Remembrance Sunday, November 11th 2018.
Hebrews 9:22-28; Mark 1:14-20
One hundred years ago today,the guns of the Great War fell silent for the last time. It was the end of a conflict that scarred the nations that took part very deeply.
But as we reflect on the end of the war, we also want to look forward in hope. Hope is deeply Christian. It springs above all from our belief in the resurrection of Christ from the dead: if Christ is raised,nothing good is impossible. Every day we’re reminded that what was supposed to be ‘the war that will end war’ did not lead to that: human pride, greed and selfishness has led to millions of deaths since 1918. But the Bible looks forward to a time when our hope for peace will be fulfilled. It speaks of the ‘old order of things’ passing away and God making ‘all things new’.
During World War One more than 18 million people were killed and 23 million were wounded. From Britain alone, 6 million men fought, 1.7million were wounded, 65,000 were shell-shocked, 170,000 became prisoners and772,000 died. No community was untouched. Many Christians were involved on both sides and sought to live out their faith or let it shape their actions.
Invite people to read one of the stories given to them of those affected by the war – Australian British German, Prisoner of War, survivor,killed in action – yet each reflect upon how they experienced Christian faith in those years or events…
Music – by Maria
The first time we hear Jesus speak in Mark’s Gospel – is here, in the words we read a few minutes ago, the first time the red letters appear if your bible is so designed.
”The time has come. The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Repent – the word means to reverse course, to change direction. When we see it used in the Bible it is used to turn from the things God is against or rejects, to turn to the things he loves. ”Euangelion” is the word translated good news. It is worth thinking more about it – angelos – ‘the one who announces the news’. The prefix ‘eu‘ which means joyful. So gospel means ”news that brings joy”.
When Mark used it, it was already being used in other ways for history making, life shaping news. There is, for example, an ancient Roman inscription , written about the same time of Mark’s Gospel. ‘The beginning of he gospel of Caesar Augustus’. It was the story of the birth and coronation of the Roman Emperor. A gospel, in that world, is news of some event that changed things in a meaningful way, something that has been done for you that changes your status forever. You would have said the ending of the First World War- 4 long years – millions killed – it is over – Nov 11th 2018 the guns go silent – was a good news, gospel event! Or in the Netherlands, May 5th – liberation. Good news!
Mark has already began his writing – the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ. He is saying – that this is what has happened in history – I’m going to tell you about a life changing, event, that when you discover it you will never be the same – of news that brings joy – of how Jesus lived and sacrificed his life to die so as to earn the way to God for you. The Gospel is not about what we have done, but as Hebrews reminded us, it is about what Jesus has done, in history, for you… Remembrance Sunday, as is May 4th and 5th for the Netherlands, is a marker in the year,for Britain, countries which are part of the Commonwealth like New Zealand,Canada, Australia., for France, USA, Belgium, to remember what was done for us.As a British war memorial – in India reads:
‘When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today.'(Kohima Epitaph)
As we and millions across the world remember the sacrifice of men and women in the first and second world wars and other conflicts, we also contemplate the sacrifice of Jesus – for your tomorrow, he gave his today – good news, news that brings joy. So as we take bread and wine and remember a life laid down for us, it is not only a solemn feast but a joyful feast – a clear reminder of a life laid down that declares the gospel.
”The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”
What is the good news of the kingdom? We return to the beginning to Genesis – the first two chapters – we were created to live in a world, where all relationships were pure, perfect, loving, right – in all ways. Because God was King. Genesis 3 shows what happened next – we chose to be our own king, to decide what was right and wrong. And we see the effects through the rest of Genesis – fear, blame, accusation, anger, murder, later revenge out of all proportion to the offence and even the first weapons of violence are made. Which leads us to what we said at the start – ”the war to end all wars” – yet sadly, that did not happen – because of our self centredness, our selfishness, our sinful nature. But the good news of the kingdom – Jesus shows the kingdom breaking into lives through his ministry – wants to take us somewhere we cannot go without God’s work. Where it is all going, is taking us back, to a place where again we have access to the tree of life, a place again where God will dwell among us and be king among us. This world will be renewed forever. Renewed so that sin no longer is present. Where there will be no pain through war, no suffering through violence, no tears through bereavement, no mourning through the loss of loved ones. The gospel of the kingdom, where the Lord is ultimately going – ” I am making all things new… write this down for this is trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21).
But there is sacrifice involved in the meantime for the members of Christ’s kingdom.
Jesus announces the kingdom after John the Baptist has been arrested. There is opposition to God’s message and messengers already. Sacrifice is needed to press on when others resist or reject.
When weread how these brothers follow the King, there is that shadow – this will not be easy – there is opposition already and as we read further in Mark it appears in unexpected and later violent ways. So the theme of sacrifice.
There is sacrifice of their lives – their lives have forever changed – they leave family. In traditional cultures, your family is connected to your identity and is an important part of your life. Jesus calls them to make that sacrifice.
In the case of James and John, Peter and Andrew – their working lives are changed – Jesus you could say, says he wants to take priority over their careers. They are to fish for people now.
And to fish for people – they knew how hard normally fishing was – and so what Jesus asks of them is hard demanding and not always easy work. Christian life is sacrificial is so many ways. Jesus takes priority over career, over family,over character, he ask sacrifices to serve him, , and there is opposition -from others and as well as spiritual opposition. The Good news of the Kingdom,the good news of Jesus is about what Jesus has done for us, in history for you. A once for all sacrifice as Hebrews gloriously reminds us, (Hebrews 9).
Yet we are too called to sacrifice. To be willing to leave all for the Lord. Maybe it is about leaving jobs, or homes for where he leads us. But it can be the daily sacrifices of allowing him to shape and transform us to bring changes within us. And it can be the sacrifices of how we are called to live for him – to forgive, to give, to love, to care – how he calls us to follow him as King.
The men who joined the military allowing the military to shape their lives, to send them where it wanted, knowing of the risk. Whether it meant going to Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Western Europe. Willing to sacrifice their lives in many different ways in service of a greater purpose and goal.
Jesus invites us, calls us, as we heard last week – to love him with all our heart, our inner being, to love him with our soul, which we shared in Hebrew means life -with all moments willing to give it all – and to love him with all our very -that great word, meh ode we said could be translated to love him heartily,earnestly, zealously, or as a scholar translated – with all your oomph – and that calling to love demands or will demand sacrifices of us.
But why the sacrifice? I think of these soldiers – they sign up to because of the vision, because of the freedom they seek to bring. We sacrifice because yes we are called to – but there is more – the why, the good news of the kingdom of what God is working out in us, around us and through us. We are part of his purposes which ultimately is about making all things new. So as we remind ourselves of the good news the message the vision Jesus cast and casts, then the sacrifices I suggest become easier in some cases, or we see the purpose for them.
Sacrifice. Greater Goal. New of Great joy that came.
Today many churches many people remember sacrifice of others for a greater goal and today 100 years ago news of great joy came – the war was ended.
We are people who know the One who sacrificed all, the One who proclaimed and demonstrated the good news of the kingdom, and we are the ones called to sacrifice in our following of our King. Amen.