Remembrance Sunday 2017 | Sermon
Our Anglican Lectionary guides us in a particular direction this morning. It would seem we are to consider Wisdom. Not only have we a reading from the Book of Wisdom, but we have, in our second reading, a parable of Our Lord, about the foolishness and wisdom of some virgins.
Wisdom, Sophia, is a powerful theme that runs through the Old Testament scriptures in its own distinctive genre of literature and is developed into the Christian era. A word of wisdom is particularly associated with the desert Abba or Amma. On this Remembrance Sunday I propose that we stay with wisdom as our theme.
We live in such a highly technological age. We refer to the information highway. Search engines have, it would seem, every piece of information we could possibly need. This is true, despite the T-shirt I have seen that says, ‘I don’t need Google, my wife knows everything’.
However, I counsel against confusing vast amounts of information with the acquisition of wisdom. Some of the simplest people, the least informed, have profound insight into life, which we would call wisdom. It is something that we should all strive for, no matter what information we have absorbed, or have at our disposal.
There is a simple wisdom that comes from deep insight into the soul of man and woman, a wisdom that results from an alchemy that allows information to be part of personal formation leading to transformation of the person.
On this day especially a certain type of wisdom is desirable – a wisdom that is the direct child of memory. The 19th century philosopher, George Santayana, famously said ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
This is why Remembrance Sunday is so crucial for the building up of the wisdom of everyday life and decisions. We remember all those who died in past conflicts, and we honour them. We pray rightly for those who serve in our armed forces in our own day, my own son among them. However, as we remember them we pray for the wisdom that we will not repeat the course of action that leads to so many deaths of civilians and military, who give their lives for the sake of others. So it is always right that there has to be a strong military dimension to this day of Remembrance.
Wisdom is partly the fruit of our knowledge, our experience, and our future aspirations. That is why we have on this Remembrance Sunday such a representation of those who skills are in diplomacy. We look to them for wisdom. The pen, as it were, is always mightier than the sword, so national and international wisdom depends not so much on military might but on the wisdom of negotiation, discussion, and where possible reconciliation. There are challenging demands in our world today that demand diplomatic dexterity.
In this Holy House, and later at the Alimos Cemetery we weave together our deepest thoughts and reflections on the behavior of our nations in the last century, our deepest regrets for the lives lost in conflicts, our deepest sadness that human choices so often lead to the need for military response in order to defend righteousness and human freedom, but it is also our deepest prayer that we are not to be counted among ‘Those who cannot remember the past and are condemned to repeat it.’
The Book of Proverbs gives us a sentence that might accompany us through the rest of this day, and beyond, ‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom’.