Magazine leader - November 2013

From the Vicar

The Black Sea Deluge Hypothesis was published in 1997. It states that in about 5600 BC the Mediterranean Sea broke through the Bosporus Straight and caused massive flooding of what became the Black Sea. There is little doubt that this did take place, although scholarly opinion is divided as to how sudden or how catastrophic this event was. For anyone living there at the time, it would have seemed that their whole world was being washed away. No doubt some escaped, perhaps in boats, and afterwards this event became fixed firmly in their minds as the day God saved their lives from a great flood.

An account of such a great flood appears in the sacred scriptures of several religions. In the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) it appears as the story of Noah’s Flood. If that story does stem from the dramatic events of 5600 BC, then the story was passed on by word of mouth for three thousand years, until it was finally written down, some 2600 years ago. So the story was remembered and the act of remembering what once had happened helped to define both the story tellers and sort of community they were. The telling of the story, generation by generation, gave those people a sense of identity. It anchored them to a shared past and to a common destiny.

There are other examples of the importance of remembrance. Once, a small group of people escaped from Egypt and spent a couple of generations as nomads, before settling in the Promised Land and becoming a great nation. The experience of that escape, when (so to speak) the angel of death passed over them, forged them into a community and, to this day, celebrating the Passover is central to what it means to be a Jew. For Christians, too, an act of remembrance is central to our perception of life. We remember the night when Jesus took bread and wine and shared it with his disciples. He steeped that action in meaning as he went on to give his life for his friends on a cross. Breaking bread and sharing wine became the means of remembering a real body broken and real wine spilt. And even when no one was left who had been there at these events, the remembrance continued, as it has been to this day. The meaning of Christ’s death is kept alive in this act of remembrance. We take what once happened and we relive it, week by week, in the service of Holy Communion. In doing so we find ourselves very close to Christ and we are drawn into a new community as his friends.

In November we have Remembrance Sunday, which is a time for us to remember all those who fell in the two great wars of the last century. Indeed we remember others who have died in all the wars that have taken place since then. Many of us do not personally remember, as we were not born until after the Second World War had finished, but nonetheless we can engage in the act of remembrance as we keep alive experiences which shaped our modern world and which demanded such deep sacrifice from so many people. We are foolish if we sit back and take peace for granted. By remembering people we cannot have known and calling into our shared memory the events of what is now another age, we can reflect on the cost of what happens when relationships go sour and resolve to live together in ways which build up human society and make for peace. The act of Remembrance is not a glorifying of war. Rather it should provide the means for us to work together for a better world. Gathering around a war memorial is a public act of witness to the fact that people died for the kind of society we so easily take from granted. We should be deeply challenged by all of this. Those we remember have died. How do we so live our lives that we work for peace, rather than war; for freedom, rather than enslavement; for love, rather than for fear; and for the sake of relationship and community, rather than for self-interest?

Nigel LLoyd

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