The Lord be with you! Good morning, Cheviot Churches – and Good morning to those joining us in other places too! You are all very welcome. This is Colin, and I hope everyone is staying well. Come, people of God, let us worship together for Remembrance Sunday.
Call to Worship
From the darkness of death,
God calls us into glorious light.
From the tumult of war
God call us into the beauty of peace.
Children of light,
God calls us today to remembrance.
In light and in peace
We will remember them.
Hymn 161 – O God, our help in ages past
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of yesterday, today and forever,
You are the God of every generation, and your love endures forever.
You have protected us during difficult times, for your compassion is everlasting. In this time of worship, we declare our love and loyalty to you, and offer you our service in prayer, in praise, and in practice, this day and every day.
At this solemn season of Remembrance, we are aware of how much war has cost the world you love. In spite of fighting between nations and neighbours, you have come to us in Jesus Christ and want us to experience life in all its fullness. Renew in us the hope that you will turn our swords into ploughshares, and lead the world from the study of war to the promise of peace with justice for all your peoples.
God of mercy, with sorrow we confess that in our hearts we keep alive the passions and pride that lead to hatred and war. We are not worthy of your love, nor of the sacrifice made by others on our behalf. Forgive us we pray.
Christ died so that we might live. Through his undying love, we have been forgiven. Rejoice in the forgiveness God offers us. Be at peace with God and yourself, and make peace with your neighbours, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
Will the congregation please stand, if you are able
Let us remember the courage, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces and the toil, endurance and suffering of those who were not in uniform.
Let us remember those who fell in battle, those buried at sea or in some corner of a foreign field; and especially those we have known and loved, whose place is forever in our hearts.
Let us remember those who were our enemies, whose homes and hearts are as bereft as ours.
Let us remember those who came back; those whose lives bear the scars of war; who have lost sight or limbs or reason; who have lost faith in God and hope for humanity.
Let us remember the continuing grace of God, whose love holds all souls in life, and to whom none is dead but all are alive for ever.
They shall grow not old
As we who are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them
Nor the years condemn
In the going down of the sun
And in the morning
We shall remember them.
Hymn 712 – What shall we pray for those who died
Readings – Isaiah 25: 1-8
Matthew 25: 1-13
Merciful God, we pray for those fallen in battle who gave their lives in the cause of freedom and in defence of peace and justice. Sovereign Lord as you swallow up death forever, wipe away the tears from all faces; and wash away the wounds of war, violence, and hatred. Help us to remember that Jesus blessed the peacemakers and also that if we really wish for a peaceful world we should honestly pray – “Let it begin with me.” Amen
In the film ‘The History Boys’ by Alan Bennett, a teacher takes the 6th Year boys to a war memorial. He claims that memorials helped people to forget rather than remember, though the boys disagreed with that, and I certainly would too. But it made me wonder how often we stop and look at the names on the memorials here in the church or in our villages. But certainly today is a day to remember.
I find it tremendously poignant to read the names, reflect on the stories behind the name and imagine the suffering of these soldiers and indeed of their families. Some are from our own families, and it still hurts, the pain of separation still cuts to the core. The names talk to us of the horror of war which has continued in Korea or Malaya, in Ireland or Afghanistan, and the effect on armed forces and on the local population. JJ Chalmers’ appearance on Strictly Come Dancing reinforces our consciousness of the horrors of war, as he had been badly injured in Afghanistan.
In Linton Kirk the memorial to those who fell in the WW1, the names are mentioned but also the places where they died, and that included Gallipoli in Turkey, three died in Gaza in the Middle East, Italy, as well as the Western Front. Boys from the countryside here in the Borders finding themselves in strange places, and dying there. I have been at the commonwealth cemetery in Gaza, where neat rows of white crosses stand in green grass amid the chaos and suffering of life around.
The prophet Isaiah talks of war and how the city becomes a heap, a fortified city a ruin. The prophets were used to war – the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians came in waves to conquer Palestine, a never-ending cycle of war, from the time of Cain and Abel, emphasising our failure to co-exist peacefully. But Isaiah also goes on to give a vision of a better future and paints a picture here of a divine banquet, where all the nations will come and be reconciled, and death and suffering will be no more. And it is that vision which we have to hold on to.
In the Gospels we read the story of the 10 bridesmaids, waiting for the groom to arrive, and only 5 had enough oil to light their lamps to welcome him. Of course, it was all the groom’s fault for arriving far later than anticipated, and I always felt it was rather churlish of the 5 with the oil, not to share what they had with their friends. But of course, the point was to be watchful. It was for the early Christians to be watchful, ready for Jesus’ coming again, but equally it is for us today to be ever ready to work for peace and reconciliation. We have been blessed with peace, but the world is a volatile place. The elections in America this week show a divided nation, and people prepared for violence in the aftermath. We must be ever-vigilant to see peace and understanding prevail for the flourishing of humanity.
One final thought. I was in a home last week and saw a picture on the wall by David Shepherd, who usually paints wildlife scenes. But this was of Christ on the battlefield. It was a scene of utter carnage and the horrors of war, but also of a chaplain holding a service with soldiers kneeling in prayer and right in the middle was Christ. It was so powerful. Christ is in the midst of our deepest suffering and pain, and can still speak to us, for he bears the signs of his own suffering on the cross. His is a love that transcends death. We gather this day and we remember the fallen and those who returned but who would ever be changed by their experiences. But we also commit ourselves ever to work that peace might prevail.
Hymn 528 – Make me a channel
Prayers of Intercession
God of each life and all lives,
in every generation you have been present with your people:
in times of poverty and prosperity,
in times of sorrow and joy,
in times of health and pandemic,
in times of war and peace.
Today, we remember your gracious care in times of crisis, and give thanks for the courage and sacrifice of the women, men and families of the armed forces who have worked for peace, justice and protection in so many different times and places. Support those who have finished their time of service and still face challenges in civilian life.
God of mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of promise and peace, we thank you for the places where conflicts have ended, peace has been restored and where citizens can enjoy secure freedoms and human rights.
Where people are oppressed and dissent restricted, encourage those who witness and work for justice to be established. Give us such creativity that we can shape a brave new world out of the scars of war, give vision and courage to leaders and the United Nations who seek to resolve conflict.
God of mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of wholeness and hope, we thank you for those called to serve others in their home communities. Especially we give thanks for those in our communities working hard in the face of COVID-19. May they know your protection and show your love in all they do.
God of mercy,
Hear our prayer.
God of Christ in community, we thank you for the dedication of those who serve in the church. May your church always be a place of hope, healing and welcome. Guide our congregation and denomination through these challenging days so that those who turn to us will find us faithful.
God of mercy,
Hear our prayer.
We give thanks for all who have gone before us and who now are with you in your nearer glory. Amen
Hymn 192 – All my hope on God is founded
Let us go from this place with minds that never forget, with hearts that grow in hope, with lives that shine Christ’s light. Let us go to serve, to reconcile, to bring peace, and to stand united as children of the light. And may the blessing of God, Creator, Peacemaker, Peacebringer, go with you all, this day and every day. Amen