in the wars of the last century and this are at first hand for some of us and have been passed on to others of us.  They are memories to honour.  All those I have ever spoken to about their actual memories of war have had one thing in common: the memory they share of a longing for peace for the next generation.  We honour those memories as we commit ourselves to work for that peace they longed for.  For most of the nearly twenty-five years of my time at Highbury our country has been at war.  Today is a day not only to remember but also to reflect on the extent to which those wars have brought the peace those who have lost their lives in war have longed for.  Maybe more than anything else we should remember that “God has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Welcome and Call to Worship

Hymn 14 All people that on earth do dwell

Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

It was not a comfortable time to live.  War and conflict and the threat of war and conflict were never out of the news for long.  The once united kingdom of Israel had split into two often warring kingdoms – and the prophets of the Northern Kingdom and the Prophets of the Southern Kingdom in the Eighth Century before Christ were all too conscious of war and the threat of war.

They had a vision for the future, a future that would ultimately be in God’s hands.  And there vision is a vision for us today as we live in a world where war and conflict and the threat of war and the threat of conflict seem never to be out of the news.

Reading Micah 4:1-5

In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it, 
   and many nations shall come and say:
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 
He shall judge between many peoples,
   and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more; 
but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
   and no one shall make them afraid;
   for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. 

For all the peoples walk,
   each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
   for ever and ever.

Bassett’s is a good Yorkshire name … and in Sheffield in Yorkshire Bassett’s was a really big sweet manufacturer.

And when the First World war was over they came up with a brilliant idea – they made some wonderful sweets out of a kind of jelly substance and nearly 100 years later you can still buy Bassett’s jelly babies.

But in 1918 they didn’t call them jelly babies.

They called them

Peace Babies.

Get one person to come up and take a jelly baby

Why a baby?

I reckon it was because they wanted something better for their children – they wanted peace and security for their children.

Then get five other people to come up … and take one of each of the other colours.

Why different colours?

If you look at a map the countries are marked in different colours – so maybe the peace babies from all the different countries should come together – coming together from all backgrounds – and working for peace.

Maybe you can rearrange the colours – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Pink, Purple
-          The colours of the rainbow – almost.

But have you ever noticed each of the coloured babies is different – they have silly names on the pack – does anyone know the names?
Red is Brilliant
Green is Boofuls
Orange is Bumper
Yellow is Bubbles
Purple is Big Heart
Pink is Baby Bonny

Maybe babies of all different shapes and sizes, all different colours are all important – and we seek peace for the sake of them

But there’s something else … I read that there are secret signs on each of the peace babies … and those signs can remind us of the love God has for all of us.  So we have an experiment to make.

Get each one to lick the coating off the front of their jelly baby.

On the Purple peace baby is a heart – that reminds me that God’s love reaches out to everyone.

You can see the Green Peace Baby is crying – that reminds me that God shares in our sadness and weeps with us when he sees the pain there is in our world

You can see the Red Peace Baby has a big B on it.  That reminds me that God sent Jesus into the world even to the point at which he was crucified and gave his blood, his life for us – in Jesus God shared our worst suffering so that in Jesus we can share in the wonderful glory of God.

 And the Pink Peace Baby is just a baby - that reminds me that in Jesus we are all children of God, and loved by God.

The Yellow Peace Baby is wearing a necklace – that reminds me of the glory of God and that all will be well in the fullness of God’s time

And the Orange Peace Baby is wearing a bag round his waist – that reminds me we all are on a journey and we need to keep going in that journey of faith and Jesus will  be with us all the way.

Aren’t they special!

Maybe we should think of babies who are caught up in the horror of war – and pray for that peace that those who have been involved in war longed for – especially let’s pray for the babies and the children who are caught up in the horror of war at this time in places of conflict in flight as refugees.

Maybe we should think of ourselves as Peace Babies that have grown up and we too are on a journey of faith – let’s keep in mind that wonderful ultimate promise that all will be well … and in the meantime let’s ourselves promise to walk in the light of the Lord!

In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it. 

