The Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost

Message given at the cenotaph at Mildenhall

We live in an age of the influencer, the celebrity, social media, the promotion of self – and, it seems, the goal of living is getting the most one can by any means possible – and hence corruption is a global scourge at the expense of service, duty, integrity.

One of the things that struck us here particularly but it was noted globally was how the late Queen, Elizabeth II, spoke on her 21st birthday committing herself to serving her people however long or short her life would be.

If the soldier above me used Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, what messages do we think we’d hear? In the social media storms that arise, I’m pretty sure that whatever was said would create conflict – which seems to be a constant part of humanity and communities – whether that be families or countries.

We are here again – at another Remembrance Sunday – because the response to conflict – and now we’re not talking about neighbours squabbling over a fence – but oppression, injustice, aggression, crimes, war crimes – involves service, duty, and integrity – not self promotion but doing what was required at the front, on sea, in the air, and at home – to the point even of the ultimate sacrifice – whether their life be long or short.

We are here to acknowledge the greatness of service, the quietness of service, getting the task done – yes, we may think 1914-1918, 1939-1945, but there are more – as earlier this year we gathered to acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War – because where there are people together, there are always opportunities to serve, to have integrity, and to seek peace and justice for all.

The man who spoke the words on that mountain (Matthew 5:1-12) about a world of comfort, humility, righteousness, justice, mercy, peace and peace making would take up a towel and wash feet. That’s a fascinating picture of God to contemplate, as is a cross. 

Such a message heard around a cenotaph such as this one at a time such as today sends a message to us all that serving those around us with compassion, justice, and peace – and with integrity – might be what the soldier above me would tweet. We thank those who have served us in the past. And we can commit to serve today so that tomorrow and future generations live well.