Every year on the second Sunday of November, in some way we step into that place where words run out. In a little while we shall gather at the War Memorial and there, though words are used they are given to surround the silence.
We might think that nothing much happens in that silence and stillness that will envelope our nation at 11am, but it’s an intense two minutes when we are deliberately doing something important, stopping, being still and remembering.
And though we do so to remember those who have given their lives in the service of our nation, I think we all have some experience of those times when words run out, when we are speechless.
Silence is such a powerful thing and for me is an integral part of every funeral I take, the silence even if just for a few moments is often powerful and moving.
However there is more, for when faced with sadness and loss, though silence has its place, we often cope by doing something more tangible than staying in the place where words run out because we cannot stay there for ever anyway.
And when we do that we’re in good company. Think of the followers of Jesus after he had died on the cross, they needed to do something.
So they came for his lifeless body, lovingly preparing it for burial. Perhaps washing it, gently cleaning his hands, examining the wounds that defined his final hours. That doing for them must have been hard, yet it was something that helped them grieve.
Likewise we too to do things to help us cope with loss and sadness.
For example we take flowers and tend the graves of our loved ones. Our churchyard is a sacred space for many and though its visitors know their loved one has died somehow by going there, they feel closer to them and in tending and decorating the grave and perhaps chatting away while they do it, it helps.
With that image of doing as more than just silence we return to this Remembrance Sunday and what we shall do a little later at our war memorial. For alongside the silence, wreaths are also placed, we do something tangible as we affirm that we shall remember them.
For me in all of this that we do, particularly at this time of year, the silence, the tending of graves and placing of wreaths the rituals that speak to us so deeply we find echoes in this Eucharist in which we do this in remembrance of Jesus.
Before his death, Jesus gave us this sacred meal where we would meet him. Consequently when we do this in remembrance of him, when we break bread, we meet him afresh and as we receive him are made new.
Inevitably when we do this we fall silent too not because words have run out through loss and grief, but because we have met the living God and from that encounter flows reverence and awe, wonder, praise and hope.
And through this encounter, celebrated by God’s people, week by week, day by day we are united with Christians down the ages. Indeed we remember too how this sacred meal has given hope to those gathered around altars on battlefields and in hospitals, then as now we remember how when we receive Christ we are infused with hope, taken beyond that which hinders, limits and frustrates and sustained for our journey with him.
It’s fitting then that when we gather at the War Memorial we have been renewed with hope through the bread of life.
As we look around our world this and it seems every year, things can sometimes seem hopeless. Hardness of heart seems to prevail, the weak and vulnerable are abused and human life is diminished. We never seem to learn and yet here, as we meet Christ in word and sacrament our hope and vision is renewed.
So on this Remembrance Sunday as we remember those who have given their lives for freedom and justice, in the silence where words runs out. May we recommit ourselves in our own small way to honour their memory as we work for peace and reconciliation and we do this sustained as we are by the prince of peace, whose life in us, changes and reshapes us and gives us hope. And hope is what we need.