REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY - 2006.

Most of the war-memorials up and down our land, relate to those who died in the armed forces; but the names recorded on them represent a far greater number of people who died in both world wars;  most of whom have no memorial at all, except in the hearts and minds of those who loved them.
 
In the Second World War alone: estimates of the total number of dead vary by as much as 5 million. It is shocking to think that 5 million is no more than the uncertainty factor, in the far greater number; perhaps as many as 55 million people; throughout the world, who are thought to have died as a direct result of that war.
 
Most of the war memorials naming, or representing, all those people, say much the same thing: 'They died in War, that we might live in Peace'.
 
We claim to be a nation that is living at peace; however, not long ago, it was stated that; since the end of the Second World War; 1968 was the only year in which British servicemen did not die on battlefields, or through terrorism. Do we actually ‘live in peace’? Our political leaders claim that we do; but is it so? And what do we mean by ‘peace’?
 
In its 400 or so references to 'peace', the Bible uses two rather different words to describe what goes on, where peace reigns.
 
The Greek word Eirene, from which we take the English name, Irene: describes the absence of hostility, aggression, and war: which is wonderful in itself, but doesn’t go far enough to define peace, in Christian terms.
 
God never does things by halves. Where something negative or bad has been removed: he requires the gap left to be filled with something positive and good; otherwise, no real progress or gain will have been achieved.
 
The word most consistently used in the Old Testament, to describe God’s intentions: and also translates into English as 'peace'; is SHALOM, a quality that is positive, strong, active and purposeful.
 
Such positive, strong, active and purposeful peace: is given, by God, to all who will receive it. When shared: it fills the, otherwise, empty places in lives and situations, with something meaningful.
 
SHALOM means many interrelated things: including concepts of wholeness, soundness, and well-being. It was, and remains, far more than a greeting: for it is also a prayer and a blessing.
 
When the ancient Jews said, SHALOM, they were not merely saying: 'May you enjoy the absence of hostility, aggression and war’. That too, but much more: for the meaning was far greater.
What the ancient Jews were really saying was: ‘May you enjoy physical prosperity, and spiritual well-being. May you grow into that completeness of body, mind and spirit to which God our Father calls us ...
 
...’May God add to you those good things that are missing. May the Lord fill up the otherwise empty places of your life’.
 
In the Old Testament, God said: ‘I will give peace to this land, and to this people’. (Leviticus 26-6).
 
In the New Testament, Jesus said, and still says: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you’ (John 14:27) It is Gods own peace, from the depths of his being, that Christ gives to us: a peace, that builds lives, fosters good relationships, and so much more.
 
Jesus said: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you’, and then added: ‘I do not give to you as the world gives’.
 
However: many Christians tend to receive Christ's gift of peace in a worldly way; and to attach strings and conditions to it; which is not according to what Christ had in mind, when he made the gift, in the first place.
 
The Bible teaches us that, in terms of all that is truly worthwhile, we have no spiritual and moral possessions of our own; but hold certain qualities and attributes of God in trust.
 
These Godly qualities and attributes include faith ... hope ... love ... joy ... mercy … and, of course, peace. These holy things are the very foundation of the quiet, godly life, that abhors hostility, aggression and war, and all else that divides person from person.
 
Millions are denied quality of life; and other millions are robbed of life itself; because of a worldwide failure to receive certain qualities and attributes of God on trust, and to minister them to the good of all.
 
The world is large; but just as individual grains of sand, and pebbles, make a beach; so do individual people make up a society; a nation, and, eventually, the whole of humanity.
 
The recognized, worldwide lack of peace: does not exist of itself. It is created, and continually recreated, by the millions, and, possibly, billions, of individual failures to be peaceful, when opportunity was given.
 
As said, all over our nation, war-memorials state: 'They died in war, that we might live in peace’. This can be put in more religious and spiritual terms. ‘They died in unrighteousness (the horrors of war) that we might live in righteousness’ (Christ's Kingdom of Peace').
 
It can be put even more strongly, in terms of the on-trust responsibilities that God gives to us, to minister his mercy, love and grace to the world.
 
‘They died in the midst of unrighteousness (through something beyond their control; that was forced upon them) that we might live righteously’ (and so help prevent such things ever happening again).
 
It is very easy to think: 'What can I do, in the midst of so great a problem, which exists world-wide?' but history shows that the Lord calls few to work on such a scale.
 
Most of us are called to live righteously, peacefully, in the places where we are set; amid the people with whom we have to do; and no more. To think: ‘But is this enough?’ is, perhaps, to doubt God's judgement in the matter.
 
Of course, some are called of God to minister divine qualities on a scale that reaches out to far-off places, or even to the whole world.
 
We can think of Florence Nightingale ... Dietrich Bonhoeffer .. The Mahatma Ghandi ... Martin Luther King .... Mother Theresa ..... Dag Hammaerschold .. ... Nelson Mandela .. and so many others.
 
However, such people have their statues and memorials; books, plays and films about them; either to keep memory of them alive; or else to promote the qualities that their lives still demonstrate ...
 
... but, as said earlier, the war memorials all over our land, not only name those who perished as members of the armed forces; but also represent those millions who died as a result of war, but who have no other memorial, save in the hearts and minds of those who knew and loved them
 
When we come to die; and no bronze statue of us is erected; and no book, play or film about us, is written or made...
 
... what Godly attributes and qualities; demonstrated in our lives; will be remembered in the hearts and minds of those who knew us, and whose lives we touched and affected?
 
What righteousness will we have helped to create: in the midst of a world where there is so much unrighteous?
 
Whose quality of life became enhanced, because of the peace of God that we shared with them?    Amen.