Sunday, November 13, 2016

Encourage one Another - a Service for Remembrance Sunday

Text of the Week: Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Welcome to our services today and a special welcome to any who are worshipping with us for the first time. During our morning service we shall share in our Act of Remembrance and observe two minutes of silence at 11- 00. Each of us will have different things that we ‘remember’ during those two minutes of silence. Many of those ‘memories’ will have been passed on to us. Some may be ‘memories’ of our own. In the first part of the service there will be an opportunity for people to share what it is they ‘remember’ and things that prompt those memories to stay alive. You could say that in the first part of our service we will be ‘remembering backwards’. I well remember meeting with people who had been in the horror of the first world war. After our Act of Remembrance we will then reflect on the call to ‘remember forwards’. Those who have been caught up in the horror of war share the hope that it will end. We honour their memory by also recalling today their longing for peace. It is as we ‘remember forwards’ and pledge ourselves to the task of ‘making peace’ in our generation that we honour the memory of those who lost their lives in the wars of the last hundred years and more.

This is a recording of our evening service ...

It included a video clip I made a few years ago at the Cheltenham War Memorial ...

Welcome and Call to Worship
37 Our God, our help in ages past
Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer

Remembrance is done in many different settings from the Football Stadium to the shop on the High Street to the Cenotaph in London to the War Memorial in Cheltenham. We ‘do’ our remembrance today as we gather together in Church in the name of Jesus Christ and claim that promise he gives that where two or three gather together in his name he is there in the midst of them. And so we turn to one of the most familiar of Christmas readings and discover it has an appropriateness on Remembrance Sunday. At Christmas we will recall that Jesus was born into a world that knew only too well war and the rumour of war – it was a cruel world which led to the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem and the flight of Mary, Joseph and Jesus across the Sinai desert to Egypt. The prophets who looked to the coming of a Messiah lived in times of war and the rumour of war. These words from Isaiah 9 speak of the promise of a Messiah who will come into a war-torn land of conflict. This is the Jesus we who is at the heart of our worship today.

Reading Isaiah 9:2-7

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder. 

For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

For a child has been born for us,
   a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually,
   and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.

   He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time onwards and for evermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. 

So, a task to do for any of the younger members who want to – some pictures, colouring, based on Remembrance and the words of that reading.

MTS 16 My Jesus, my Saviour

Remembering Backwards

On Remembrance Sunday what is it that you are remembering?

A time to share

By 10-50 – Vic’s Remembrance

About seven years ago I asked one of our members who had been in the Second World War to share his remembrances – Lorraine’s Dad, Vic – well loved in all the church family, not least by the children. He wouldn’t do it in person, but he did it in his own home. Lorraine asked if we could replay the clip of his remembrance.

We have had handed on to us an Act of Remembrance that we share each year in this church as we name.

Act of Remembrance

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 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 wards.  Those who were in the Second World War longed that it should be the war to tend 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

S 19 Make me a channel of your peace

Activities for all over 3

Remembering Forwards

When I was getting ready for today’s service I came across a hymn that was written specially for Remembrance Sunday by a modern hymn writer, Fred Kaan. It comes to an end with an invitation

May we, im-passioned by your living Word,
            remember forward to a world restored.

I like that phrase.

Much of what we do on Remembrance Sunday is ‘remembring backwards’. I am of the immediate post war generation. I do not have memories of my own but I do have memories that were passed on to me by my parents. In the early years of my ministry I got to know many people who had fought in the First World War and then those who had been in the second world war. The one thing that sticks in my mind is especially those from the first world war did not want to talk about their experiences. In what they did recall, they would without exception recall the longing they had for the war to end and for them to get back to their loved ones. They would recall their longing for peace.

If we remember backwards to their time we should remember what they were looking forward to, what they were working towards. We honour their memory by pledging ourselves to work for that peace they longed for.

It is one of the tragedies of the wars we do remember that all too often the ending of a war has sown the seeds of further conflict. The harsh reparations imposed at the end of the first world war contributed to the rise of Nazism and so the second world war. The straight lines drawn in the sand by Sykes and Picot and then imposed around the Middle East at the end of the first world war contribute still to the conflict that rages in the Middle East today.

