Father Darren’s Remembrance Sunday 2022 Sermon.
I know you have heard me say this many times, and you probably find it hard to believe, but I was a really hyperactive child.
While mum would tolerate that at home and school a bit, the church was another ball game. Because my nan was there, my two aunts, and my cousins, and for most of the time my hyper energy brought unwanted attention to them. They said I could go from one side of the church to another without touching the floor. I could probably still do that now!
Quite often, when I behaved badly, I would hear tuts and people saying the parents had no control over him. But there was a lovely lady called Pat, and when others would tut at me, Pat would say, Darren, come over here and sit with me. She had that way about her, and you knew not to cross Pat.
When I sat next to her, it was not like being told off, or like you had to sit next to the Head Teacher. Because when you sat next to her she would chat with you, and she wanted to care. So Pat became Auntie Pat.
I stayed close to Auntie Pat, and when I was recommended for ordination, she was really pleased. While I was training, she was in her mid-80s or maybe older; she called me and said; Darren, I would like you to come and see me, Uncle Ron is going out, so come around for a chat. When Auntie Pat called, you went!
So I went to see her, sat down, and I thought as she knew I was about to be ordained; perhaps she is going to say, Darren, I would like you to take my funeral. So I sat down with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and she said Darren, I am going to tell you something. I thought, OK. Then she said I first parachuted into German and France in 1943.
You know when you look at someone and think ‘really’. Yes, Pat said I was a part of the SOE (Special Operations Executive). Because I grew up speaking French and German fluently, I was enlisted to be a part of it.
She told me about the experience of being parachuted down and landing. Finding the resistance, taking messages to them, and then returning to the coastline and the UK.
As she told me all of this, I was even more in awe of her than I was before, as I discovered a person I had known since I was a child was unbelievably brave in her late teens and early 20s.
Sadly about a month later, Pat died. I sat down with Uncle Ron and talked about the funeral, and I asked if we would mention her work parachuting into Europe during the war. He looked at me in shock and told me that she had never told anyone about this, not even her children. But why I asked?
He said many brave young men did not come home, and she did not want to gloat about her bravery because she survived. She said lots of courageous people didn’t. So we did not mention it during her funeral. But I held it and gave thanks for her and her service.
On Remembrance Sunday, I always remember Auntie Pat, one of the unsung heroes of the war. Someone who was not special but was willing to stand up and give their last ounce of devotion.
Correspondence from World War One Soldiers
When I was in my previous parish, I was given a bundle of letters that one of my predecessors collected when corresponding with lads in the first World war.
There were some from Private Sherwood who would write regularly to the then Rector. In one of the letters he said it has been hard recently. We have been over the top four times in the last few days, the soldier wrote. Thankfully, we are back in the trenches and have had something to eat and drink, and the padre had just celebrated Holy Communion with us.
He said in his letter that the Communion had given him the strength to go over the top again.
Sadly, within a month of writing that letter, Private Sherwood died, and every year I read his name on the parish’s war memorial. He was a brave young man who fought and died for his country.
Bravery did not stop after the First World War or the Second World War. It has journeyed through with our armed forces giving themselves in service to their Queen, King and country. Today in this place and later at the war memorial, we will remember them.
Christians and War
As Christians we struggle to deal with war and death in service. It is not easy to justify. But we have a God willing to give up his life to bring us into his kingdom. Who was willing to make the last sacrifice to forgive our sins and bring us into glory.
Giving up one’s life for one’s fellow men and women is a major undertaking, with immense bravery. Christ did it because he loved the world so much that he wanted to do this. And he loves us so much that he wants to receive us into his eternal kingdom.
Today, we still live in a world that is not at peace. Whether in Ukraine, parts of Africa, Somalia, or anywhere around the world where people take up arms against one another is where the Holy Spirit needs to move and bring peace.
As Christians, we are called to speak out for peace, to support our country and work forward to a day when wars shall cease.
Christ said I am the way, the truth and the life, if we believe that, we journey towards Christ throughout our life. We give thanks for the sacrifice he made upon the cross for us, and we also thank those who gave their lives in service of Christ and their country today.
Perhaps later, when we are at the War Memorial and have the two minutes of silence, you can think of a situation in the world where you wish there to be peace. Think of someone you want to remember, a grandparent, or someone serving in the army, navy or air force. Hold someone in your thoughts today.
As Christians, let us keep working for a day when there will be peace. A day when we do not accept that wars are necessary, but something that can be brought to an end. Let us be the sort of people who speak out against tyranny and call out people who are unjust against others. Let us be willing to give our last ounce of devotion in service of God and in bringing peace to this world.
Let us Bow our Heads in Prayer;
Heavenly Father, you call each one of us to follow you. We ask father that you will give us the courage to seek peace and bring it to this world.
We give you thanks, father, for those who have gone before us and for those who you have taken into your eternal kingdom.
May they rest within your peace and know your presence with them always. Amen