A Sermon delivered on Remembrance Sunday by Mary Rathbone. Readings; Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 & Matthew 25:1-13
The First World War changed everything. It destroyed the old European order, bringing down empires and introducing great social changes.
Hatfield, like every town and village in the country, lost many sons in the horrific war.
Nearly 1,000 men left this parish to go to war, 180 did not return.
World War One led directly to another conflict that killed millions more: the Second World War, from which 58 sons of Hatfield did not return.
Memories of those terrible times have been passed down the generations to us today, and rightly seared into our memories are;
- the horrors of what happened in the trenches and on the beaches.
- the sacrifice made by those who did not return
- the tragedy of those who did return, but were maimed in mind or body
- the grief of the war widows and their children
Later this morning, at the Garden of Remembrance, we gather to remember all those who lost their lives in service to the country, in the two world wars and other military conflicts, and acknowledge we owe it to them to build a world worthy of their sacrifice.
After the two world wars, the United Nations was established to work as a peacemaker between nations in conflict and help keep international peace.
The UN has a wall outside its New York head office, known as the Isaiah Wall.
It describes a vision the prophet Isaiah had of everlasting peace in a renewed world in which the people would;
…. beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
…….. nation would not take up sword against nation,
nor would they train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:4
The prophet Isaiah foretold of a time when people would willingly give up their weapons of war and allow the Prince of Peace to reign in their hearts.
He was speaking of course of the time when the long awaited Jewish Messiah, Jesus, would reign on earth.
At the outbreak of WW1, the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey said; “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
This statement sits prophetically alongside the parable of the Lamps on this Remembrance Sunday – highlighting the futility and foolishness of violent warfare.
The bridesmaids in the parable represent the Christian community who awaited the return of Christ, the Bridegroom.
Some of the maids who had gone to meet the Bridegroom were prepared for the unexpected, and some were not.
When he did not appear at the expected time, some realised they should have brought more oil for their lamps.
But those who had prepared and had sufficient oil, would not give them any.
I often thought it was a bit mean and rather unchristian of the bridesmaids with some oil not to share it with those without.
But eventually came to understand that the point is no one can carry out our work of eternal salvation for us because that is our personal responsibility.
When we stand before God on that final day, we will be accountable for our lives and it will be strictly between him and ourselves, and not how others have helped us.
This might sound a bit brutal, and of course, we should help and support one another in our endeavours.
But God sees us each individually and will discern, in the fulness of time, whether we have been wise and responsible or foolish and careless with the time allotted to us here on earth.
Because He is the ultimate source of wisdom, and our duty in life is to mirror, as best we are able, his wisdom and love.
What is Wisdom?
We heard wisdom described in the reading from Solomon just now as;
Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her.
She (wisdom) hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
Jesus depicted wise maidens had obviously sought such eternal wisdom. They had desired it and applied it to their preparations for meeting the bridegroom.
The others, however, whose lamps went out were not necessarily being depicted as wicked, probably just immature and thoughtless.
How do we Become Wise and Responsible?
We can become wise in many ways, and strangely hardship and loss can often be turned around and help us become wiser people.
Because wisdom first requires a certain type of knowledge or understanding, and we can only be wise based upon that.
It sounds simple, but for example, all the maidens must have been taught something about lamps and how to keep them alight.
With this knowledge, some had wisely decided to take extra oil with them as they ventured out into the dark of night in case of unforeseen delays.
What is the Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom?
Knowledge understands the traffic light has turned red; wisdom applies the car’s brakes.
Knowledge learns of Jesus, the Prince of Peace; and wisdom loves Him.
To develop as Christians we gain our knowledge from the Bible, the Church, each other and from life.
Then in the fullness of time as we become wiser, we might become known as peacemakers of our Father in Heaven.
This kind of wisdom is built over a lifetime experience of struggles and successfully learning how to do things better.
Job, in the Old Testament, knew all about wisdom, and he asked; Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not a long life bring understanding?
Let us Pray:
We pray this morning that world leaders may develop the wisdom of Solomon and bring an end to international military warfare.
We pray for those who lead this country to receive ‘the pure wisdom that comes from above’ and protect us all from armed conflict.
We pray that Jesus the Prince of Peace will abide ever closer and that his Church may continue to grow ever larger until the day when Isaiah’s prophecy is finally fulfilled.
To a time when all military weapons of destruction are destroyed and God’s justice reigns in his kingdom on earth.
A time when his rule of wisdom and love is willingly accepted and all are blessed who accept his truth and grace.
We pray for all these things in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen