Experience the depth of our Remembrance Sunday sermons. Honour the brave with a vision of hope and a stronger faith.
Table of contents
Remembrance Sunday Sermons: Introduction
This transcript was created automatically and may contain errors. It should be used for guidance only.
Now, you will understand that I have no experience of war. I don’t know what it was like to fight. Of course, over the years I’ve seen films about the two great wars. In particular, I’ve looked at newsreels taken at the time. I’ve read about the wars. I studied both World wars while I was at school at GCSE and A level. But I really have no idea what it must have been like to live day by day in the knowledge that you could be killed at any time, to know that there was an enemy who was hunting you down to bring your life to an end.
What Sustains People in War?
And when I think about that, I wonder what sustained people in those battlefields? What is it that kept them going? It can’t just have been that they felt they had to obey the orders of their superiors, because if that was all it was, then I’m sure that at those times when things seem to be going particularly badly, that orderliness would have broken down.
I do wonder if what sustained those men and women was some kind of vision for the future, that this was not all there was, that something better was to come. These men and women must have held some kind of vision of the future in order to survive the circumstances they found themselves in.
One of the reasons I think that is because of the poetry, particularly of the two world wars.
Rupert Brooke wrote The Soldier and he said this:
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.Rupert Brooke, 1915
That poem and others like it certainly have a visionary quality about them. It talks of England as heaven, a vision and a place worth dying for. Of course, for those who know your history, Rupert Brooke did. He died of blood poisoning on board a ship on his way to the Dardanelles in 1915, aged just 28 years. His death became a symbol of romantic patriotism, nostalgic and sentimental.
Of course, not everyone who was caught up in the fighting of those two world wars accepted this vision or felt this way. Wilfred Owen, another soldier, famously wrote Anthem for Doomed Youth:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.Wilfred Owen
No vision of loveliness there.
Here in the poetry of Wilfred Owen, the new heaven and a new earth, where God is ever present and where he lives among his people, becomes a sickening joke, a condemnation, not a hope. No prayers, no joyful song, just the drawing down of the blinds and the terrifying silence of the dead.
Owen fought at the Somme. He suffered the worst winter of the war. He caught trench fever and was concussed. Eventually, he was sent to Edinburgh to recover from shell shock. But in August 1918, he refused the offer of an officer training post that would have kept him in England and instead returned to the trenches. He was killed on the 4 November 1918 near the town of Ors, just one week before the Armistice. He was 25 years old. He felt his return to the front was essential if he were to write poetry that was in no sense consolitary.
In the midst of war and violence and unrest, which continues today, what does God say about the future?
A Vision of Hope
In his book Revelation, John offers a vision of God’s ever-presence. Here is the dwelling of God among people. But for many men like Owen, the vision just did not ring true on the battlefield. Whereas Owen wrote elsewhere, God seems not to care.
But Revelation 21:1 reads:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.Revelation 21:1 (NLT)
There is some significance in there no longer being any sea, as those of you who have looked out on a less than calm day will know. The sea says something about perpetual unrest. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had to tame it on at least a couple of occasions. Revelation speaks of the sea as the political turmoil out of which “the beast” would arise. And so here, the absence of sea hints at the unruffled state of solid peace that will prevail over the New World order.
You see, John is not talking about the obliteration of the earth, the heaven and the seas. They pass away not towards oblivion, but towards this new completion of God’s fulfilled design. In this part of Revelation, we hear about the fulfillment of things we already know about: water, mountains, trees, fruit, metals, people, food, and so on.
As Earl Palmer writes:
In other words, the symbolism of the new heaven and new earth is the language of completion, not absorptionEarl Palmer
In John’s revelation, the world that was has passed away. Both the despair of Owen and the romanticism of Brooks are reformulated in the light of an ultimate purpose that makes both of them bearable.
The Ultimate Purpose is Relational
And at its heart, God’s purpose for the new heaven and the new earth is relational. Did you notice that the New Jerusalem isn’t described as a geographical phenomenon, but as a bride, this is the most intimate relationship of all. There is a tenderness and joyousness in the image of marriage that should be our very first impression of God’s new order. It’s not the splendor of wealth. It is in seeing the new order as God’s beloved bride.
As Earl Palmer goes on to say:
It would be like visiting the estate of a great man who, as you first enter his estate, proudly introduces you to his family, his bride, his children; everything else is secondary in his mind. So it is in God’s eternal new orderEarl Palmer
So it is in God’s eternal new Order.
