Remembrance Sunday - 2000. Micah 4: 1-5., Matthew 5: 1-16., John15: 9-17.

Long ago, Martin Luther entered into a personal struggle, with the things that troubled him; and, quite unintentionally, he opened a doorway to radical change, out of which religious freedom became established.
 
Up to Luther's day, the average man or woman had little freedom of any kind. Church and State did their thinking for them. They were expected to believe, and to do, what they were told; and very little else.
 
Then came Luther. Quite unintentionally, he stuck a giant pin into the fabric of State, Church and Society - and made a lot of people jump.
 
All that he originally intended to do; was to write down the things which troubled him, publish them; by nailing them on the door of the University Church; in the hope that other theologians would debate them with him. But many others did not see things like that. They took political and religious affront; and said that such matters could not be left to mere academic debate.
 
In his wrestling with the things that troubled him, Luther went back to the Bible, time and again. There he found great truths and principles that, somehow, he had not understood. When he came to understanding; he used the texts to prove that mankind entered into salvation grace, not through good works, but through faith in Jesus Christ.
 
So far, so good. Luther was content, and his once vexed soul was filled with joy. But those others were not content; and determined to act against him. In their attempts to prove him wrong, they, too, quite unintentionally, stuck a great pin; but this time, not into the fabric of State, Church and Ordered Society, but into the minds and understanding of the common people.
 
The common people suddenly realized, that these biblical truths and principles, applied to them, every bit as much as to the Hierarchy. Two principles in particular, held their attention; the freedom of conscience and action, in matters of religion; and the New Testament teaching, that each man or woman has personal responsibility, in the making of moral decisions. The common people came to believe that no one had any right to do their thinking for them; and then tell them what to do; and that, instead, they could work things out, and act accordingly. Thus they went far beyond what Martin Luther intended.
 
That, very roughly, is what happened; and, equally roughly, why we have particular freedoms and responsibilities.
 
Today, we expect to have that freedom to think for ourselves. In certain situations, others might not only expect us to think, but also to come up with solutions to problems; and guidance as to what to do, and how to do it.
The Bible teaches us that life is not an 'Alice-in-Wonderland' Caucus Dance, for ever going in the same old circle; but an on-going adventure, as we follow where Christ leads.
 
The Church may be in a minority, in terms of numbers; but the people of our land, still look to the Church to say something; to do something; and to give guidance and direction in many matters; and one great matter is, of course, war and how to prevent it,
 
The Spanish philosopher Santayana, once made this statement: 'Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it'. In other words, if we do not learn from past mistakes, and missed opportunities; we will soon be going over the same old ground once more.
 
No sensible person wants to repeat the past of terrible wars; but even the most sensible people, are not always sure about how they can prevent the past from being repeated.
 
It is the desire to know at least something about how: that exercises the minds of so many people. They hope that someone, perhaps the Church, will, some day, be able to help them, and say: 'There is the answer'.
 
In our search for answers, we need a good starting-off point, from which to commence our thinking. One place to get new perspective, is to recognise that all moral issues; all matters of 'right' and 'wrong'; are contained within the framework of our religion; and this for two reasons.
 
Firstly: all moral issues stem from our Christian faith and understanding. It is virtually impossible to find one that stands outside of our religion, and about which the Bible has nothing to say.
 
Secondly: the practice of our religion not only requires us to know what is right and wrong, but also demands that we should apply that knowledge, whenever necessary, in the situations and events of our lives.
 
In war as in peace, life is a continuing series of experiences; each one of which, is closely associated with decisions made in the past; morally good, or morally bad; and which must be faced up to, in the present.
 
The more good actions that moral people undertake, the better; in war; every bit as much as in peace.
 
What is a 'good action’ in a particular situation? What determines it? Here is a bit of guidance from the New Testament; just two references, out of several, about soldiers.
A Roman Centurion was concerned that his servant might be dying. He went to see Jesus. Christ did not say: 'So, you're a soldier, are you? I'm a man of peace; but you are a man of war, and I will have nothing to do with you'.
 
Nothing of the kind. Instead, Jesus said: 'What a man of faith you are! In all of my experience, I have never come across a greater faith. Go home, and you will find your servant healed' - and it was so.
 
