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A Message from Rev Dr Steve for Remembrance Week:
When I was growing up, there was something of a disconnect, between myself and Remembrance Day. The World Wars seemed so long ago – something we studied in history – and, in the 1970s and 1980s, I had no personal experience of living through a conflict.
When I trained to be a Vicar in the early 1990s, we were told that we would have to do Remembrance Day services, of course, but that the importance of them, and interest in them would probably die out as the years went by.
How wrong that piece of advice was.
It seems to me that Remembrance Day is becoming more and more important as the years go by. But who could have guessed in the early 1990s how the course of world events would unfold and the impact that would have on our nation?
Remembrance Day, for young people today, is not just something relating to the history books. It is a poignant moment to stop and take stock of the daily reality of the world in which we live.
It is a poignant moment for us all, regardless of age, gender, race or creed, to stand together in solidarity and recognise the tremendous sacrifice made by so many in the pursuit of freedom and peace. It is a moment to give thanks for the continued bravery of so many who continue to strive for the establishment of justice in our world today.
Remembering is a good thing to do, in and of itself. But within the Jewish and Christian theological traditions at least, there is a very particular purpose to remembering. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, those who seek to live their lives in faithful obedience to God are encouraged to look back and remember specifically so that they can move into a more hopeful future. In the Christian scriptures, we are never encouraged just to look back and remember in some nostalgic sense: the only person to do that in the Bible was the wife of Lot and, in that mythological story, she was turned into a pillar of salt. Instead, we are encouraged to look back so that we can learn from the past and build a better future.
That is at the very heart of Jewish history – with the act of the Passover: a looking back in history to remember God’s faithfulness so his people could move forward with him into a new future. The same principle is at the very heart of Christian worship too – with the act of the Eucharist: a looking back in history to remember the supreme sacrifice of Christ on the cross so we can move into God’s future of grace, forgiveness and salvation.
We look back – we remember – in order to move forward into a more hopeful future.
And so it is on Remembrance Day: we look back – we remember and we give thanks – but always so that we may be spurred on to honour the fallen by building a better future, founded on the eternal principles of justice and peace.
It is the promise of that redeemed future that we were reminded of in Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, written by the disciple John: that which, as people of the Book, we are all, in our various ways, working towards. In verse 1, John wrote this: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.” There are two things to note from this verse.
Firstly, when John talks about a new heaven and a new earth, he is drawing on an Old Testament idea found in the Book of Isaiah not that the old heaven and old earth will be destroyed and replaced but that the new heaven and the new earth will emerge out of the old. It’s not that heaven and earth will be dissolved and replaced but that heaven and earth will be renewed. And this is an important spiritual principle, of course. If we were to believe that heaven and earth were to be dissolved and replaced, it would absolve us of any responsibility to work for the betterment of society of any responsibility to work for social justice, of any responsibility to work towards peace between the nations. If this world in which we live were just to be dissolved, we could absolve ourselves of all responsibility towards a better future. But that idea is not at the heart of the Christian faith. Instead, the new heaven and the new earth is to emerge from the old world order, so there is indeed a huge responsibility on each one of us to work for the betterment of society, for social justice, and for peace between the nations. We remember this week those who have died in the pursuit of this new world order and we commit ourselves to doing all we can to uphold their legacy and give meaning to their sacrifice. We have a responsibility.
But secondly, from that verse, John wrote that, “the sea was no more” – a strange phrase, a strange idea, perhaps, until we remember that, in the Bible, the sea is used as a metaphor for chaos and disorder. So when John writes that, in the new world order there will be no sea, he is telling us through metaphor that the new world towards which we are striving will not be governed by chaos and disorder. Instead, it will be hallmarked by peace and unity: the lion will lie down with the lamb. So again, the responsibility lies with us to work towards the emergence of that future: the cessation of war, the healing of the nations, the eradication of social injustice, standing against the evil of social prejudice in all its forms; homophobia, racism, religious intolerance, the ignorant scapegoating of migrants and asylum seekers for the ills in society. These are not the hallmarks of a free society. These are not the principles for which our loved ones and our remembered ones lived and died.
The future we strive for today is one that will see the eradication of hatred and ignorance and the embrace of love and compassion and kindness - and not just the tolerance of difference but the celebration of difference.