Come all the people of God
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’

Come all the people of God
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

Come all the people of God
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more. 
Come all the people of God

   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

A Hy-Spirit Song

An Act of Remembrance for Remembrance Sunday

In a moment or two we shall stand to remember those who have lost their lives in war, particularly the wars our country has engaged in during the last Century and this:  the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, the Suez War, the end of Empire Conflicts in Africa and elsewhere, the Falklands War, the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, the terrorist atrocities of 9/11 7/7, Libya, Syria and since.

We make a special remembrance of those who lost their lives from this church, most young men in their teens and in their twenties.

Those who were in that First World War longed that it should be the war to end all wars.  Those who were in the Second World War longed that it should be the war to end all wars … as we remember, let us honour their memory in our commitment to work by all means possible for that peace which they longed to pass on to future generations, a peace we pray for in a world that in so many places is still at war.

Will you please stand.

We remember all those who have lost their lives in war … particularly do we remember those connected with this fellowship, Highbury Congregational Church who lost their lives:

W.G. Bowles
DM Brown
G Clayton
C Coles
F Cooper

F Gill
K Gurney
HG Marshall
J Phillips
J Saunders

W Stephens
F Warren
CW Winterbottom
H Woodward

And Paul Chadwick who lost his life in Iraq.

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

2 Minutes Silence and then Prayer

Song 19 Make me a channel of your peace


Sunday Special continues

It is interesting how names change over time.

Some of the names used a long time ago are worth re-discovering – they can make us think of things differently, not least on Remembrance Sunday.

Prestbury’s has been rebuilt after being knocked over.  The one outside All Saints has been rebuilt recently.  There are plans to refurbish the town centre one.  Most towns and villages up and down the country have one.

A War Memorial.

It’s not only jelly babies that have been known by another name.

War memorials have also been known by another name.

Between the wars Arthur Mee brought out a series of guide books to the counties of England that are much sought after in second hand book shops to this day.

I’ve got one of Gloucestershire.

The King’s England
Gloucesterhire – the Glory of the otswolds
Edited by Arthur Mee.

Skimming through the book it’s fascinating how frequently he gives those memorials a different name, a name rarely used today.

In Great Rissington and in Shipton Moyne and in St Paul’s church in Gloucester he speaks of there being Peace Memorials, the Salperton memorial bears the name of those ‘who died for peace’ and in the parish church in Sandhurst there is a peace window.

We honour the memory of those whose lives have been lost in war by committing ourselves again to that peace which they longed for.

It is to that work of making peace that Christ calls us.

That is expressed very powerfully in a passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians.  Paul goes to the heart of the Christian faith and invites us not to see things from a human perspective but from Christ’s perspective.

He invites us to think of the way we are through Christ reconciled to God … and then challenges us to a ministry of reconciliation as Ambassadors for Christ.

Reading 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.

 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
   and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!

A while back we sang the original version of a hymn that had been written in 1907 by John Oxenham.

We are now going to sing a hymn inspired by that original hymn

322 In Christ there is no east or west

According to Arthur Mee, the peace memorial in Shipton Moyne church “has among its eight names a touching reminder that the grim harvest of the war in this small place was not confined to men and boys; it contains the name of Elizabeth Randall, who was in service at the rectory when she became a nurse, went to the Front, and was killed in the Serbian Retreat.”

One name has figured large for me this year.  In the year my father would have been 100 our first grand-daughter arrived and was given the name Edith. 

I grew up with the story of Edith Cavell – October 12th was the centenary of her execution at Dawn in Brussels.

Edith Cavell was a British nurse during the First World War. She is celebrated for saving the lives of soldiers from both sides without distinction and in helping over 200 Allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium.

Her story is a moving one … and the story of the memorial that was put up in her memory is thought provoking too … and again points us from the time immediately after the first world war to focus our remembrance towards that longing for peace.

A Small Village in Swardeston

Edith Louisa Cavell was born in Swardeston, a small village in Norfolk where her father was the local vicar, on December 4th, 1865. She had 3 younger siblings and you can still visit the house they grew up in known as "Cavell House".

Edith moved to Belgium, where she worked as a Governess and she was soon fluent in French. She returned to Swardeston when her father became very unwell and Edith assisted with nursing him back to health. This act is what probably inspired Edith to become a nurse. She trained at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, under Eva Lückes. Edith wasn't always the best student, Eva described her as unpunctual and not a nurse that could be relied on! However, Edith's intentions were good!

