Amos 5:18-24, Psalm 70,1 Thessalonians 4:13-18,Mattthew 25:1-13
Remembrance Sunday 2020.
Preparedness is everything in war and peace, It really is a good idea to be ready for things. St Paul writing to the Church in Thessalonica (the first part of the New Testament to be written and published) said:
“ Brothers and sisters we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like those who have no hope” What I have to communicate to you today is the hope inherent in God’s word. Today we have heard from Psalm 70,1 Thessalonians 4, Amos 5, and Matthew 25.
Some of the Scriptures are hard; Amos 5:18 “ Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord. Why do you long for the day of the Lord”? That day will be darkness not light” Editors today might have rushed to edit out such words that seem harsh and brutal. Yet the events and wars and battles we remember today were brutal, deeply so. In WW2 20m lost their lives in the Soviet Union that was 13pct of their population, Poland lost 5.9 M which was 16 pct of its population. The UK lost about 450,000 about 0.94 pct of its population. In addition 5.9 million Jewish people Men, Women, and children lost their lives in the Holocaust of WW2.Maybe, if not probably many of these people across the world knew the fear inherent in Amos 5:19, “A Man flees a Lion, encounters a bear, rests his hand on a wall and meets a snake; it’s the stuff of nightmares and war can be a nightmare. Amos 5 is a judgement proclamation, written to a wealthy but unrepentant Israel warning them to not take God for granted, its uncomfortable reading, but it is God being true and just, and keeping his word. Note too, the hope in Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll on like a river righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Despite faults on both sides in two world wars most men and women felt they were doing “the right thing” the Just thing.” That is what Cromwell felt he was doing in the English Civil war, it was a messy time, terrible things happened but out of it came the regular British Army. Today we remember our UK armed services serving not just in armed conflicts, but bringing relief to those in Lebanon, victims of the recent Beirut Explosion, arresting Drug smugglers off the Coast of Northern South America and in the Caribbean, and training national forces in Afghanistan and Iraq to do the right thing, as well as serving to combat Covid 19 here in the UK. And our RAF fighter jets warning off Bear surveillance bombers from Russia off the North coast of Scotland.
Preparedness is focussed in our parable in Matthew 25, the two groups of maidens/bridesmaid/virgins had equal access to the Lamp oil needed to light their clay lamps. But only 5 out of the 10 maidens were prepared and ready to meet the bridegroom. Marriage ceremonies could go on all week and all night. Unlike in Amos though, in Matthew the story has a happy ending The maidens who were prepared are let into the Bridegroom’s house, but the sad thing is the unprepared ones are shut out. Clearly according to Matthew 9:Jesus identifies himself as the Bridegroom. The disciples are warned that the bridegroom will not be with them forever and when he goes to his Father, on that day, they will fast. We to have the choice as to whether we are prepared to meet Christ the one who loves us and died in our place. Fasting is something you do in preparation for something with the anticipation of a good outcome. In 1 Thessalonians Paul tells believers to be ready i.e. ready for when Christ will come again in glory with a loud Trumpet call. Perhaps our Remembrance service with the trumpet call an integral part of it along with prayers of thanks for the peace we all enjoy, then it’s a good day to reflect, a time to say thank you for enemies defeated in the past and that dictators who threatened us like Hitler are now no more, but also to prepare ourselves for the future of the world and its ultimate end.
But today military and other new threats remain. Despite the overwhelming majority of Chinese and Russian people that I have ever met being wonderful people ( I worked with them in International Shipping) at the moment a minority of people within their governments are not planning wonderful things, and they represent a real and constant threat to the sovereignty and security of the UK the West and the World. In Psalm 70 the Psalmist cries out to God in verse 5 “But as for me I am poor and needy come quickly to me O God You are my deliverer Lord to not delay (or tarry)
In peace time it seems there is just no need to pray such a prayer, surely, we are secure? Yet the terrorist events of recent years let alone the atrocities of the Northern Ireland Conflict and Al Qaeda and Al Shabab and the Taliban and ISIS mean that new dangers threaten this land .There are as I have mentioned frequent incursions into UK airspace from Russian reconnaissance long range bombers The way that China has sequestrated so many mineral resources in Africa (you could argue we did the same thing at the time of the British Empire) but whatever the rights and wrongs of these things it means we have to go on having effective Air force, Naval and Army forces to combat these things. So not only do those who have fought in previous conflicts need our prayers, those who serve now also need our prayers.
Ultimately though we cannot solve the issues of this world through military might we need to point ourselves and others to the Captain of the Lords army the Lord Jesus Christ, he battled against overwhelming spiritual forces of hell to win a mighty victory on the Cross .Jesus is the bravest the most courageous man that ever lived and he went before every boy and girl, man, and woman before us conquering death itself our ultimate enemy in him is salvation and life for evermore. Amen
Almighty God, you are a strong tower of defence to your servants against the face of their enemies, we give you praise and thanksgiving for our deliverance from danger, we acknowledge it, your goodness, that we enjoy peace; and we ask you to continue your mercies towards us, that we may always acknowledge you to be our Saviour and mighty Deliverer (through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen) BCP 1604