The Parish Church of Sarum St. Martin, Salisbury Wiltshire

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From the Priest-In-Charge of Sarum St. Martin’s

Remebrance Sunday 2017

Go into any city, town or village in the United Kingdom and you will discover a War Memorial.  These will range from the very elaborate to the very plain.  Each was erected as a means of remembering those who had gone to the colours, to the guns, gone to the mast to serve their King and their country in warfare but did not return.  Their bodies were laid to rest in a corner of a foreign field, or in the depths the ocean, that will forever be England.  On those memorials will often be seen that verse from St. John’s Gospel; ‘Greater love hath no man than this that he lays down his life for his friends’, words well used today up and down our country.  What do these words mean?

That verse comes from Our Lord’s Great High Priestly Prayer as recorded in St. John’s Gospel.  In that prayer the Lord Jesus is teaching the apostles and through them us, the meaning of what He is about to do.  This Great High Priestly Prayer is so dense with meaning that I need to teaze out for you what the Lord is actually saying.

The meaning begins with God: God Most High, the Creator and Sustainer of all things wants nothing more than for we humans to live in His Love, to be united with Him in His love and so know Him. And God Most High gave to Israel the means by which they could come to know that outpouring of heavenly love. This was in the great Temple Sacrifice and Feast Day, the Day of Atonement.  The Day of Atonement was the holiest day of the year in which the sins of Israel were taken away in the sacrifice of bulls and goats.  This was the day in which the life of heaven burst out through the Veil of the Temple when the High Priest, transformed by the ritual into a son of God, sprinkled the blood upon the Veil, the altar and the holy city of Jerusalem.  In that moment God Most High and His people were at one and life was very good.  God always wants us to know that life and so always gives the means by which we may know that life.  In the fullness of his good time he put away this Temple sacrifice and in His own Incarnate Body He sprinkled His very life blood upon the Veil of the Temple so that it was rent in two from top to bottom, upon the altar of the Cross and upon the holy city of the New Jerusalem.  God Most High in His Son is now the means by which we, the new Israel, may know that life of God, may be part of that life of God, so that, ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ God’s true life that never knows darkness, that never knows pain, that never can come to an end, may be ours, ours to share that all may know and so come to live in God.  And the only way in which that life has come to us is because, ‘Greater love hath no man than this that he lays down his life for his friends’.  Jesus did this and calls upon us who claim Him as Lord to do the same, yes actually to do the same, if so called upon to do.

Soldiers will tell you that when they are shoulder by shoulder with their comrades the last thing that is going through his mind is King and Country, even if it was the appeal to this ideal that made them enlist in the first place.  The King is after all a distant idea seen only on coins or postage stamps, or bank notes, and as for country, well, yes those soldiers of the Great War knew that they belonged to greatest Empire the world had ever seen, but to them, I reckon the knot of streets in which they lived and worked meant more to them than all the

Fr David Fisher

imperial splendour of cities and towns far more imposing than their own. No, as they waited for the whistles to blow, those soldiers were remembering their ‘friends’; the blokes either side of them and those down along the trench line and also their loved ones at home.  These were the friends, greater love of whom hath no man than this that he lays down his life for them.  So, today we are called to remember those who answered the call a hundred years ago, and again eighty years ago, so many of whom never marched back to the places they loved and fought for with their friends who had stood with them in the trenches, on the battlefield, on the ships and in the air.  Therefore, let us reflect upon that verse from Our Lord’s Great High Priestly Prayer and remember that unlike those fallen soldiers of the Great War and the Second World War, Our Lord did not give His today so that we might have His life in a tomorrow.  Rather He gave His Life in Loving Sacrifice to His Father that all those whom He calls and who respond to His call might have life in the eternal today of Heaven, even here on earth as it is in heaven, and so let us rejoice and give God Most High eternal thanks and praise that Jesus is He who indeed has no greater love than this that He lays down his life for his friends.  And we are those friends of Jesus.  And let us as we rejoice as Christians in the foretaste of heaven and in the remembrance of those who fought and died that we might have freedom from satanic tyranny resolve to labour in those ways given to us by God to keep alive the love of God in Jesus in a world that grows darker and more separated by the day.  Let us as did those soldiers of our country stand shoulder to shoulder in a common comradeship that resists the evil that would drive us apart, that when Christ the True High Priest of our Faith should come again He will find us prepared to greet him in amity with all humankind after His example shown and lived on the altar of the Cross, that we might know His New Life in His Resurrection and so share it with all humankind.



Almighty God, you have made us members of Christ and of his Church in this parish. May we as a congregation reach upwards to your throne in worship and adoration: inwards to one another in understanding and fellowship; and outwards to the world in evangelism and social compassion. Make us like a city set on a hill whose light cannot be hidden, so that men and women may find Christ as the Light of the World, and his Church as the family of the redeemed, and eternal life as the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

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