The trump of judgment

John 15:9-17
Ephesians 3:14-19

Eric Lomax was born in 1919, and served as a signals officer in Singapore, when he was captured in 1942 and made a prisoner of war at Kanchanaburi camp in Thailand. He suffered horrendous torture at the hands of guards after they found a radio receiver and a map he had made of the infamous Burma-Siam “death railway”. He published a memoir, The Railway Man, which inspired a film about his life, starring Colin Firth. Lomax had long nursed thoughts of revenge on his wartime Japanese captors, which of course was so understandable, and he finally had the chance to act when he came face to face with his principal tormentor. However, he chose reconciliation, over retribution.

Love one another, as I have loved you, said Jesus. May you be rooted and grounded in love, wrote Paul.

William A. Cotter, enlisted in the United States Army Air Corp. in August 1942. He was then 23 years old, and after enlisting he flew 17 bombing missions over Germany as a tail gunner on B-17s. But on 4 February 1944, during his 17th mission, his plane suffered a fatal hit by enemy artillery. Wounded by shrapnel, he was forced to parachute out of the burning plane into the night sky and was captured immediately when he landed on the ground in Dortmund. He was taken as a prisoner to Stalag Luft VI, and then taken much of the way on foot, to Stalag Luft IV in Poland, where the conditions were terrible. The Red Cross reports detailed poor sanitation, no proper washing facilities, and grossly inadequate food, clothing, and medical care. There were only enough bunks for about half of the men, so many slept on the floor. On 6 February 1945, in response to the encroaching Soviet army, they set off on what would come to be known as the “Death March.” The men were made to march about 20 miles per day during the winter months with barely more than the clothes on their backs. Hundreds died during the march. Cotter harboured no bitterness about these experiences. When he returned from the war, he resumed his work as a plumber, got married, and had children. His life was marked by kindness, rock-solid strength and integrity, humour, and warmth.

Love one another, as I have loved you, said Jesus. May you be rooted and grounded in love, wrote Paul.

Bill Lillington was a spitfire pilot, and on the eve of the Battle of Britain in 1940, he wrote to his parents, “being British, I am proud of my country and its peoples, proud to serve under the Union Jack and regard it as an Englishman’s privilege to fight for all those things that make life worth living: freedom, honour and fair play.”

Love one another, as I have loved you, said Jesus. May you be rooted and grounded in love, wrote Paul.

Field Marshall Lord Bramall, a D-Day veteran who lives near here, said that “we sacrificed many, many men in both world wars, and this was to establish a peaceful and prosperous Europe…peace and prosperity are the values my generation fought for in Europe during the second world war.”

Love one another, as I have loved you, said Jesus. May you be rooted and grounded in love, wrote Paul.

When I was a boy, the last veterans of the First World War, born in the 1890s, were still alive and active among us. Now those veterans of the second world war are all at least 88 years old, most over 90. Everyone veteran that I’ve ever talked to about the second world has told me that they fought a war to enable people all over Europe to live in peace and freedom. Love one another, as I have loved you, said Jesus. May you be rooted and grounded in love, wrote Paul. I think these Christians values of peace, freedom, love, and kindness, are underlying what so many feel that they fought for, and the values that our readings are telling us are Christian values.

Yet, when we look at the world around us, it seems that these values of peace, freedom, love, and kindness are in short supply, indeed under more threat than for many years. However you voted last June, we witnessed a campaign from both sides where both Remain and Leave fought a deplorable campaign that flew in the face of love and kindness. My point is not that either Remain or Leave was the Christian viewpoint, but that both campaigns ran themselves in profoundly un-Christian ways.

Now we live in w world where Donald Trump will shortly become President of the United States, and that concerns me because the campaign that he ran flies in the face of peace, freedom, love, and kindness. Donald Trump didn’t win the election despite being a xenophobe, he won it because he was a xenophobe. Donald Trump didn’t win the election despite being sexist, he won it because he was sexist. Donald Trump didn’t win the election despite being anti-LGBT, he won it because he was anti-LGBT. Donald Trump didn’t win the election despite being unqualified for office, he won it because he was unqualified for office. And none of that does anything to restore my hope in peace and freedom and love and kindness in the world.

What has happened to a world of love and kindness? Clearly, vast numbers of people in the UK and in the USA, and probably elsewhere, are asking for change, and saying that traditional politics has failed them. That needs to be heard. What troubles me is not that changes are demanded or needed, but that basic Christian values of love and kindness seem to have been abandoned, seemingly in favour of greed or fear. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. More and more people are hungry in the richest economies of the world. Many young people have no hope for jobs. Social security systems are undermined. Pensions are squeezed. Financial institutions are being rescued while blue-collar jobs have been seen as expendable. And all of this is deemed by politicians to be a price worth paying. There is much that is wrong with our world. You might describe all that is wrong with the world as a trump of judgement.

How are we to respond? The answer surely has to be striving even harder always to put into practice the Christians values of love and kindness. Love one another, as I have loved you, said Jesus. May you be rooted and grounded in love, wrote Paul. Listening to the oldest members of our society, I’ve heard very clearly why they gave so much for others, why many of their friends and loved ones lost their lives, to build a world of peace and freedom, a world where people and loving and kind to each other.

Today, on Remembrance Sunday, human beings are drawn together in a way that is almost unique. Young and old gather to remember and reflect. Some who gather bring new or not so new memories of active service. Some will carry in their heart the memory of a specially loved one who never returned. All will be praying that as time rolls forwards, human beings will find ways of resolving their differences and repelling aggressors which do not involve warfare, and which promote love and kindness.

The power of remembrance is that while it connects us with sadness, it can also inspire us with hope. We remember not to allow the past to capture us in its worst moments, but to build us up for the future. If remembrance is anything, it is surely that we work for peace, whatever that costs; for a world where all act with love and with kindness, however hard or unusual that is. It is our duty today to ensure that all those, of every nation and every war and conflict, who in the cause of peace have given, and continue to give, of their life, their health, their youth, are remembered. But if our remembering is to mean anything, then we must also vow to give of ourselves for the good of all humanity, especially of the generations yet to come, for a world where everyone can live in peace, in a world of love and kindness.

May we love one another, as Jesus loved us. May we be rooted and grounded in love.

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