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We will remember them. Until last year these words meant very little to me. It brought to mind marching to the cenotaph in Llangollen with my Brownie or later Guide pack, when Brownies and Guides still wore dresses and knee length socks which meant your legs froze standing about trying not to look bored or cough during the minute silence. Or later arguments with my parents about wearing a poppy to school or not… Until last year… Last year was the first time I wore a poppy not under duress, I still didn’t ‘get’ remembrance day but it felt disrespectful not to wear one in Norman’s presence. For those of you who are not sure who Norman is, or was, imagine a kindly unpretentious white haired, slow moving, gent with a twinkle in his eye who would usually be at church nice and early and would pick up the litter that had blown in to the garden. But this quite unassuming old chap had once been a young soldier who landed on Normandy Beach and fought his way through Germany and helped liberate Belsan. After the mass I got chatting with Norman who, as he quite often did, had a comment to make about how to improve the mass. It’s thanks to him we have page numbers in the mass sheet! We chatted about the act of remembrance at the beginning about what it meant to him. He had great ideas about how to make it a dramatic moment, to make an impact, to point out to people like me how much this day meant to people like him. When we said ‘we will remember them’ he would have loved to see someone in WW1 or 2 uniform run in and shout ‘how?’ ‘How will you remember them?’ That question has been on my mind for the last year. When I visited Norman in the Hospital just before he died we chatted about remembrance Sunday, well I chatted and got a few smiles and an occasional twinkle. As I chatted and prayed with him I held his hand and I noticed how insignificant my little hand looked in his. Anyone who has heard me talk for more than about ½ hour knows I have a thing about hands, particularly due to the prayer of St Teresa of Avilla – which I will not apologise for quoting again! – Christ has no hands on earth but ours. The image of Norman’s hands has been on my mind a lot, these are the hands that picked up the trash outside church, that polished the brass plaques here in church, that pulled a trigger that dug out a mass grave. And these ARE the hands of Christ. We are all agents of God in the same way. So how do we remember them? The 18th century philosopher and theologian George Berkeley spoke of us all being held in existence moment by the moment by the very fact that - in the heart of God, we are named, known individually and held in remembrance. In the same way that God intends that there should be light - and there is light - so God intends that you should be - and you are. Our role on remembrance Sunday and Armistice day is to work with God, holding in remembrance all those whose lives have been annihilated in wars past and present - to reclaim them from annihilation, to hold a different reality, a different kingdom, where we are all remembered by God and neighbour, we are not forgotten or lost, no matter what befalls us in this life. Not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing - and the hairs on our heads are counted. Last week Fr Andrew spoke about the Eastern Theologian – Greogry of Nazianzus’s wonderful explanation of the death of Christ, that it brings healing to our death and through the Resurrection we have the hope of a share in Eternity with Christ. Our reading from 1 st Thessalonians this morning underlines this. Remembrance is part of the co-creating work which God calls us to so that we understand that our life here and hereafter is one life under God and that life, here and hereafter, is an eternal life.
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