Remembrance Sunday 2014


War is not glorious, it is not romantic, it is not pretty, yet Remembrance Sunday is a day when we choose, deliberately, to look at the horror of war. To look back into our nation’s past to the suffering of the First World War and of all the wars that have raged since its end.   

We look back for a purpose – we look back lest we forget.


The purpose of looking back then is not to romanticise or to glorify conflict (although this is what sometimes happens) the purpose of looking back is to recall how truly horrific war is in order that we might commit ourselves to stopping it – to stop a past of violence continually repeating itself.

Remembrance Sunday has been kept every year since 1919 – nearly 100 years now. Yet those years have seen more than 150 major global conflicts. And in each of those years around a quarter of a million people have died because of conflict.

Looking back to a past of violence in order that we might build peace in the present has not been as successful as we might have hoped.
So perhaps instead we might try instead to look forward to the future. 

Our readings today do just that. They look towards the end times – the ultimate future when God’s kingdom will come.


These readings hold glimpses of a wonderful future: a future when we will no longer grieve, when death will have no power over us; a time when we will be reunited with Christ, feasting and rejoicing. 
 
But they do not seem to envisage this future for everyone: there are still allies and enemies, the included and the excluded, reward and punishment. They envisage judgement.


Which brings us to the parable of the wise bridesmaids and the foolish bridesmaids – and to a quick quiz – show of hands to see if we would rather be a foolish virgin or a wise virgin – hands up for foolish/hands up for wise?

Of course we don’t want to be the foolish ones, we don’t want to left out in the darkness, we don’t want to be punished for our foolishness. We want to be the wise virgins - the ones who are prepared, who have enough, who get their reward – we want to be the ones who go to the ball.

Really?

I mean look at these wise virgins – they may be wise but they are also mean spirited and self-righteous, they don’t share, they are cruel - sending the other bridesmaids off in the dark with no lamps to try to buy oil at midnight! All they care about is themselves – that they get to the party, the promised future. Instead of ensuring that everyone gets in they are busy congratulating themselves on how much better they are than the others, they are setting themselves apart from the foolish ones – thank goodness that we are not like those foolish bridesmaids.

But in most respects the wise ones and the foolish ones are exactly alike: they ALL turn up, they ALL wait, they ALL fall asleep, the ALL wake up and trim their lamps when they hear that the bridegroom is coming …they are, it seems, not so very different.

When I think about it I don’t really want to be one of the wise ones – I don’t much like the wise ones.

And, when I think about it, I don’t much like the bridegroom either. I don’t want to get in to the party of someone who would keep his bridesmaids waiting outside in the dark until midnight and then when their lamps run out only because he has kept them waiting he won’t let them in.


Which makes me wonder why we would expect Christ to be this kind of bridegroom? 

One who brings punishment, one who divides into the good and the bad, the deserving and the undeserving, the insiders and the outsiders. 

Because when Christ came back from the dead, after suffering violence and hatred and exclusion, he did not mete out vengeance and retribution, he did not repay violence with more violence – he brought peace. 

A peace which still seems very far off.

We have been hearing the scriptural promises of future peace for 1,000s of years and yet still the past, with its war, and its violence and its bloodshed seem to be repeating itself. 

Perhaps because, although we long for that promised future, we don’t desire it for everyone
. We still divide people into good and evil, friends and enemies, deserving and undeserving.

We cannot quite let go of the past

And so the past cannot let go of us.

Maybe the only way to loosen its grip is to start to build a different future that will include everyone.


War is not glorious, it is not romantic, it is not pretty, it is brutal and horrific and senseless. 
 
But the only way to stop it is to let all the bridesmaids in.

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