St. John the Baptist Church Wolverley
Remembrance Sunday Sermon
The Bible Reading is from St Matthew chapter 5
Love for Enemies
43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Today we are honouring all those who died fighting for our country. But I also want to honour, as well, those who didn’t fight but who were still affected. Last year I based my talk on the 1st world war. Today I’m talking about the 2nd world war. And in particular what happened to one family. I hope itt will help us think about why we need to honour both the military and civilians involved.
Also I’m basing my talk on what Jesus said about enemies. You’ve heard it already. ‘But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
In the second world war men who were Christian thought long and hard about this verse. Should they fight or not. After thinking about how to love their enemies, they came to different conclusions. Some decided that Jesus was telling them not to fight but to love your enemies. These men refused to fight and were called conscientious objectors. But today I’m not going to talk about these.
So let’s introduce the four people.
Last week I did the funeral Edna Lowe who died aged 97 and has lived in Kidderminster all her life. For the past 5 years since she became frail I’ve taken her Holy Communion and we’ve talked. She told me often about her dead husband Sam. He was a good Christian man - he prayed and read his Bible.
In 1939 Sam thought about this loving your enemies and to pray for those who persecuted and decided that as Germany was invading other countries this was not fair and by stopping Hitler and his government by going to war and fighting them, he was indeed loving his enemies. You always try to stop people you love doing bad things even when if it means hurting them. Loving people means you want the best for them. Grabbing hard a child who is about to put their finger in an electric socket is loving them.
Sam decided to join up and he persuaded his two brothers, Sid and Jim, to go with him to the recruiting office to enlist so that he could go and fight against Germany.
Once he and his brothers had filled in the forms, Sam was invited into another office and his two brothers left where they were. He presumed for some reason Sid and Jim weren’t going to be able to join the army and he could.
However, it was the other way around. He was told because he was a metal beater he was in a reserved occupation and therefore was needed in this country. He was sent to a factory in Birmingham making spitfire aeroplanes. For the whole war he did just that. He worked nights and travelled from Kidderminster to Birmingham.
By half way through the 2nd world war Edna and Sam got married at St Mary’s here in Kidderminster. She told me about her early married life.
From Kidderminster at night you could see on the horizon the fires in Birmingham after the bombs had been dropped. And of course the target for the bombs was the factory Sam was working in. There were no phones, no mobiles. Every night Edna waited to hear the knock on the door saying that a bomb had landed Sam’s factory and he was dead. Those were long nights as Edna waited for the knock on the door with the bad news.
At first, Sam envied his two brothers who could fight for Britain.
Jim joined the army and went to France and was killed on the D-Day landing. He was killed by an explosive device. It was said there wasn’t a mark on him. The air was just sucked out of him and he died.
Sid was sent to Burma and worked on the Burma Sian railway. At the end of the war he was setting off home on a Japanese Military Transport ship the British were using. However, the ship was still flying the Japanese flag and the Americans bombed the ship killing everyone including Sid Lowe.
If you go to Kidderminster’s war memorial outside St Mary’s church you will see their names.
Sam came back to work in Kidderminster and lived a long life; he died just before their 60th wedding anniversary. But Sam was scarred by the memory of his two dead brothers and the fact he was still alive and he’d persuaded them to join up. He’d gone as a Christian following his conscience but this wasn’t the outcome he’d expected.
Edna too never really recovered from Sam’s brother’s deaths. She was still talking about it 69 years later.
Today let’s honour those who died fighting for our country but let’s also honour those who like Sam and Edna suffered too because of what war did to their family.
And still today for us Christian Jesus calls us to think through what he meant when we said But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Do I pray for the people who are following the Wahabi sect and calling themselves Isis? How might we love Isis? Should we fight them? If Sam was here he might say yes fighting will stop them. They like the Nazis are caught up in an wrong doctrine and need rescuing from it like the child from the electric socket. Others might say no - by loving our enemies we must try other ways of stopping Isis - through putting pressure on them or through cutting off their funding.
But we are called to think through Jesus’ words. And think and pray about your response to loving your enemies.
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