Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Of Saints and Heroes

Good morning God,

One of the most moving moments at Conference is always the service of remembrance. This is a small intimate service of remembrance held in the ministerial session of Conference to which the immediate families of those ministers who have died that year are invited. There is no long sermon, no point to prove - the Scriptures alone are needed to speak the truth that we all hold dear - of service to God, of life everlasting and of the communion of the saints.
And then the roll is called.
Each name sounded as a word of truth and and thanks for a life sacrificially spent in service to God for the sake of God's people.
Time is taken, to remember, to give thanks and to honour the saints.
 Christ is present in grace and fellowship, in the word and in the love and respect that each saint is shown. It is a service I would hate to miss, and a service I have often paid to attend as each minister has the right to attend at their own expense if they are not sent to Conference as a representative.

The same cannot be said of this Sunday's services up and down the country - and on TV and radio!
This Sunday is not one of my favourite days of the year. As a local preacher I blocked the date as one that I would not be available to preach on, but as a minister that is seldom an option. This year, as I am on sabbatical, I am thankfully spared the dilemma of trying to reconcile my belief in the Gospel with what people 'want or expect to hear' on Remembrance day. I will not be attending worship this coming Sunday morning.

I agree with the principal of a national day of remembrance, but I believe it should be a secular and civic affair, when we honour and recognise all those who have died in the service of their country, soldiers, firemen, police, spies...regardless of their religion or ours. Dying the in service of one's country has nothing to do with Christianity per-se - although of course, as Christians we would want to pray for the dead and acknowledge our part in the communion of saints.When more people attend the Mosque on a Friday than attend a Church on a Sunday, it is foolhardy to presume that only Christianity can and should address the grief and remembrance of the nation. Besides, this is a secular state we are repeatedly told, a state with the power to deny the real meaning and purpose of our high-days and holidays, turning them instead into vacuous commercial feel-good factors.

So let the state - this secular state that is so intent on ridiculing religion - host its own service of remembrance - and from its Constitutional texts and dispatches from the field, let them find some fine stirring words that truthfully declare why these young men and women are remembered. I'm sure Churchill must have said something worth repeating - Blair likewise - how else could the nation have been persuaded to go to war?
I could understand and respect a civic service of remembrance that gave thanks for all the lives that have been lost in service to the state - that at least would be honest. In spite of my objection to the war and to the idea of 'might = right' peacemaking, I could join in and give thanks and remember the lives lost doing what our govenments have asked them to do. I could accept in humility the gift of heroism that some in the past have displayed to defend my freedom to blog, to criticise, to speak my mind without fear of imprisonment or worse.

I guess I just need my Saints and Heroes to be properly separated -  and for the difference betweeen their sacrificial giving to be stated:
The Saints are those who sacrificially give their lives in service to God

The modern day heroes are those who sacrificially give their lives in service to the state.
Some Saints are also Heroes - thank God
Some Heroes are also Saints - thank God
I will take the time to remember and honour them both,

but above all this, this Sunday I will remember that only Christ has died that I might live.


  1. Thinking about saints and heroes and the difference between them (though as you point out, they are not mutually exclusive groups) has been really helpful for me as I prepare to lead worship this Sunday. I find it a struggle every year too. But now I feel a sermon coming on.....

  2. Thank you for that helpful post
    Revd Wesley Fairhurst