How Should we Remember?
Last week Channel 4 Newsreader Jon Snow got into trouble in the media over his reluctance to wear a poppy on TV ahead of Remembrance Sunday (actually he has form on this, so perhaps this isn't news at all!) A viewer left a comment on his blog admonishing him for not wearing the poppy and so dishonouring British war dead and our troops in Afghanistan…
Mr Snow’s response was to refer to this type of attitude as “poppy fascism” before going on to say that it was to protect our freedoms, including the freedom of when or if we want to wear a poppy that British soldiers died in the last world war and continue to die in current conflicts… He said he prefers to wear his on Remembrance Sunday in Church rather than for weeks coming up to that date on the TV.
I have to say that I agree with Mr Snow’s response… I referred last Sunday to the great price of our freedom have been purchased… And I will wear my poppy in proud remembrance of that fact both today and this coming Sunday (all be it with a white poppy to mark my commitment to peace and peacemaking)… but it is wrong to dictate to someone how they should remember the sacrifice of others…
I also said that last Sunday was our monthly communion service, where we remember, not the sacrifice of soldiers in war… but the sacrifice made by the prince of peace… And in a simple sharing of bread and wine we remember the freedom that he won for us through his death… Not simply social and political freedoms, but freedom from sin and death…
In a few weeks time a new "Eucharistic Fellowship" will be having its first public event in one of the churches of which I am nominally the superintendent. Those organising the event say:
“As Christians from different traditions, Roman Catholic and Protestant, we are thankful for the wide-embracing love of Christ, proclaimed and received in theThe first celebration of Communion will be in Knock Methodist Church on Monday 22nd November at 8.00pm to which all are welcome. Subsequent celebrations will be held on January 25 (Catholic), March 7 (Church of Ireland) and May 3 (Presbyterian) with specific venues to be published later.
celebration of Communion. We acknowledge the differences which exist in theological and liturgical practice and request respect for those differences, particularly in the Eucharistic discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. However, we believe firmly that the joy of being present at the Eucharistic worship of another Christian tradition is greater than the pain experienced by observing this Eucharistic discipline. We hope that we will contribute to bringing nearer the day on which we may share a common Eucharist.”
Its on a Monday night, and I don't do Monday nights, and I don't entirely buy into their logic, but I do applaud what they are seeking to do... We have a lot to learn from our varied practices in remembering the Lord's death... And I look forward to the day when all of those who seek to follow Christ can share at one table, wherever that table is... But I hope that no-one ever dictates to me, or expects me to dictate to anyone else the rights and wrongs of how we remember Christ's sacrifice for us.
And the symbols (and liturgy) are not everything. Just because Jon Snow doesn't wear a poppy except in the Remembrance Service in his local church, it doesn't mean he doesn't remember the soldiers who have given their lives in the past and who are still serving overseas, And when it comes to Christ's death... it isn't something that we should remember during a formal service of Holy Communion (however frequent that may be... and John Wesley recommended daily communion...) but much more regularly than that:
In the earliest record of the Jesus words at the Last Supper he says:
There are those who argue that this is Jesus referring to every time the disciples celebrate Passover, and there is a possibility of that, but it is more likely that he is suggesting that every time they break bread and share wine together, not just in a sacramental meal, but in every late night supper, in every shared meal... That we should remember that we are bound together there not simply by the rules of table fellowship and friendship, but by the body and blood of Jesus himself.
"This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."
(1 Corinthians 11:24-25)
(An adaptation of my Just a Moment for Downtown Radio this morning)