All Saints, All Souls, Remembrance… and onwards to Christ the King and Advent. In recent times this period from All Saints to Advent has been termed the Kingdom Season. The gospel readings are all about the Kingdom of God, but I always notice the emphasis on death. As the nights draw in and autumn gets ever closer to winter we mark All Souls Day – the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. In normal years we invite the families of all those for whom we have taken a funeral service over the past year to our family remembrance service. Obviously, this year, that will not be possible. We will mark All Souls in other ways for it is a time when we collectively remember those whom we have loved, those who inspired us, taught us the faith; those now parted from us and for whom we grieve. The text I have chosen for this month is from St Paul’s first letter to the Church in Thessalonica. It talks about grief and hope. Paul does not say that we should not grieve when someone we have loved dies (although I have heard it interpreted that way!). What Paul says is that there is a significant difference between grief without hope and grief with hope. Both types of grief are real and painful, but they are different. However, to understand the difference we must understand what the hope is. For Paul, the hope is specific. It is grounded in the story of the cross and resurrection and Christ’s victory over death. It is because of this, and only because of this, that we can have a sure and certain hope in the resurrection of the dead… and it is this that makes the difference to grief.
A few days later the nation gathers for another act of collective remembrance:
Armistice Day. This year there will be no military parades or mass gatherings, but we will remember. The Great War is now all but beyond living memory; those who fought in the second World War are rapidly diminishing… but we still remember. They have been other conflicts in the intervening years… and we still remember. And the reason it is important to remember is that our hope for the future is based in no small part on our remembrance of the past. We remember not only the great sacrifice counted in lost lives, but in what they fought for. If we forget then we will make the same mistakes again. Power is seductive and there will always be those who seek to rise to power though belligerence and tyranny. There will always be those in power who maintain their position through violence and terror. There will always be those who extend the range of their power through oppression and unjust systems. The collect for Remembrance Sunday paints a different view of the world… a view of the world that is closely aligned with the images of the Kingdom of God which we read in the gospels. We yearn for the day when the whole world will be free from war and terror, when all peoples will be able to know justice and freedom… Every day we pray in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Your Kingdom come, on earth as in heaven’ – this too is our hope. It is not a reality yet. We must remember the horrors of war to strengthen our courage to work and pray for the Kingdom of God to come… or to use the Latin word – Advent. Fr Philip