Sermon: Remembrance Sunday 2007

Everything

In the name of the +Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

I always say that in my ministry here at St. Thomas the Apostle, we do “high church”, not “long church”, but with a title of my talk like this: “everything” you might be thinking that you might need to cancel those plans for lunch at the Cocked Hat.

Everything. Wow. Don’t panic! Everything is not the scope of issues I plan to talk about. “Everything” is the one simple answer to a simple question: “How much should I give?”

• We don’t dance with one finger. We put our whole body into it.
• We don’t sing by simply moving our lips. The sound has to begin from deep within.
• We don’t worship by reciting or hearing a few words. We open up our whole selves to the Spirit of God. We give to this moment in God’s presence – everything we are.

I am not talking (for once) about what amount of money one should give to the church. I am talking about how much of ourselves we are called to give in living relationship with God and all creation.

We are called to give – everything. And who is it who calls us to give everything?

The one who gave. The one who stood as a sacrifice for us, and who stands as a model for all those who gave their lives in past conflicts and those who continue to put their lives at risk for a better world, those on deployment at the moment in hot, dusty, far-off places but who remain very much in our thoughts at this time.

The one who willingly went to the Cross, who committed his life for our lives, is the one who calls us, this very morning for total commitment, for everything.

Parents sometimes ask me what the fee is for baptizing their children. There is no fee. The cost, however, is everything. The one who paid the cost calls us to follow him, to live and love with abandon, to give to life and all that participates in life, not a part of ourselves, but all of ourselves, everything.

I was sent an extract of a letter written on the Western Front of the Great War found in the pocket of a dead soldier, a man called Martin Adkins clearly written when he was wounded and dying.

Most sadly, the body and hence the letter was found by his own brother. It said:

“On the Battlefields of Flanders, Good bye Mother, good bye all. Martin.”

What do you make of a young man who with his last bit of strength writes a goodbye note to his Mum, and then says good bye to all and signs his name?

He sounds to me like someone who loved life and loved people.

The battles of the First World War were indeed hell, but here a man gives this overpowering expression of his humanity.

That soldier, Martin Adkins gave everything, not just his breath and his blood, but his soul.

On the battlefields of Flanders, goodbye. Why should a young man from rural Hampshire be mortally wounded on the battlefields of Flanders? He should have been ploughing and seeding and harvesting those fertile fields of this county.

But a crisis much larger than himself called Martin Adkins, and he gave everything he had to its resolution. What inspires me is that he tries to communicate something before he dies.

In saying goodbye to the living, he gives everything to life. In a dehumanized situation Martin Adkins says in this few words, “I am a human being, born of a mother, and related to many others by blood and friendship. While I have this breath of life, my last thought is for my loved ones.”

It is really important that we keep in mind the sacrifice of those in the past. They are not memories to be put aside, ignored, glossed over. That is why we gather here each year, in the presence of our serving colleagues, in the presence of the uniformed organisations [at least those that aren’t besmirching their organisation and the memory of the fallen by opting to pack bags in the Range on Remembrance Sunday and in the presence of this community, we gather to make the sacrifice of the many millions like Martin meaningful.

• When we forget Remembrance Day and ignore our collective historical experience, then we are only partly living.
• When we reject our faith tradition without trying to understand it, then we are only partly living.
• When we forget or try to forget the Gospel which reaches out to everyone regardless of gender, race or sexuality, then we are only partly living.
• We settle for partly living from time to time, but we are called to much more.

Martin and all who served in the conflicts and who kept their humanity in an inhumane situation, call us to live fully. By the example of their lives, they call you and I – to give everything.

Our Gospel speaks of the values of the Kingdom of God: Blessed are the poor, Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right.

These values would appear on first glance to be completely upside down from the notions of Society – a society where might equals right, where the strong are given the power to wield it arbitrarily against the week.

But stop and pause and ask why Christ calls us to these apparently topsy-turvey values: to put others before self, to give everything.

It is because when we put the needs of others first, we begin to live life fully. Those who gave their lives in conflicts, demonstrated that. Those who serve today, demonstrate that. And you… all of you… young and old, tired and bored, lively and lifeless, all of you can live life fully when you serve others – whether that is helping the new and lonely person in the playground, being nice to your brother or sister, standing up for your faith in the pub or at work, smiling at the disaffected young person on the street corner, you too can life your life to the full…

Love God. Love Others. Follow Him. And suddenly, Everything doesn’t seem that much at all.

Amen.