“TRUE PATRIOTISM” –
a sermon for REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY
“The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2)
Sunday – a day to recall the sacrifice and the loss of war –
and in this Church, coming as we do from so many different nations,
our thoughts and memories may be very different.
But wherever we come from,
this is a time to reflect on our own nation, our own national history,
and the blessings and the sorrows woven variously into our different histories.
– as you think of your nation –
would you call yourself patriotic, and what does true Patriotism involve??
some people, patriotism means supporting your country
(right or wrong) over and if necessary against all other nations,
and by whatever means are necessary
to sustain its independence and status and well-being.
other people, patriotism means loving your country
as a child loves a parent –
and in that spirit of thankful if sometimes critical love
never being happier than when your nation
enriches rather than diminishes other nations in the world.
I am reminded of William Wilberforce who defined true patriotism
"a quality that bound men and women to their homeland
without confining philanthropy to a single nation."
Again I wonder what brand of patriot you are?
A case in point is all the stuff in the papers this week
about the London Olympic Stadium
and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games bid.
they opportunities for us to demonstrate
the classic Olympic ideal of hospitality, mutuality
& shared celebration between individuals & nations?
are they about national pride and
climbing up the medal table at all costs?
How easily loving thankful patriotism
can degenerate into jingoistic and aggressively nationalistic one-upmanship!
All of which is a very Biblical theme.
separate nations don’t feature at the beginning or the end of the Bible,
only in the middle?
Maybe you used to sing
“God has given us a
book full of stories,
It was written by His children of old.
It begins with the tale of a garden,
And it ends with a city of gold.”
It begins with the tale of a
the Garden of Eden - but note -
there are no national boundaries in the Garden of Eden.
And it ends with a city of gold –
the Heavenly City of God at the end of time –
but again no national boundaries –
rather all God’s people are united in the one City of God ,
where the fruits of the tree of life are there
“for the healing of the nations”.
We could not imagine a Berlin Wall or Barbed Wire fence
marking out sections or territories
in the Garden of Eden or the City of God.
the great central part of the Bible,
nations and races and border posts are very much in evidence.
But really they appear as a result of human failures
(following the expulsion from Eden and the flood
and the collapse of the Tower of Babel).
Nations are essentially as much a part of the problem
as the solution to the human predicament.
But – for
all their ambiguity in the scheme of things -
God uses the nations –
and in particular he calls and blesses one special nation, Israel.
Genesis 12:3 God tells Abraham that he is to father a great nation –
and tells him that in this way
“by you shall all the peoples of the earth be blessed”
Israel is called not to conquer and defeat other nations,
but to be the means whereby they too will find blessing.
And so to
today’s OT reading (Deuteronomy 8),
God reminds Israel that her special place
is not because of her might or virtue, but because of God’s love –
Israel must beware of becoming pompous and proud as a nation,
and forgetting her dependence on God and their need to do his will.
Otherwise there will be disaster.
The message is the same for every nation.
In a real
sense, we are all chosen nations –
for God has called everyone of every race and land to be his people.
here in wealthy Western Europe –
how easy for us (like the Children of Israel in Canaan) to
· congratulate ourselves on our astuteness in acquiring milk & honey
· turn that God-given blessing into our own private right and property
· turn away the needy.
How easy indeed! We do it all the time!
If you watch the Simpsons,
you’ll know that Bart Simpson’s 8 year old sister Lisa
is really the most Christ like character in the series.
Lisa plays saxophone in the school band.
“During a tortured group rendition of “My Country, ‘tis of Thee”
in the school music room, Lisa takes off on a bebop riff,
drawing a reproof from the band teacher.
She explains that her solo is ‘what my country is all about’,
that she is wailing out for the homeless family living out of a car,
the farmer whose land has been taken away by heartless bureaucrats,
and West Virginia coal miners.
That may well be, the music teacher replies –
‘but none of those unpleasant people
are going to be at the recital next week’.”
(Pinskey, The Gospel According to the Simpsons, Westminster John Knox Press 2001 p.35)
Israel of old, this and every nation
is called by God to be faithful to him,
not for our local selfish ends, but the good of all –
within and beyond our borders -
that through our nation all families may be blessed.
Conor Cruise O’Brien has drawn the
a chosen nation, a holy nation and a deified nation.
JHe is talking about the self perception of the USA,
but the issue is one for us all.
(Conor Cruise O’Brien, Godland, Harvard UP, 1988 p 81)
our homeland, our nation is chosen –
- God chooses all his children!
must never deify or idolize our nation
- we are there to do God’s work, not to replace him.
we must seek to make it holy.
……. - a means whereby God’s holy will is done.
I see that police have recovered this week
what is described as a Mafia version of the 10 Commandments
from the home of an arrested Mafia boss.
They lay down a strict code of honour,
honesty and morality within the mob –
but clearly these rules do not apply when dealing with outsiders.
many nations act this way too –
with different rules for those inside and outside the national family.
Look at the way we treat the developing world or asylum seekers
and you see how we too say to God
“Thanks for the milk and honey –
but we don’t intend to share outside our own back yard.”
course is at the heart of much of God’s criticism of Israel
as a nation which has become proud and selfish
and forgotten that they too were once a poor and needy people
and only through God’s love and care were they brought out of slavery.
Children of Israel reached Canaan
they gave thanks to God for their safe arrival.
too, on Remembrance Day, look back with thanksgiving -
for those who risked and sacrificed so much in the past
to bring us through the desert places of our people’s history
to bring us safe to this place.
And how best to give thanks?
By making the nation we have inherited a holy nation
By making our nation a means of blessing for all people.
we honour our dead,
care for our living,
and anticipate the glorious day
· when the Prince of peace shall reign,
· every tear shall be dried
· war shall be no more.
· and the tree of life shall indeed bring healing to every nation.
ORDER OF SERVICE
Organ: “Solemn melody” – Walford-Davies (born 1868)
“Pax Vobiscum” – Siegfried Karg-Elert (born 1877)
“In Memoriam” – Harold Darke (born 1888)
Welcome and Notices
Hymn 776 “Make me a channel of your peace”
Minister: Let us share God’s blessing:
Adults: The peace of the Lord be with you
Young Church: And also with you.
Minister: Go in peace
(Young people leave)
Minister: Let us remember
before God, and commend to his sure keeping,
those who have died for their country in war
those whom we knew and whose memory we treasure
and all who have lived and died in the service of others.
shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
we will remember them.
People: We will remember them.
Minister: When you go home tell
them of us and say
For your tomorrow we gave our today
The Last Post
Minister: Almighty and eternal God, from whose love in
we cannot be parted, either by death or by life:
Hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all whom we remember this day.
Fulfil in them the purpose of your love.
And bring us all, with them, to your eternal joy.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Hymn “Eternal God, before whose face we stand”
[Timothy Dudley-Smith. Written for Remembrance Sunday, Winchester Cathedral, 1999]
Prayers and Lord’s Prayer