As you will know November is a time of remembrance as the people of Great Britain (and further afield) gather to remember those who gave their lives in the two great wars. Remembering is about identity. Our collective identities, as nations or as communities, are found in what we choose to remember collectively. Our communities are created, and are held together by a shared story. If our collective memories help to form who we are, then, we can begin to understand why communities like ours gather on the 11th of the 11th each and every year. For the British nation, Remembrance Day has been - and indeed still remains - a day of telling a story in which the community of this island has sought and found its identity. In remembering the story of the First and Second World Wars not only has our nation found an identity, but in so doing our nation has sought to form the identity of every member of Great Britain. Listen to the stories which we tell and are told around Remembrance Day, and who we are as a nation, who we think we are as a people, becomes clear. We are a small island, a small island which stood alone against a great and terrible evil. We are a people, who turned the defeat in France to the victory which was Dunkirk. We are the country who vowed to ‘fight them on the beaches’ and battled to victory in the skies in the Battle of Britain. It is memories and stories like these which we remember on the 11th of the 11th, and in remembering we find our identity as the community known as Great Britain.
Of course, we as Christians, also find our place in another community - the Church - and this community is meant to trump all other communities; whether of family or of nationality. As a community the Church remembers and is formed by its own story; the death and resurrection of Christ. Not for nothing at the high point of our worship does the priest, standing in the place of Christ, repeat the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, to ‘do this in remembrance’ of Him. This act of remembrance, the Eucharist, is meant to form a new community of Christians which are then sent out ‘to love and serve the Lord’ with a better story then even that which Britain remembers on November 11th. British Christians, then, ought to be distinct from other British people because they are formed by a different story; they are formed by remembering something which every other ordinary British citizen does not remember, that is the death of Christ. In being formed by this ultimate story - the Gospel - we are able to bring to our fellow citizens something unique which no other community can truly bring them: hope!
As the Brexit saga continues to loom large both sides - Leave and Remain - look back to the great wars. The Leave side argue that we can again be the country of Dunkirk which stands aloof from Europe, whilst the Remain side argues that as a nation we should have learnt that we need to be closely involved in Europe in order to avoid find ourselves fighting another great war. It is not my place to tell you which side you should take, or which side you should believe, but it is my place - as your parish priest - to remind you that as Christians we are to take the love of Christ to both sides, to seek to serve and reconcile both Leavers and Remainers, and we are to do this by testifying to a better story than victory in two world wars, that of the victory of Christ that first Easter.
So this month be sure to remember and show respect for those who served and died in the First and Second world wars. But as you do, be sure to remember the death of Christ, and allow that story to form you more than any other. Such remembrance will ensure that we love and serve both Remainers and Leavers. And such remembrance will ensure that we do not hold back from taking the good news of the cross to the people of our town.