How Do We Frame Our Remembrances?
So in view of this biblical vision, as we remember the mud and the turmoil of World War I and of World War II and the countless conflicts since, including those happening at this very moment, and as we remember the men and women who have died or been terribly injured, how do we frame our remembrances on remembrance Sunday? Is it right to hold to the romantic vision of someone like Rupert Brooke? Or are we better off accepting the grim realism of someone like Wilfred Owen?
Perhaps, just perhaps, our remembrances should be tempered by a vision of what is ultimate. This vision of loveliness, of God’s ever presence, is a vision of our end:
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.”Revelation 21:2-3 (MSG)
In our remembrances today and the love for our country that they generate, it must all be tempered by John’s vision of the end.
Edith Cavell, who was a good Norwich girl, was matron of the Red Cross Hospital in Brussels during the First World War. She helped some 200 Allied soldiers to escape to neutral Holland before she was caught. On the eve of her execution. On the 23 October 1915, she said, “Standing as I do in view of God and eternity, I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone”.
How Do We Frame Our Remembrances?
The kingdom of God is not just for the future. The kingdom of God can be entered now and a new life begun, one free of bitterness and hatred. The good news at the heart of this vision of John’s is verse five:
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”Revelation 21:5 (NLT)
This is not something God is only going to do at the end of time. It’s going on now. In this present age. God who remakes individuals who give themselves to him, is at work now, remaking the world as well, and so only a remembrance that strives to renew the world in the light of God’s eternity that is eager that all may have life in its fullness. Only this kind of remembering draws the sting of suffering and gives us hope.
It is neither romanticism nor despair, but instead it’s a realism grounded in a God who suffers and weeps with us.
And so I leave you with the words of Arthur S. J. Tessimond, who wrote in his poem Daydream:
One day people will touch and talk perhaps easily,A.S.J. Tessimond
And loving be natural as breathing and warm as sunlight,
And people will untie themselves, as string is unknotted,
Unfold and yawn and stretch and spread their fingers,
Unfurl, uncurl like seaweed returned to the sea,
And work will be simple and swift
as a seagull flying,
And play will be casual and quiet
as a seagull settling,
And the clocks will stop, and no one will wonder
or care or notice,
And people will smile without reason,
Even in winter, even in the rain.
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Battle Drill Daily Devotional Podcast This Week
This week, on the Battle Drill Daily Devotional Podcast, we look beyond Remembrance Sunday to the vision for hope for the future found in Revelation 21, reminding ourselves this is not the end – one day God will make everything new.
- Monday – All Things are Made New: Insightful Perspectives on God’s Promise of a New Heaven and Earth
- Tuesday – God Dwells Among His People: Discovering the Secret of Divine Attendance
- Wednesday – He Will Wipe Away Every Tear: The Assurance of Eternal Joy and The End of All Suffering
- Thursday – What Does Water Represent in the Bible? Spiritual Symbolism Unveiled
- Friday – Bible Verses about Overcoming: An Exploration of Faith-Based Resilience
- Interrupting Jesus Disrupts Our Lives With His Love and His Ways
- Revealing What Happens To Us When We Behold Our God
- How To Apply God’s Word: The Most Wondrous Force Ever Seen
- Prison Life? Temptation and How To Overcome It with The Salvation Army Soldiers Covenant
- Creepy Crawlies and the Faithful Stewardship Of Creation
1. [Understanding Remembrance Sunday – History.Com]( )
2. [Significance of Poppies on Remembrance Day – Royal British Legion](https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/remembrance/remembrance-events/remembrance-sunday)
3. [Guide to Creating a Sermon – PreachingToday.com]( )
4. [Biblical hope – GotQuestions.org]( )
5. [Remembrance Sunday Sermons – SermonCentral.com]( )
6. [Vision of Hope from the Bible – Crosswalk.com](https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/bible-study/what-is-the-christians-hope.html)
7. [Importance of Remembrance Sunday – Gov.uk]( )
8. [Comparison of Remembrance day sermons throughout history – BBC News]( )
9. [Suggested hymns for Remembrance Sunday – Church of England](https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2019-10/cfe-hymn-suggestions-remembrance-season.pdf)
10. [Inspiring Verses for Remembrance Sunday Sermon – OpenBible.info](https://www.openbible.info/topics/remembrance)
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