How we Honour Them

Reading 1: 

 

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow 

Between the crosses row on row, 

That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly 

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago 

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 

Loved and were loved, and now we lie 

In Flanders fields. 

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw 

The torch; be yours to hold it high. 

If ye break faith with us who die 

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 

In Flanders fields. 

 

 

Reading 2

 

For the Fallen

by Laurence Binyon

 

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

 

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal

Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.

There is music in the midst of desolation

And a glory that shines upon our tears.

 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,

Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.

They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,

They fell with their faces to the foe.

 

They shall grow not 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.

 

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;

They sit no more at familiar tables of home;

They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;

They sleep beyond England's foam.

 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,

Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,

To the innermost heart of their own land they are known

As the stars are known to the Night;

 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,

Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,

As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,

To the end, to the end, they remain.

 

 

Reading 3

 

We Will Keep the Faith

Moira Michael

 

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders’ fields,

Sleep sweet - to rise anew,

We caught the torch you threw,

And holding high we kept

The faith with those who died.

We cherish too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valour led.

 

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders’ fields.

 

And now the torch and poppy red

Wear in honour of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught

We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught

In Flanders’ fields.

 

 

Reading 4

 

Responsive reading

 

If There is to be Peace in the World

 

If there is to be peace in the world, 

There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations, 

There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities, 

There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors, 

There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home, 

There must be peace in the heart.

 

Lao Tzu (570-490 B.C.)

 

 

 

Sermon

 

We come together today on this Remembrance Sunday as people do all over this land.  We come to speak of sacrifice.  We come to speak of bravery and heroism.  We come to remember those who gave up precious and irretrievable years for a cause. We come to remember those who sacrificed the wholeness of their young bodies, their sanity, and for millions, those who gave their lives.

 

It was called The War to End All Wars.  The War to End All Wars.  That is a prayer we have offered over and over again throughout time.  May this be the war to end war!  Would that it had ever been so! 

 

Today we come together to mark some of the most brutal passages in human history and yet – in that bloody history, we seek hope.  We offer our prayer and we seek a path toward an end to wars. 

 

The carnage we commemorate today was almost unimaginable in its scale and the breadth of its threat.  The First World War killed 20 million people.  20 million.  There is no way that number can convey the true horror of the death and destruction of this first Great War.  We are able to relate to one death – it is something real and personal. We know the tragedy of the senseless loss of one life.  We have felt the aching emptiness that one death brings.  The loss of a friend, a partner, a brother or sister, a parent…  We have felt the twisting, gnawing, pain in our bellies - the knot that rises to our throats.  Maybe we can comprehend two deaths and hold that vast pain, but at three or four, we start to become numbed and overwhelmed even to imagine.  At twenty, they begin to become just numbers.  200.  2000.  20,000. 200,000.  2 million.  20 million.  20 million grains of salt would fill five cups.  It would take more than a year just to speak the name of each of the dead from the First World War.

 

It was not the war to end all wars, of course.  The unprecedented bloodshed of the First World War was dwarfed by that of the second. 70 million human lives were lost, including military deaths, civilians killed in military action, and millions of people who were coldly and systematically murdered simply because of who they were.

 

War does not stop war.  We know, despite the all too human impulse to strike out and to attack when we see a wrong committed or when we ourselves are wronged – we know full well that violence will never put an end to violence.

 

We come together today – Remembrance Day – to remember these things – to remember the temptation of violence and its ultimate futility.    

 

And at the same time as we gather to decry war, we also come together to honour those who sacrificed in these terrible conflagrations.  Their sacrifice kept us free.  We come to pay tribute to those who stood up and did what needed to be done.  The vast majority did not welcome war, but when called upon, they fought. For country, for friends, for family – they fought – and many died.

 

When we remember those who fought, it is common to speak of their great courage.  We speak of bravery.  We speak of heroism.

 

What is bravery?  It is not the absence of fear or discomfort.  Fear is a normal response to danger.  Imagine a man who feels no fear of venomous snakes.  Is it bravery when he seizes the viper behind its death-dealing head? No. It is bravery no more than when we risk a paper cut in a meeting or a twisted ankle while strolling.

 

Bravery is doing what we know we must do despite the fear.  Many, many brave men and women have fought and sacrificed for freedom.

 

But today, we must also think about another kind of heroism. We know that violence can never put an end to violence. We know that war can not put an end to war.  Heroes are also those who bravely resist giving in to violence - who do the right thing despite their fear of the consequences. There are heroes who do the right thing despite the temptation to anger and vengeance.

 

At the end of the world wars, human beings looked forward and imagined a time without war.  Certainly, many imagined that the 21st century would be a time of peace.

 

To our great disappointment, we find ourselves in a world of violence and hostility.  Our own nation is involved in multiple armed conflicts at this time and, if we are not careful, may soon be drawn into more.

 

How can we turn away from war and violence?  How can we find the bravery to resist anger?

 

We have recently seen the conclusion of a historic election in the United States. While no campaign can be neatly categorized as good or bad, clean or dirty, honest or misleading, some clear differences emerged.  One side, that led by a man who is almost universally acknowledged as a true war hero, quickly turned to a strategy of smears, distortions, and outright lies. The new president elect of the United States took a braver path. His campaign resisted the same tactics. They resisted giving in to anger.  They resisted giving in to vengeance.  They resisted following a dishonorable but effective strategy like that being used against them.

 

Barack Obama behaved like a hero - the kind of hero we need today.  We have had enough of tough-guy heroes: James Bond is big again right now. His heroism comes in killing as many bad guys as possible. Arnold Schwartzenegger – blurring the line between reality and fantasy – serves as Governor of the enormous state of California. A big tough hero to solve problems – to terminate them.

 

The appeal of Barack Obama has many sources, but one is certainly that we see in him a representation of another way to be – a way of living that bravely embraces peace, embraces justice, and embraces doing what we know to be right, despite the cost. I have been pleased to find that Obama seems even more popular here than he is in America. I have not met a single Briton who will admit to favouring McCain in the recent election!

 

Perhaps it is because this country knows what war is truly about.  You or your parents or grandparents have seen at first-hand that war is not the tidy solution it may at first seem. You have known the suffering and deprivation first hand.  You have seen the millions of holes left in families and societies when soldiers come home destroyed physically and emotionally, or when they do not return at all.

 

You recognize that there is a different kind of heroism needed today - the courage to stay out of war.  The courage to risk losing face, to risk political disfavour, to risk looking foolish. The courage to turn away from anger and vengeance.  Barack Obama is human and he will falter at times - perhaps severely so - but the love and admiration he has garnered says something about us.  It says that we are becoming a people who are ready to put aside our baser instincts, ready to turn to a different kind of bravery. 

 

Today, as we commemorate those who sacrificed for us, let us honour their memory, not by honouring war, but by committing to turn away from it. 

 

Let us honour them by continuing their struggle for a world of peace. Let us honour them by finding a new kind of bravery. Let us honour them by waging a war of love to end all wars.

 

What they dreamed be ours to do, 

Hope their hopes and seal them true.

 

So may it be with you.