Remembrance Sunday Message – 8 November – Terry Alve

Message Audio – Remembrance Sunday

REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY (8 November)

Scripture Readings

Rev 21:1-7   I am the Alpha and the Omega

Ps 23   The Lord is my shepherd

Rom 8:31-39   If God is for us, who is against us?

Matt 5:1-12   You’re blessed

Matthew 5:1-12 (The Message) – You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Message – Remembrance

It’s Remembrance Sunday. On 11 November 1918 at 11am the Great War ended with an armistice. The allied forces which included New Zealand had overcome their foes after over 4 years of carnage. In 3 years we will celebrate that date 100 years after it happened. However this year we have been remembering that it is 100 years since a time in that Great War when great numbers of NZ soldiers were killed at Gallipoli. Some of them were our forbears – grandparents and great grandparents, great uncles and other relatives or family friends.

In NZ on ANZAC Day 25 April and on Remembrance Sunday – the nearest Sunday to 11 November – it has become very important to remember the impact of the Great War. Also the second WW and other military campaigns, especially where NZ service people have been killed in the service of their country.

The refrain of the crowds on these significant days, “We will remember them” has become a deeply moving way of expressing grief and gratitude in the light of these times of war.

In our times of trouble and distress it is often the familiar – the things we remember – that become important means of expressing our sorrow and finding solace and comfort.

Today we do this by reading and hearing very familiar scriptures.

Revelation 21:1-7            I am the Alpha and the Omega

Psalm 23                           The Lord is my shepherd

Romans 8:31-39               If God is for us, who is against us?

Matthew 5:1-12                You’re blessed

As disciples of Jesus and those who value the Christian scriptures, these are amongst the most familiar of Bible passages. They all contain very evocative words that have enabled many over the Christian centuries to reset their compass and get back on course and find a helpful perspective on life and faith.

Revelation 21

‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’

What a wonderful passage of hope for those who have experienced grief and distress, as the promise of God is proclaimed. Promises of presence, comfort and life for those who are distressed and grieving.

Psalm 23

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[d]
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

Similarly the Shepherd Psalm, often read at funerals, reminds the grief-stricken that God is here to comfort those overcome by the darkness of death and other death-like experiences as they walk through the ‘darkest valley.’

Romans 8

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?

God is empathetic. God is with us and for us; One who gave his own Son that we might live – a sign that God’s nature is to give and to give and to give. A bit like the soldier committed to making the ultimate sacrifice if that is required for the sake of those being defended. People like you and me.

Matthew 5

You’re Blessed

1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

Again a passage that is often read at funerals, we read it at my mum (Joyce’s) funeral just a few weeks ago. Because it’s a text that is of particular comfort to those who are in extremis – dealing with hard and difficult issues.

You may have noticed that the version of the Beatitudes I read today is a little unfamiliar. It is from

The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language which was created by Eugene H. Peterson and published in segments from 1993 to 2002. It is an idiomatic translation of the original languages of the Bible.

Peterson, a pastor and teacher, states the reason The Message was written was:

While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’

Distant, irrelevant, old hat. Let’s read another verse from Petersen’s translation of the Beatitudes. A verse that relates to those who have suffered loss,

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

I well remember when my first wife died of cancer when I was 22 years old, someone saying to me that at times like this people either turn to drink or to religion.  As you know, I turned to God and was wonderfully embraced by the One who has been my friend now for a little over 40 years.

As I remember and continue to give thanks that I was embraced by the One who has become most dear to me, so I ask you this Remembrance Sunday,

  1. Will you allow the God of all comfort to embrace you, afresh?
  2. Is there something familiar, perhaps a word in one of today’s scriptures that speaks to you of hope and life and meaning in a new way?
  3. Finally, How might God bless you afresh today?

May I conclude reading verse 7 of Matthew 5 as translated by Petersen,
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.”

Psalm 61:1-5 in The Message
God, listen to me shout, bend an ear to my prayer.
When I’m far from anywhere, down to my last gasp,
I call out, “Guide me up High Rock Mountain!”
You’ve always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
An open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
made me welcome among those who know and love you.

For the Fallen – Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.

1.

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,

England mourns for her dead across the sea.

Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,

Fallen in the cause of the free.

2.

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.

3.

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.

4.

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. (Repeat)

5.

They mingle not with their 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.

6.

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;

7.

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.

Inspiration for “For the Fallen”

Laurence Binyon composed his best known poem while sitting on the cliff-top looking out to sea from the dramatic scenery of the north Cornish coastline. A plaque marks the location at Pentire Point, north of Polzeath. However, there is also a small plaque on the East Cliff north of Portreath, further south on the same north Cornwall coast, which also claims to be the place where the poem was written.

The poem was written in mid-September 1914, a few weeks after the outbreak of the First World War. During these weeks the British Expeditionary Force had suffered casualties following its first encounter with the Imperial German Army at the Battle of Mons on 23rd August, its rear guard action during the retreat from Mons in late August and the Battle of Le Cateau on 26th August, and its participation with the French Army in holding up the Imperial German Army at the First Battle of the Marne between 5th and 9th September 1914.

Laurence said in 1939 that the four lines of the fourth stanza came to him first. These words of the fourth stanza have become especially familiar and famous, having been adopted by the Royal British Legion as an Exhortation for ceremonies of Remembrance to commemorate fallen Servicemen and women.

Laurence Binyon was too old to enlist in the military forces but he went to work for the Red Cross as a medical orderly in 1916. He lost several close friends and his brother-in-law in the war.

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