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Sermon and Worship Resources for Ordinary 32 - Year A
(Remembrance Sunday)
Joshua 24:1-3a,14-25; Psalm 78:1-7; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13
"Encouraging One Another" - by Rev. Kim Gilliland

This sermon was written by the Rev. Kim Gilliland ( of the United Church of Canada for Ordinary 32 - Proper 27 (Remembrance Day / Armistice Day Sunday in Canada). Kim posted this sermon to his Internet Page titled "Sermons from The Espanola Pastoral Charge" in 1999. Kim has since moved from Espanola and the page has been discontinued. These resources are reproduced with permission on the "Sermons and Sermon - Lectionary Resources" site.

ONE:  Let us open our minds to God's teaching;
ALL:  and tune our ear to God's word.
ONE:  Let us listen to the stories of the faith of our ancestors;
ALL:  and share our stories with our children.
ONE:  We put our trust in God;
ALL:  we worship the one who gives us life.

God of Heaven and Earth, God of the sunrise and the sunset, God of the highest 
mountain and the deepest valley, hear our prayers as we come before your throne 
of glory. Declare your message to us and grant us the courage to listen.  May 
our listening turn to action.  May our actions touch the hearts of those who need 
to hear your voice. We put our trust in you knowing that it is well placed in 
your gentle and caring hands.

God of Mercy and Light, forgive us for walking in darkness of our own making. 
Forgive us for not being ready to receive your love.  Forgive us when we move in 
the wrong direction and away from your word.  Forgive us and help us to share. 
Forgive us and help us to shine. Forgive us and help us to shelter those in need. 
Light a pathway for us to follow, O God of all Creation.

God is patient and kind, gentle and loving, slow to anger and quick to laugh. 
God's love overflows the deepest sin. Be assured that, when we repent of our sin, 
we are forgiven.  Through faith in Christ Jesus, we are invited to share in the
everlasting life.

SERMON:  Encouraging One Another

"So then, encourage one another with these words."  (1 Thessalonians 4: 18)

Growing up thirty years ago in a family with a fairly strong military background, 
I was keenly aware of the need to serve Queen and country.  Every year, we would 
make our pilgrimage downtown to watch the Remembrance Day Parade.  The veterans 
would form up and march by on their way to the cenotaph ceremony.  There were lots 
of them back then.  Korea was practically yesterday.  WW II was a scant 15 years 
in the past and the women and men who fought in it were then, for the most part, 
younger than I am now.  Many WW I veterans hadn't yet retired. 

Row upon row of soldiers would march by with smiles on their faces and a clip to 
their step in time with the marching bands.  My mother and sister and I would stand 
on the sidewalk waving little Red Ensigns and trying to keep warm.  We always 
waited for Dad to come by with the other volunteers from the R.C.N.V.R.  My moment 
of glory, however, was watching my grandfather march past. Of all the contingents 
of soldiers, his was the smallest - the ones who had fought with the British Army 
in the Boer War of South Africa way back in the 1890's. 

This all brings us to the Remembrance Day 1999. This is, for me, one of the most
meaningful and moving acts of worship in the entire year.  Preparing for it, I 
find myself going back to all of the stories that were told to me by my relatives 
about what it was like to live through war.  My father would sometimes talk about 
his days in the Navy out of Halifax.  Mom would talk about the black outs and 
making airplane parts in a converted vacuum cleaner factory in Hamilton.  One uncle 
who served in an armoured division in Africa, sometimes, would tell a few things 
about his experience in the tanks - but not often.  Another Uncle who lived 
through Dieppe and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner never said one word about 
it - I don't think he could.

The stories of the war on both the civilian and military side were a powerful feature
of my childhood.  But some of the most powerful stories are the ones about people
supporting and encouraging each other in times of struggle and suffering.

The story of a woman whose husband has just left for who knows where for who knows 
how long:

I couldn't bear to see him go. We'd only been married for 18 months.  But there he 
was looking out at me through the greasy glass of the passenger train.  Trying to 
smile.  Waving a hand.  Holding the carnation I had given him as we spent our last 
few minutes together on the platform of the train station.

We were both trying to be so brave but I couldn't let go of the thought that this 
might be the last time I ever saw him.  And, if that was going to be the way it 
was, every moment, every sound and smell and texture was going to be cherished 
and stored away in my heart and mind.

