On Sunday 8th November, Remembrance Sunday, all our churches would usually have been full of people remembering, along with millions around our world, the many women and men who have given their lives in the different conflicts of the past 110 and more years. People who either by choice, or through compulsion, risked their lives in the pursuit of peace and justice. We owe our freedom to many such people who have stood up against tyranny and oppression – to people who risked everything, laying themselves on the line.
Things are very different this year! We enter another national lockdown because of Coronavirus on Thursday 5th November and our churches will now only be open for private prayer for the next few weeks.
But we will all remember. …. Some will be able to attend church on 8th November, others will want to remain at home. We have sent out Remembrance Sunday prayer cards to people who usually attend our churches or who receive mailings. The prayers included here are specifically for Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. As you use them, you might want to have a poppy to hand.
As I said in our Parish magazine this month:
“Our remembering will … include the memories of those who have served on the battlefield or in conflict zones around our world will no doubt justifiably tell and re-tell stories of valour and bravery. For those who served, >remembering= will also bring to the front of the mind stories of those who did not return. Remembering brings to the surface the naked fear of conflict, the pain of loss and a real sense of comradeship.
But remembering is so very important to us all, not just on Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day, but in all areas of our lives. Remembering leads to us telling our stories. Both as individuals and communities. And as we tell our story, we reaffirm our roots, and we define who we are. We put our own lives in context. For today=s world, where we define ourselves not so much by where we come from as by our networks of friends and acquaintances can so easily become a rootless place where we do not know who we really are.
Our shared memories are our key to understanding ourselves. And our collective memory needs to be sustained by hearing the stories of our past. By hearing from those who went out from us here to serve in different arenas in our world. These stories, these people are so much a part of who we are here … today. They contribute to our history, they strengthen our community spirit.
Our stories are important. Remembering is vital. Nowhere is this more true than in relation to the conflicts with which we have been involved as a nation. Failure to engage with and learn from our past is the height of modern arrogance. We have to hear again the stories of conflict, of bravery, of pain and loss. And we need to allow those stories, … that remembering, to change us now. It must inform our thinking about the future, it must be allowed to change our wills and our actions.
For in today’s world, we are all called to take new & different risks. To act for justice, for peace in society, in the world around us. To work for racial justice, to fight discrimination, to engage with injustice in whatever form it might arise.”
We have the promise of God in Christ: “Work,” says Jesus, “for the coming of God’s kingdom and I will be with you always.” God does not leave us alone to face new challenges, to risk our lives in the cause of his Kingdom. He promises always to be with us. So let us covenant again, as people of different races, ages, interests, appearances, and with different views, choose to live together in harmony, to work within our own communities, groups and congregations, for peace, justice and understanding.
Father of all, remember your holy promise, and look with love on all your people, living and departed.
On this day we especially ask that you would hold forever all who have suffered during war, those who returned scarred by warfare, those who waited anxiously at home, and those who returned wounded, and disillusioned; those who mourned, and those communities that were diminished and suffered loss.
Remember too those who acted with kindly compassion, those who bravely risked their own lives for their comrades, and those who in the aftermath of war, worked tirelessly for a more peaceful world.
And as you remember them, remember us, O Lord; grant us peace in our time and a longing for the day when people of every language, race, and nation will be brought into the unity of Christ’s kingdom. This we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A prayer for World peace
O God of the nations,
as we look to that day when you will gather people
from north and south, east and west,
into the unity of your peaceable Kingdom,
guide with your just and gentle wisdom all who take counsel
for the nations of the world,
that all your people may spend their days in security, freedom, and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Prayers with poppies – suitable for children, as well as adults!
Look at your poppy. Poppies are bright and cheerful flowers: give thanks to God for the lives of those who have died in war, remembering all the joy they brought to families and friends, and all the good things they did for their home and their country.
Then look at the red petals: red reminds us of danger and harm. Ask God to be close to those who are still facing danger each day, to give courage to the armed forces, and compassion to all who help others.
Place your whole hand over the poppy: poppies are also fragile and need to be handled gently. God cares for those who are hurting and those who are sad. Ask God to comfort all who are grieving the loss of someone they love.
Finally place a finger on the centre of the poppy: ask God to help you play your part in working for peace in the world.