"At a time like this, I am more needed than ever."
 Edith Cavell, 1915.

The Outbreak of War

In 1907, after completing her nurse training and completing a number of roles in hospitals in the UK, Edith was invited back to Brussels to nurse a sick child. Despite Eva's comments, Edith's skills were soon recognised and she was invited to be Matron of the first Nursing School in Belgium. She excelled in this role despite the challenges presented by societal views of women and work at that time. However, it was a great accolade when the Queen of the Belgians broke her arm in an accident and requested one of Edith's nurses!By 1912, Edith was busy managing one nursing school, three hospitals, three private nursing homes, 24 communal schools for nurses, thirteen private kindergartens, private duty cases, a clinic and was giving four lectures a week to doctors and nurses.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Edith was in Norwich. "At a time like this, I am more needed than ever" were the words of Edith before she set off for the Frontline in Belgium. 

Edith cared for all the wounded, regardless of nationality. She was greatly criticised by many at the time for assisting the German and Austrian soldiers, when they were fighting against the British. Edith soon began to work with others to smuggle the Allied soldiers that she was caring for, out of the hospital and into neutral Holland.

Arrest and Execution

After a lengthy investigation, the suspicions of the German Officials grew and Edith, along with others, was arrested. She knew of the implications in being involved with the underground, so Edith kept it a secret from many of her nurses.

When interrogated by the Officials, Edith provided all of the details surrounding the underground and she was sent to trial with 35 others. Most were sentenced to hard labour.
Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad. Her execution received worldwide condemnation and extensive press coverage.

An Appeal

At the time, millions of soldiers and civilians owed their lives to the dedication, self-sacrifice and hard work of nurses. In 1917 the country responded by launching an appeal for nurses "shattered mentally and physically, who have sought the health of others at the expense of their own."

The Nation's Fund for Nurses was born, which became Cavell Nurses' Trust.

In conversation only a couple of weeks ago Mary Michael happened to comment something about a connection she has had through nursing with Edith Cavell …

Mary Michael’s comments

About going to the same nursing school, about the ethos of nursing she handed on … and about the way she was an ordinary kind of person who got things wrong at times too!

But what of her memorial?

It stands in pride of place between Trafalgar Square and the Coliseum, between the National Portrait Gallery and St Martin-in-the-fields.

Initially the giant statue of Edith Cavell simply had the words King and Country engraved on it.  But in the 1920’s there were protests from the national Council of Women of Great Britain and Ireland and the government under Ramsey MacDonald, agreed it should also bear what were said to be Cavell’s final words on the eve of her execution … so these words were added.

“Patriotism is not enough.
I must have no hatred or bitterness for anyone.”

Those words captured that spirit of her nursing zeal, inspired by her Christian faith and her commitment to nurse wounded from all sides in the war.

What prompted Edith Cavell in that insight was her Christian conviction … our calling is to share that ministry of reconciliation that Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

Maybe what’s important is for us not to look at the world and its needs from a human point of view, but from the perspective Christ gives us.

To be in Christ is to be a new creation and to have a whole new way of thinking of the world and its values.

Everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Chrsit, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;

It is that ministry of reconciliation that we should commit ourselves to as we seek to work for that peace those who lost their lives in war longed for.

He has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us.

That makes us ambassadors for Christ as we are reconciled with God.

Maybe we should think of those memorials as Peace Memorials, and think of that memorial to Edith Cavell as a Peace memorial.

There is, however, a twist in the tale.

Just before dawn on that 12th October when Edith Cavell was executed it was the Anglican chaplain in Brussels who shared in prayers with her.  He made a note of her last words … but when he typed up his notes and sent them to the US legation in Brussels, they were a little different from the hand written notes he had made.

It was the type-written record that made it on to the memorial in Trafalgar Square.

As Ambassadors of Christ maybe we should take seriously Edith Cavell’s last words as recorded in the chaplain’s hand-written note:

Patriotism is not enough.  It is not enough to love one’s own people, one must love all men and hate none.”

Hymn: Beauty for Brokenness

Prayers of Concern

Hymn  For the healing of the nations                      Rhuddlan

Words of blessing

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