And the other example. John the Baptist was a stern man, with a powerful moral teaching; a man who could have taken a very heavy line with some soldiers who went to see him.
 
They asked: ‘What shall we do, in order to become part of the 'Kingdom of God' that you are calling us to enter, through repentance?'
 
John did not say: ‘The only acceptable sign of your repentance, is for you to leave the army, and put the military life behind you'. Instead, he said to them: ‘Be good soldiers’.
 
We have a freedom to think, and act, with a sense of personal responsibility; and are filled with great potential to effect good, in the places where we live and work.
 
The Bible, especially the New Testament, never says: 'You have received that freedom and responsibility from God. Now use it in working against organisations and systems'.
 
Instead, it calls us to work for, in the places where we are; within those organisations and systems; and, as Jesus said, like yeast in the dough, effect good change.
 
Time and again, the Bible encourages us to allow the goodness of God himself to be at work in us; and through us; in the places and situations where we find ourselves.
 
It says: 'Don't concern yourselves with matters beyond your scope. Concern yourself with good - where you are…
 
‘...Let God make you effective - as you are.
 
‘…be a good servant ... soldier ... tax-collector. ..workman...and so on. Be a good husband ... wife ... child…
 
The Bible advises us to concern ourselves, not so much with questions; but more with becoming part of a living answer; and this, not through finding clever solutions to great and complex problems...
 
..but through being that 'grain of salt' which gives added savour to life in our homes, barracks, offices, and so on;  through being that ‘light' which shines out, and guides and encourages others… and through our firm moral stand – making us the place within which steadfastness is found; and from which others may take new bearings.
 
Vast matters are afoot! Our twelve nuclear submarines have been taken out of commission. Should they be repaired, or not?
 
George W. Bush, is said to be much more of a ‘toughie’ than Al’ Gore. If he does become President, will this be good, or bad, for the rest of the world?
 
The United Nations Organization, seems to have lost much of its clout; and several countries have ignored its directives. Where do we go, from here?
 
There are many great questions clamouring to be answered; but we should never allow that clamour to distract us from being part of the living answer. Most of the ‘vast matters’ lie beyond our personal scope; but goodness, and our ability to apply it, lies within us.
 
Christ calls us to be his followers, and to do good in ways that he gives us;  in each and every opportunity, as it arises; in the places where we are; because of who we are - Christians.
 
A closing thought.  In a church newsletter, I read a cry-from-the-heart prayer: 'Protect me, O Lord; my boat is so small, and your sea is so big'.
 
The one who prays, becomes the answer to his own prayer, so long as he keeps on sailing his boat. For it is to his enduring faith; where he is; in the boat; that God responds.
 
It is something like that with us. We can feel ourselves to be in a very little boat, in a sea of vast issues; but, if we keep on being faithful; where we are; keep on converting our potential for good, into good actions;  wherever and whenever opportunities arise…
 
… and keep on being part of God's living answer to the problems of life, because of who we are; then, perhaps to our surprise, we will discover that we are among those who did remember, and learn from, the past…
 
…and that we are among those, who help prevent some small part of the world from being condemned to repeat its evils.   Amen.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1)-  Welcome – and opening prayer.
 
2)-  Notices – Offering later.
 
3)-  Theme:  Remembrance Sunday.
 
4)-   Hymn 038   As we are gathered, Jesus is here.
 
5)-   Prayers of Thanksgiving…and the Lord’s Prayer.
 
6)-   Hymn 094  Come, let us sing of a wonderful love’.
 
7)-   Readings:  O.T. Micah 4: 1-5.
                             NT. Matthew 5: 1-16.
        Let us take some time, to remember those who have been gentle, loving  
         and peaceful towards us, and who have influenced our lives.
                              N.T. John15: 9-17.
 
8)-  Hymn 456  Make me a channel of your peace.
 
9)-  Sermon.
 
10)- Hymn 201  Guide me, O thou great Jehovah’.
 
11)- Offering.
 
12)- Brief time of quiet, about those whom we knew, who died, or were 
        bereaved, through war…Let us remember before God, those who have
        never recovered from the shock of what they experienced; and the vast 
        numbers of refugees, who still hope to return to their own land.
 
13)- Prayers of petition.
 
14)- Hymn 705  Thy hand, O God, has guided, thy Church, from age to age’.
 
15)-  Benediction.