Last night we had our Advent Soulspace and it looked spectacular with Richard’s fantastic lighting, a star-path candle-lit labyrinth and vast tent – or was it a tabernacle (?) amongst other prayer stations.
Our theme was ‘Star-gazing’ and areas for reflection were certainly varied.
The star path included quotes from John O’ Donohue amongst others and images from space that had us considering our own journeys and meaning…
The tent allowed us to sit amidst the most awe-inspiring images of the universe we inhabit from the Hubble spacecraft …
A rolling powerpoint fused poetry from Steve Goan with thought-provoking images…
And we had another go at creating an on-line advent calendar. This time we picked up on our theme of ‘star-gazing’ and focussed on how to give Jesus the same level of attention that our culture gives to the stars (celebrities). So this year, if you care to join us, you can open a door at a time to see a star with a name or title given to Jesus, sometimes with a thought, challenge or prayer for the day.
Ages and gifting of contributors vary – but we hope the simple theme enables a more Christ-centred build-up to the Christmas season.
Outside it is wet and as we shelter under the bandstand we look out onto a grey autumn scene. Many of the trees now bare of leaves and the floor a glorious carpet of bronze and orange soggy leaves. It seems an appropriately sombre morning for Remembrance Sunday.
Lord God the source of all good things we pause in your presence and hold our day before you. Still us, calm us, guide us as we enter this day
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer
Pause and use your senses to listen, smell, see how the park feels on a wet morning.
Leader – May Jesus the Son inspire you with new energies each day.
May you find his peace to give you rest each night.
May the rain symbolise the cleansing forgiveness of the Father
And the refreshment of the Holy Spirit pouring new strength into your being
So that today we may walk as Jesus through the world and carry the beauty of his Kingdom.
Some thoughts on Remembrance
I was born just 6 years after the end of WW2. Many members of my family took part in the conflict.
My dad was in the Royal Artillery, my wife’s dad was in the Royal Signals, an uncle was also in the army, and another uncle was in the RAF and came home from Burma with malaria. My maternal grandfather was in the Royal Navy, on a warship in the North Atlantic. A great uncle was taken prisoner at Dunkirk and spent 4 years in a prisoner of war camp in Austria. Another great uncle was away for 5 years in the army serving in North Africa and Italy.
The only casualty of war from my family as far as I am aware was that my grandfather’s oldest brother was killed in action in the WW1 aged 19.
I have recollections of Remembrance Sunday from the mid 1950’s, and it was meaningful for me from the late 50’s onwards.
At that time most of the WW2 generation and many of the WW1 generation were still alive, and remembrance was a very sombre and deeply sad occasion as people remembered the sacrifice and loss and suffering of war. The nearest way that I can describe it was like being at a funeral.
60 years on I’d just like to share 3 brief thoughts on Remembrance.
Now that most of the WW2 generation are dead, has there been a loss from our corporate memories of the horrors of war? I think it’s very telling that politicians from all parties in the 1960’s, who had taken part in WW2, to name two – Denis Healey and Edward Heath, resisted US invitations to go to war in Vietnam, in contrast to more recent politicians who have rushed to get involved in wars. Around 1500 Erasmus said, “war is sweet to those who have not tried it.”
I do dislike the political correctness that everyone on TV has to wear a poppy for at least 3 weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, even the dancers on Strictly Come Dancing and Premier League footballers have to wear them! Around Remembrance Sunday people should feel able to wear a red poppy, or a white poppy, or both or neither. Surely to have that freedom is part of why people suffered and died in WW2.
Remembrance should be personal, voluntary and informed, and always involve much reflection and empathy for all the victims of war.
In early 1916 Alan Seeger wrote the poem I have a rendezvous with death, he was an American postgraduate student studying in Paris at the outbreak of WW1, who volunteered for the French Army, below are 2 verses from his poem:
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope or battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
Seeger was killed at the Somme in July 1916.
We then observed 2 minutes silence.
The wisdom from God is first pure, then
peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of
mercy and good fruits, without a trace of
partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of
righteousness is sown in peace for those
who make peace.
We look at the red poppies and they help us to remember those who have died in the forces during war or those who returned home never to be the same again whether through physical or emotional injury. There are many others who are affected by war, those who have lost their loved ones, their homes, their security, those civilians who have been killed or maimed, taken into captivity those who have lost peace.
Pick up a white peace poppy as we pray for peace.
Sharing bread and wine and remembering
We have been told that, on the night before he was taken to be
tortured to death on a cross, Jesus sat with his disciples,
and ate with them, in a meal of remembrance.
Jesus took a loaf of bread,
asked your blessing upon it, broke it,
and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take this – all of you – and eat it.
This is me. My Body. Given for you.
Each time you eat it, remember me.
Close to the meal’s end,
he took a cup filled with wine,
asked your blessing upon it,
and gave it to his disciples saying:
Take this – all of you – and drink it.
This is me. This is my promise in my life’s blood –
poured out for you and for the world.
Each time you drink it, remember me.
So we Jesus’ disciples, eat bread and drink wine – and remember.
(from Richard Bott )