November is a time of remembering. We gather together at the beginning of the month
to celebrate All Saints and All Souls tide – remembering that we are not alone as
Christians here and now, but we are surrounded by a great cloud of saints in glory.
I find this encouraging in the work and mission God has given us, to know that we
are continuing in a great tradition of Christian saints down the ages.
We are remembering those we have loved and lost in our Memorial Service too. Everyone
who has lost a loved one is invited to come together, to hear their names read out,
and to light a candle in their memory. I believe it’s an important part of the healing
and grieving process to come back to Church in an act of remembrance like this, surrounded
by friends and family members, to say thank you and to remember.
And of course, on 11th November, and on Remembrance Sunday the nation will commemorate
those who have died in the service of this country, to defend our homes, and to bring
peace and safety around the world.
This year has seen increasing numbers of terror attacks in our country – and violence,
injury and death come very close to home here in the North-West.
In World War 2 people knew what to do when an air raid was imminent. A piercing
alarm would sound across the housetops and that was a signal to head for shelter
– even if it was just a makeshift bunker in the garden. With the warning of the
siren you could usually reach them in time.
Today’s enemies are less predictable. We call them terrorists because they strike
terror at any time, anywhere and without notice. Holidaymaker's in Nice, sightseers
in Barcelona, concert goers in Manchester, are fair game to the perpetrators. This
feels like a different kind of war, though we are not sure why we are the targets.
All we know is that they are idealists, believing they are serving a higher cause,
with a vision of a different world which can be established only through violence.
They strike without warning.
These terrorists seem willing, even eager, to give their own lives for the cause,
so no punishment is likely to deter them. It is a sobering thought that democracy,
freedom of choice, a welfare state and our way of life, have all been rejected by
terrorists. As we pause and remember, we need to hold in our minds those affected
across Europe in terror attacks, and the countless thousands more affected in Syria,
Iraq and Afghanistan in daily suffering we tend to forget. We remember them too.
The two minutes silence is a familiar act of remembrance. We can use the silence
to reflect on those who have suffered in war or on what it means to work for a peaceful
Victor Frankl, a victim of Auschwitz, suggested that the most intolerable of all
human conditions is not imprisonment or hunger, but lack of meaning. The two minutes
silence enables us to connect with Jesus’ message, which offers true meaning to our
lives and our world.
Jesus spoke of giving ourselves in love for each other and the world, ‘Love your
enemies and pray for those that persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44). He also demonstrated
such love in sacrificing His own life, ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he
lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13).
In observing the silence, perhaps we can use it to reflect on this sacrificial love,
as we remember all those who have experienced pain and conflict, on all sides, around
Of course, we should be serious about silence and stillness in the whole of our lives,
not just for two minutes at an act of Remembrance. Jesus made a habit of withdrawing
to experience silence and to commune with God – maybe that’s something we can do
Remembering and communing come together in this poem by Daphne Kitching, that brings
us back to Christ, whom we encounter in Holy Communion and renews our hope:
We remember, while we live, We who breathed with them. Photographs and anecdotes hold
meaning now, But our children's children will see only Images in boxes, Flat and far-away
And those who lived and loved, Who fought and died, And those who stayed at home and
soldiered on And bravely to their pillows cried, Will we remember them, as November
claims, Or just the sadness of that list of names?
A different remembering there is, A re-enactment, a continuing Through past, present,
and future of his gift. Linking lives of faithful witness. In this remembering we live,
who believe, Knowing the love poured out for us.
Christ died, is risen and will return,
Do this in remembrance of me Do this in remembrance of me
We will eat, We will drink, Living our remembering in love Until he comes.