And when that new world order comes to pass, we will be able to join with John in his great proclamation in verse 3: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.” And it is then that we will finally grasp the ultimate beauty of that towards which we strive, verse 4: “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”
Is this just pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking? Is it impossible for us to walk the way towards this new world order? No, it’s not - and Jesus Christ has shown us the way to achieve it. It’s very simple and he outlined it for us in the Gospel of John: “My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you”.
It’s all about love – our willingness to embrace one another, emotionally and practically in the spirit of love, even when we might be very different from them in terms of experience and outlook. Without love, we are nothing, we can be nothing, we can achieve nothing.
A Christian writer called Teilhard de Chardin put it so well: “Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mystical of cosmic forces. Love is the primal and universal psychic energy. Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.”
If we want to honour the memory of the Fallen and work towards the emergence of a new world order, we can only do that in a spirit of love and compassion towards others, crossing all boundaries that separate us. Love for others is not a matter of words only – but of action:we must live the Love we proclaim, whatever the cost to ourselves, whatever sacrifice it takes. That is the way of Christ, whose love for us drove him to the cross.
There was a wonderful 13th-century Muslim poet called Jalalud’din Rumi, and he wrote this:
“Our daily sun is but a working star in a galaxy of stars,
But our inner sun is One,
The dancing nuance of eternal light.
You must be set alight by the inner sun,
You have to live your Love or else
You’ll only end in words.”
You have to live your Love…that is the responsibility that rests upon each one of us.
So we remember this week, and we give thanks. But we look back and remember so that we can resolve to move forward together into a new world order that is hallmarked not by chaos and hatred and ignorance and fearbut is hallmarked instead by peace and justice, compassion and kindnesscelebration of differenceand, most of all, a Love that is lived out amongst us.
That new world, hallmarked by peace and justice and love is what so many people have died for, is what our Saviour Jesus Christ died for. It is what each one of us must resolve to live for, to the best of our abilities and with all the passion we can muster.
Love conquers all. Love inspires all.
I conclude with some final words from the Christian philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin: “The day will come when, after harnessing the winds, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, humanity will have discovered fire.”
Lord, hasten the day.
Welcome to St. Andrew's...
Thanks for visiting our website! We hope that you will get the information you need here - and that you might pay us a visit and join us for worship soon...
Here's a little bit of background about St. Andrew's...
We want to be the type of church that will give you a warm welcome, and where you can meet with God, whatever is happening in your life at the moment.
We are constantly trying to become more 'useful' as a church. We want you to find it easy to become a member of our community (if that's what you are looking for), or just to come and enjoy the occasional Sunday with us. We know that everyone has a different 'agenda' when it comes to church and faith - and whatever you need from church, we hope that you will find it at St. Andrew's. Everyone who comes is at a different stage in their lives - so there's no pressure on you at all...
We have plenty of activities and interest groups within the church family - this website should give you an idea of what type of things we do. You can read about our youth work, children’s work, pastoral care ministries, variety of worship services, excellent musical tradition, Bible study groups, discipleship courses, social activities, schools work, overseas support and a whole lot more here!
Most of all, we believe in a welcoming and hospitable God. At St. Andrew’s, we want to reflect that welcome and hospitality to the local community and all who visit. We are a church on a journey – we are far from perfect and we have a long, long way to go! But if you want to come along and see if this is a place where you can find whatever it is you need, you will be more than welcome!
Introducing our Vicar...
The Vicar of Enfield is Rev Dr Steve Griffiths. Steve came into post in June 2014. He has been an ordained Minister in the Church of England since 1993. Before moving to Enfield, Steve had served parishes in Staffordshire, the East End of London, North Essex, and Cambridgeshire. He was also on Faculty at Ridley Hall Theological College as Director of the Cambridge Institute for Children, Youth & Mission (formerly known as Centre for Youth Ministry).
Steve has a particular expertise in children's and youth ministry. He has been involved in training youth workers across the world since 1999. He has been extensively involved in youth ministry training in the UK, Scandinavia, India, South Africa, the US, Central Europe and mainland Europe. As well as authoring many popular and academic articles on youth ministry, historical theology, and pastoral theology, Steve is the author of a number of books including: Discipling Generation Y: Themes from the Book of Revelation, Models for Youth Ministry, God of the Valley, Redeem the Time: Sin in the Writings of John Owen, and East End Youth Ministry 1880-1957.
Rev Dr Steve is also a Prog Rock musician (under the name Renegade Priest) and his latest album, 'The Forest of Pi' is available on iTunes, Spotify and other digital media. He is currently working on "that difficult second album"!!