Finally, the engine blew its whistle.  There was a lurch as the train began its 
journey.  "This is it!" I thought.  "This is it!  He's really going.  Tell me it's 
not so!"  But it was so and as the train picked up speed, we tried to watch one 
another through the glass until the last possible moment.  Then he was gone.

I watched as the train powered out of the station.  Car after car passed and finally 
the caboose.  I watched it until every last car was out of sight and then I stood 
there and just started to sob. 

Then there was a touch on my shoulder.  I turned my head to see another woman, one 
whom I had never seen before.  In her eyes were understanding. "I know what you're 
going through," they seemed to say.  Then without saying a word, she came around to 
face me and she reached out her arms and held me - held me as the tears flowed. 
Held me as I let go of all my grief and fear and anger.  She cried as well and we 
held each other until we could cry no more.

It was so good to know that she was there, that there was someone who knew what I 
was going through and that I was not alone.  I will never forget her act of support 
and encouragement.

The story of a man who remembers his first mission over France and Germany in a
Lancaster bomber:

My stomach felt like the new wringer washer that Mom just bought.  What wasn't 
being sloshed about was being squeezed dry.  I was new to the crew, an 18 year old 
tail gunner - the most dangerous position in a bomber.  My predecessor had been 
wounded during the last mission sitting right where I was sitting.  It was a 
sobering thought. 

You couldn't see much in the dark.  We'd left England ages ago and crossed the 
black water toward France.  I kept hoping we were going in the right direction but 
if we were lost then the rest of the squadron was lost too.  I could see them 
faintly around me in the dim moonlight. 

Suddenly the sky behind me let up in an explosion that sent a termor through our
aircraft.  Then another one went off over to the port side.  It was my first taste 
of anti-aircraft fire and it was a frightening thing. 

Suddenly, explosions were going off all around like a hundred flash bulbs all at 
once.  One of the bombers behind us was hit, losing a small piece of its wing but 
it carried on.  Another plane was hit.  One of its engines caught fire. 

I felt a morbid fear well up in side of me.  What if that happens to us?  What if 
we get hit?  There's no knowing who makes it and who doesn't.  What if we don't make 
it?  What if...? 

All I wanted to do was turn around and go home.  But I couldn't.  Suddenly, none of
this made any sense.  I guess I was near panic.

Then I heard the captain's voice on my headset.  "How's it going Duke?  If you're 
a little scared that's okay.  The rest of us are a little scared too.  But we're 
here together and we each have our job to do.  I know that you can do yours.  Just
settle down.  Sing a song for us, why don't you.  We'll be out of this in no time.
You'll see."

I heard what he had to say and tried to think of a song but the only one I could 
think of was Jesus Loves Me.  So I started singing it: "Jesus loves me, this I know, 
for the Bible tells me so..."  When I finished the second verse, I heard a few 
snickers from the rest of the crew but that was okay.  It let me know they were 
there and listening and caring. 

The pilot was right.  It wasn't long before we were through the ack-ack and on to 
the target.  We got back to England safely on that first mission.  Two aircraft from 
our squadron weren't so lucky.  The encouragement that I received from the rest of 
the crew was such a big help.  I will never forget those guys.

The story of a nurse who served in a field hospital remembering a young soldier 
who came in with severe wounds:

The stretcher bearers brought the unconscious soldier into the field hospital and 
laid him in the waiting area.  Then they were gone again.  His right leg was 
shattered - part of it missing.  There was a tourniquet on it.  The first aid team 
had done their job well. 

I started to clean him up and look for any less obvious injuries.  With a wet towel
I began to clean some of the mud off of his face and neck.  What I discovered was 
the most beautiful face.  It was boyish and without blemish - like the face of an 
angel.  I paused for a moment.  As I was looking at him, his eyes flickered and 
opened.  They were a clear, deep blue.

At first, he was confused and scared, still in shock.  I told him who I was and where 
he was and that he was going to be okay.

He said he was scared and could I stay with him.  I looked around.  He was the only 
one waiting for surgery.  "Sure," I said. "I'll stay with you as long as you want." 
Then I took his hand and he squeezed mine tightly.

We sat there like that for more than half an hour.  He would drift in and out of
consciousness and when he woke up, he was always scared.  But when he looked up and 
saw me, he would relax, squeeze my hand and, once again, close his eyes to rest.

Finally, it was his turn for surgery.  He squeezed my hand one last time and was gone
to the O.R.

