‘Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder treason and plot.’
‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.’
November brings us to a month of remembering. On the first weekend of November, many of us will engage in Bonfire Night – fireworks, toffee apples and actually a rather lighthearted and fun celebration of what was actually some rather grim events over 400 years ago. Our modern-day celebrations of Guy Fawkes night have actually largely stopped being about remembering – although some may still make a Guy for the bonfire – and instead it’s a nice chance to gather on a cold evening with sparklers and hot dogs collectively oohing and ahhing at the fireworks as they light up the sky. In many ways, it is not a bad idea for us to forget the events that led us to celebrate each year on the fifth of November.
But just a week later, crowds will gather again in a much more sombre remembering, on or near to the 11th November, to remember those who gave their lives in the wars of the past and those who continue to serve today in our armed forces.
Remembering can be an important part of life. With Remembrance Sunday it is about looking back, acknowledging pain and sacrifice, remembering mistakes and wrongs done in war and about looking forward, trying to find ways of not repeating those ills, of seeking a better way. A collective memory that is important to communities and nations, as we strive for a better, peaceful future.
Remembering is important. Christians gather together each week in order to remember. As we gather round the communion table, we come in thanksgiving but also in remembrance as we remember Jesus. We remember him gathering round a table with his friends, sharing supper and speaking to them of his death. We remember a broken body and blood shed as we break bread together and pour wine to share. We remember his actions, the actions of love and salvation for us all, and his words, ‘do this in remembrance of me’. Again, we are remembering pain and sacrifice – that of Jesus. We acknowledge mistakes and wrongs – ours – and we commit together to a new future, a different way, the way of love and forgiveness and peace. We are connected with Christ, and with other Christians, in our remembering.
Remembrance Sunday reminds us that we share a past. We weep and mourn and hold silence together even though our experiences are different. For me, the impact of war and violence has been mercifully small. Distant relatives who fought in both WWI and WWII, but who came home. My great-grandfather was a clergyman and army chaplain during the First World War, stationed overseas. I have been given his home communion set, made in 1916, which I use when I take communion to those who are housebound. I will use it on Remembrance Sunday too, remembering, as I share bread and wine with people in this village who are safe and largely protected from war, the young men he would have shared communion with, those he would have blessed and prayed for, many of whose lives were cut tragically short. Other people’s relatives – husbands, fathers, sons. We are connected in our remembering – on Remembrance Sunday but also each time we share communion and remember Jesus Christ, his body broken, his blood shed, that our future might be different.
Our Remembrance Sunday service will start in church at 10.30am on Sunday 12th November, and there will be an Act of Commitment at the War Memorial after the two minute silence at 11.00am.
Rev Rachel Rosborough