November Magazine leader

From the Vicar

Remembering is an essential part of living. If we remembered nothing we would have no ability to grow and develop as human beings. Recently an example of cultural development was observed in a troop of chimpanzees. They used folded leaves as tools to scoop out water to drink. One tried using moss as a sponge to collect water and found that this worked better. The others observed this and copied. Thereafter they all used the moss. They had all learned a new trick. They remembered it. In my own life I remember moving house when I was three years old. It is my earliest clear memory. Indeed, whatever place I have now reached as a mature adult, is shaped by memory of lessons learnt and of experiences locked into the memory bank of my mind.

Yet there is another way of remembering, which is not based on personal memory, but on the passing on of culture. Much of the Old Testament is not a record of personal memory, but a tradition passed on by word of mouth, often over centuries. One estimate is that the experience that gave rise to the story of Noah’s Ark may have happened some six thousand years before anything was written down. That experience was something that was remembered. It was passed on as part of the culture of those people. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than the experience of the escape from Egypt. The experience was interpreted as a God-given liberation in which the Angel of Death passed over their ancestors as they found their freedom. The remembrance of that experience is kept alive to this day in the Jewish community as they keep the Passover. That remembrance forms them and gives them their distinctive sense of identity. The act of remembering is a key element in what it means to be a Jew.

For Christians too, there is an act of remembrance at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. As we celebrate the Eucharist we do so in remembrance of a body once broken on the cross and blood once given in self-sacrificial death. We remember in a way that brings those events into the reality of the present moment, so that we are faced with this self-giving death and find ourselves able to respond in giving our lives to Christ in return. Remembering in this way is not a matter of personal memory, for the death of Christ took place some two thousand years ago, but it is a remembering which dissolves those centuries and makes deeply personal connections across that great expanse of time.

This November we keep another Remembrance Sunday. It has particular significance because it marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. There is no one left now, who saw action in that war, but we remember it because it is a formational part of our society. It has been estimated that there were thirty seven million casualties in that war, including sixteen million deaths. European society was radically altered and shaped by those events. The world was never the same again and, in little over twenty years, the world would be at war once again. There has never been a year since that our own troops have not been deployed or engaged in action somewhere in the world. As we face the present disintegration of nation states in the Middle East, we are reminded that the world can so easily slip into war. Whether in the large scale tragedy of armed action, or in the everyday breakdown of our own relationships, we can so easily end up at enmity with our neighbour and so face the consequences of such broken relationships. Remembering the cost of war, and the sacrificial cost of winning peace, needs to be something that we continue to do. We need to remember it, not in a way that glorifies war, but so that it shapes our minds and shapes our society. Peace is not just an absence of war. Rather, war is what we so easily slip into, unless we work to build up human relationships, resolves conflicts and commit ourselves to seeking the mutual flourishing of all humanity. As we keep this Remembrance, in the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the First World War, and as we face a world which could so easily slip into another multi-nation conflict, we remember too that this is God’s world. Part of our remembering as Christians is that we are reminded that every person is someone of such value that Christ gave his life for them. That changes our perspective of others, even those who might otherwise seem to be our enemies. And that change of perspective is a step, even if ever so small a one, that can begin to witness to the Lordship of Christ and so change the world.

This year the Parish Eucharist at St John’s will be at 9.30am, so that afterwards we can join the procession to go and keep the two minute silence at the War Memorial. Alternatively some may wish to start at the Memorial at 11am and then come on to St John’s for the 11.30am service. The one silence (with bugles) will be the shared one at 11am at the Memorial. All are welcome to join us for that.

Nigel LLoyd

 


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