22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Lest we forget: What?

24 April, 2016 Anzac Commemoration Service and Fauré Requiem Easter 5 By Rev Dr Christopher Page


Anzac Commemoration Service and Fauré Requiem

 

Introduction
Some will know that the words “Lest we Forget” are a direct reference from Rudyard Kipling’s poem Recessional, published in 1897.  But where the quote came from does not necessarily explain what it means.

Here are the first two verses:

Recessional
God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine —
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!

For me the expression 'lest we forget' means the same as "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it", written by the Irish/British politician and philosopher Edmund Burke.

Forgetting the reasons why those wars were fought and what those fighters fought for will doom us to having to fight over and over again.

That is one aspect of Kipling’s poem.  

But there is also another aspect to "May we not forget" and that is that it is an ironic reference to Rudyard Kipling's criticism of the British monarchy and the imperial powers of his time. The poem 'Recessional', composed for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, was also a mournful reminder of Christ's humble sacrifice at the hands of the Roman Empire.

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget — lest we forget!

The poem is a prayer. It describes two fates that befall even the most powerful people, armies and nations, and that threatened the British Empire at the time: passing out of existence, and lapsing from Christian faith. The prayer entreats God to spare 'us' (the British Empire) from these fates, 'lest we forget' the sacrifice of Christ.

The poem went against the celebratory mood of the time, providing instead a reminder of the transient nature of British imperial power.  In the poem, Kipling argues that boasting and jingoism, faults of which he was often accused, were inappropriate and vain in the light of the presence of God.

One of the Great Paradoxes of Life
Tomorrow we “celebrate” Anzac Day and each year when we do we are caught within a great paradox.  Our religion and the words of the founder of our faith opposed war.  From loving our neighbours Jesus makes the remarkable leap to loving our enemies.  A way of being in the world that seems impossible and an idle dream.  That is one side of the paradox…. War and violence are not the way of the Kingdom of God, and those who are followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

And yet there is another side to this issue and that is the need in all of us to honour and respect those whose lives have been taken in battle.  I don’t find the expression “give their lives for their nation” very helpful.  I think few willingly give up their lives in wars.  Most soldiers want to come home to family, friends and their country.

But it is this paradox, that we stand against war and violence as the solution to human conflict, and yet in this painfully imperfect world we stop and stand in silence to contemplate the deaths of soldiers, civilians and even the destruction of the earth.  Someone once said that the opposite of truth is error.  But the opposite of a great truth (what scholars have called mythic truth) is another great truth.  That is what a paradox is!

The Great Truth I am not willing to discard is found in the words of Jesus, to love even our enemies.  Because I can glimpse that if we are to evolve and, as I mentioned last week, to become more God-like, then this is the goal to which we must all strive.

But the other great truth is found in the human experience of suffering, adversity and war.  In those dark places we can find those who show great courage; bravery; heroism; sacrifice and selflessness. And even when those qualities are little seen, we continue to acknowledge the value of a human life with honour, reverence and respect.

Fauré’s Requiem
Gabriel Fauré was a French composer and organist.  He had to play various Requiems (Mass for the Dead) throughout his career.  He desired to write a different Requiem and wrote:  "Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest." 1

Written in Latin, this music was to have a universal appeal.  Some criticised it for being too light for a mass for the dead and others for it being too short (about 35 minutes in length). But its genius lies in both criticisms. Today funerals are not only a time of sadness and grief, which they are, but also the celebration of a person’s life, and may I say a celebration of life in general.  And while Fauré presses into service the theology of his day, he wanted the heart of faith to be celebrated and the emphasis of the Requiem to be eternal rest and not just the grave.

What makes the Requiem poignant for this day before Anzac Day is that Fauré’s view of death was a celebration of new life. He intended that his Requiem be played in both the church and the concert hall.  All life is sacred space (my words not his).  But ending on a lighter note, I read this comment Fauré made to an interviewer:

As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.2

 

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1.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_(Fauré)

2.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_(Fauré)

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