It is a tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes that in the wars against Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya that we have fought in recent years no attention was given to building the peace afterwards and we see how that failure has contributed among other things to the rise of daeash, ISIS and so much that is going on now.

But fort all that in our remembering we can remember the efforts that were made for peace – not least in the wake of the Second World War to introduce institutions that would enable the world to work for peace and not be at war.

Maybe it is our responsibility not only to remember backwards but also remember forwards. What is our task today.

I have a feeling we are in need of some encouragement. The text of the week is not out of place at all.  Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

In the first part of our service we read that passage from Isaiah that speaks of the coming of Christ but against a backdrop of war and the rumour of war.

The book of Revelation is written as a letter from John the Divine who is the victim of the violence of repression and persecution to people who are all too aware of war and the rumour of war in the face of Roman might at its worst.

It is a word of encouragement that’s built about remembering forward.

It presents us with a vision of glory in the eternity of God’s love.

Take encouragement from the vision. Keep at it. But more than that. Remember forwards.

Draw down into the present what the vision is about and make that the task to follow.

Reading: Revelation 21:1-4,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

‘See, the home of God is among ordinary people.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

If God will wipe every tear from their eyes then our task here and now is to wipe away tears, bring comfort to those who mourn, alleviate the suffering of those who cry and are in pain.

Wipe away tears, alleviate suffering, bring comfort. The very specific detailed things we do this week matter: they count. American Novelist, Richard Ford, writing in the paper this week quoted William Blake: “He who would do good for another must do it in minute particulars … General good is the plea of the scoundrel, the hypocrite and the flatterer.”

But the small detail is part of a bigger picture. The vision goes on …

Revelation 21: 22-24;

I saw no temple in the city,
for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
he nations will walk by its light,
and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 

If nations will walk by the light of God in Jesus Christ that is why it is so important to work out and apply Christian values in the life of the nations. It is our responsibility to seek to work out Christian values in the life of the nation.

And one more part to the vision …

Revelation 22:1-5

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life,
bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 
through the middle of the street of the city.
On either side of the river is the tree of life 
with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month;
and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

 Nothing accursed will be found there any more.
But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him; 
they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 
And there will be no more night;
they need no light of lamp or sun,
for the Lord God will be their light,
and they will reign for ever and ever.

It’s a wonderful vision of God’s glory. One to hold on to in the middle of dark times. But remembering forwards to those leaves that are for the healing of the nations gives us a responsibility to be concerned internationally for healing in the nations of the world.

It is no coincidence that out of the aftermath of the Second World war came the churches response to bring healing to the nations in Christian Aid – how vital that work is now not just giving aid, but also helping to shape what should be done to bring healing to the nations.
May we, im-passioned by your living Word,
            remember forward to a world restored.

There was one more part to that conversation I had with Vic Lewis. The conversation moved on to what Vic did next – coming out of the experience of war he felt called to the service of others and devoted a large part of his life to the small detail of doing good through the Order of St John and the work of St John Ambulance.

Remembering forwards – Vic’s thoughts on the service of others and the importance of prayer.

Hymn: God! As with silent hearts

1          God! As with silent hearts we bring to mind
            how hate and war diminish humankind,
            we pause - and seek in worship to increase
            our knowledge of the things that make for peace.

2          Hallow our will as humbly we recall
            the lives of those who gave and give their all.
            We thank you, Lord, for women, children, men
            who seek to serve in love, today as then.
3          Give us deep faith to comfort those who mourn,
            high hope to share with all the newly born,
            strong love in our pursuit of human worth:
            'lest we forget' the future of this earth.

4          So, Prince of Peace, disarm our trust in power,
            teach us to coax the plant of peace to flower.
            May we, im-passioned by your living Word,
            remember forward to a world restored.

Fred Kaan (1929-2009)          

Prayers of Concern

521 Tell all the world of Jesus

Words of Blessing

Retiring Collection

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