Micah 4.1-5 / John 14.25-31
In 2009 the last 2 fighting British servicemen of World War 1 died.
Harry Patch, the last survivor of the trenches of the western front, was 111, while Henry Allingham, a founding member of the RAF, was 113.
They weren’t quite the last veteran survivors of that war, though – that title goes to Florence Green, who was a member of the Women’s Royal Air Force and died in 2012 at the age of 110 – the last First World War veteran from any country in the world.
With their deaths, along with the deaths of all the other servicemen and women who served in that conflict, World War I has passed from memory to history.
And it’s for this reason that Remembrance becomes more important every year.
As past conflicts fade into the history books, and those who fought in them pass away, we need to try even harder to remember what has gone before.
This is not in an attempt to glorify war or rejoice over defeated enemies or claim some special privilege or glory for our own country.
Rather it is important to remember for two reasons.
Firstly, to honour the sacrifice and courage of those who’ve fought and died for us.
To ensure that their sacrifices are recognised and honoured.
To renew our gratitude for all that the members of our Armed Forces have done and continue to do to keep us safe.
And secondly, we need to remember in the hope that by remembering we might find a way to lasting peace.
As the well-known saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”.
We hear this saying a lot, so much so that it’s become almost a cliché, but it’s an important message to us in our uncertain times.
As nationalism, prejudice, division and hatred rise across the world, as democracy is tested by authoritarian leaders, we may hear echoes of the darkness that led to the Second World War – and we need people who will remember the horrors of that time and stand up for the progress that we’ve made in democracy, justice, human rights, tolerance, diversity and respect.
This is not an easy task, and it’s easy to be tempted to despair in the face of darkness, but we do have hope.
We have the hope of knowing that God has sent his Spirit to be with us always, as Jesus promised in our Gospel reading, to guide us, teach us, and help us find the right path.
And in God’s promise to be constantly with us we can also find some peace within our own hearts and lives – the peace that Jesus promised to give us, against all the odds and even when the world is raging around us.
And in this promise of peace we can find hope for the world.
For if we can claim this peace, hold on fast to it in faith and trust, then we will become people of peace, able to start breaking the cycle of revenge, suspicion and hatred that leads people into conflict.
Then we can begin bringing about the vision of peace given to us by Micah, beating swords into ploughshares and creating a world where people all over the world really can sit under their trees and not be afraid.
And in this we can truly honour the sacrifices and bravery shown by Harry Patch, Henry Alllingham, Florence Green, those who have gone from this village to war, and the millions of others who have fought and died for us by bring about the world they strived for – a world of peace for all.