That was the end of his soldiering days.  It's tough to march on one leg.  He was
stabilized and, the next day, shipped further back behind the lines toward England. 
For the longest time, the image of his angelic face stayed in my mind.  I wondered 
how he made out.  Then, one day, I got a letter from him.  In that letter, he told 
me what a comfort I had been to him during those very dark hours.  "I still wake up
frightened sometimes," he wrote," but when I do, I think of you there beside me, 
holding my hand, and I feel a lot better.  You will never know what an encouragement 
you were to me.  Thank you."

The stories of encouragement are some of the most powerful stories of all. 
Encouragement comes in many forms.  Through an embrace, through words, just by 
being there.  People were able to communicate their concern and their care for 
one another.

In 1 Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul tells the young Christians another story.  It 
is a story that is meant to encourage them in times of persecution that they were
beginning to face.  It was not a story about what had happened in the past.  It was 
a story of what the future was going to hold for them.

Read 1 Thessalonians 4: 13 - 18:

"The day of the Lord is coming," he wrote, "when the heavens will open up and we 
will see Jesus Christ descending through the clouds to be with us once again,
forevermore.  He will come to gather us up to be together - the living and the 
dead - and to be in God's Kingdom.  Until that time, take heart, have hope and 
never stop encouraging one another."

Paul doesn't take the time in this letter to describe the Kingdom of God in any 
detail but, in other places, it is spoken of a place of peace and justice.  God's 
reign will be one in which there will be no war and no suffering.  It will be a 
place where everyone has enough to eat and drink and a roof over their heads.  No 
one will be a slave to another.  There will be no subservience or subordination. 
No one will be oppressed, persecuted or marginalized.

That is the time toward which Paul and the early Christians were looking.  In the 
face of pain, the coming Kingdom was the image that gave the people hope.  Sharing 
that image encouraged the people of Thessalonica to carry on in the face of great

In an odd kind of way, I have come to believe that those young Canadians who went 
to war were working toward a vision of the Kingdom of God.  For sure, God's Kingdom 
is not one of warfare, bloodshed and suffering.  It is, however, one of self-
sacrifice and one in which persecution and injustice cannot be tolerated.  We all 
know that that Kingdom will not be completed until Christ returns at his Second 
Coming to finally defeat the forces of evil once and for all.  In struggling against 
the human forces of evil, all of the people who contributed to the war effort sought 
to offer a glimmer of light to many for whom the world must have seemed a very dark 
and bitter place. 

We need to remember them, their struggle and sacrifice.  And we need to thank God 
for the encouragement that they give to us when we wonder where our world is going 
and sometimes are tempted to lose hope. 

The torch of justice and freedom must be passed on to each generation.  May we hold 
it high and honour it as legacy to be cherished and continued. 

Lest we forget.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast
and our eternal home.

You, O God, are our God.  You are with us in all the times of life to offer hope 
and light and comfort. 

We come to you now with thanks: thanks for our freedom; thanks for our peace; 
thanks for our prosperity and security.  On this Remembrance Sunday, we thank you, 
especially, for the women and men who gave of themselves in times of war to help 
to ensure the blessings that we enjoy.  The names, the faces, the stories come to 
us, once again, and we honour them, their courage, their sacrifice, their 
willingness to put themselves in harms way for a better cause.

May we never forget.  May we never, again, march off to war.  But if there is a 
need, let those of us of younger generations go forth as faithfully as did our 
ancestors that the cause of peace and justice may be defended and upheld.

Coming back to this past week, we also give thanks for those who work so diligently
around the Church.  We thank you for those who helped out in the Webbwood's turkey
supper and in the upcoming Bazaar in Espanola.  Keep us faithful, O God, and give us 
the encouragement that we need.  May we encourage one another in the faith and 
ministry of Jesus Christ.

We pray for the sick of our congregation and community.  On this day, we lift up in
prayer (offer names of the sick). Be with them and all of us offering healing and 
hope and strength to see beyond our problems to the glory of your Kingdom.

Build that Kingdom.  Increase your reign and draw us together in the peace of Christ. 

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while troubles last
and our eternal home.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen

You have trusted us with a great abundance, O God. You have blessed us with 
immeasurable gifts.  Not only do we bring our tithes and offerings to the table. 
We also bring our whole lives asking that you would sanctify us and our gifts 
for the work of your Holy Kingdom.

The world seeks light amidst the shadows. Jesus calls us to shine in the darkness. 
May we, in our lives, be examples of God's love. 

Copyright: Sermon by Rev. Kim Gilliland 1999 - 2005
           Page by Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
          please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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