Remembrance Sunday Talk

Remembrance Day

On Remembrance Sunday, it is a time to reflect on the wars that have been fought in our recent history, but perhaps also about the wars going on in the world now. As we do so we hold in tension a desire to honour, even celebrate the courage and sacrifice of those who have given or risked their lives for our freedoms with a need to remember the horror of war, so that we seek peace. Today, I want to focus on the horror of war.

The Horror of War

It’s horror

The poem that the mayor chose and read a little while ago, brings out some of the horror of war. It is a horror that was especially expressed by the poets after the great and tragic loss of life in the First World War.

Yet, it is also a horror that we see so clearly in Ukraine now. This week, one expert estimated that around 100,000 Russian soldiers and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured in the war so far. In addition to that 1,000s of civilians have also been killed and millions have fled as refugees. It’s hard to grasp what those numbers mean, but they are more than numbers, they are countless stories of individual tragedy.

Before the war, Irina and Ivan were a married couple living happily in Mariupol in Ukraine. Ivan was an engineer at the steelworks and Irina was a manager of a clothes shop. They had been trying for a baby for many years and were overjoyed when finally Irina fell pregnant. It was going to be a boy and they were going to call him Miron.

By the time Miron was due, the war had begun and Russian troops had surrounded Mariupol and were bombarding the city as they sought to capture this important strategic point on the South East coast of Ukraine.

One of the most notorious moments in the war so far was the bombing of the maternity hospital in Mariupol. Irina was in the maternity hospital when it happened. It was a devastating attack in which Irina about to give birth was seriously injured. She was carried across the rubble on a stretcher an image that was photographed and used in the news media around the world. They tried to deliver the baby by Caesarean Section, but Miron was already dead. Irina learning of the death of her long hoped for child lost the will to live herself and soon also died of her injuries. Ivan had to bury his wife and his newborn child together.

Their story is just one among thousands from Ukraine over the last year. War is horrible.

It’s root: Sin – James 4:1-2

But why is there war at all?

John Lennon in his song, Imagine, sang:

“Imagine there’s no countries,

It isn’t hard to do,

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people living life in peace…”

The implication is that wars are caused by countries and religions. If you could get rid of countries and religions then we could all just live together in peace.

But is that really true? Yes, countries and religions are often the excuse for wars, but are they really the cause.

James, who was Jesus’s brother, suggests another reason for war. In your service sheets look at the quote from James 4:1-2:

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.” (James 4:1-2)

In other words he says the real root of war is within the heart of every human being – our own selfish desires that lead us to exploit, bully and kill others to get our own way. The Bible calls this inner attitude, ‘Sin!’

Nations when they work well control and limit sin, by putting in place and enforcing laws to stop people hurting each other. Yet sadly, wars come about when nations allow these inner selfish attitudes to determine their policy. Just as Russia has invaded Ukraine  in order to achieve its own selfish goals. It’s because of such threats that we need a nation with strong armed forces as a deterrent against the sin of other nations threatening us.

So, nations can control and limit sin, but they cannot change the hearts of people, its ultimate cause. That is where religion comes in.

It’s opposite: Peace  – Isaiah 2:4

The second quote comes from Isaiah, a prophet in the Old Testament that lived during a time when his nation, Judah was invaded a number of times by other nations. He would have known and seen the horror of war. Yet, 2,700 years before John Lennon he also imagined a better future.

“The Lord will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)

It was a vision of a future with no war not brought about by the abolition of nations and religion, but brought about by God himself bringing peace between nations!

Yet, is this just a dream? How can peace become a reality?

Jesus, the Prince of Peace

This is where Jesus comes in. Jesus did not experience the horror of battle, but he did die an horrific death at the hand of Roman soldiers. He was crucified, because of the selfish desires and jealousies of the religious leaders of his own nation. He came to us as the Son of God, the Prince of Peace and what did we do to him? We murdered him. Here is the horror of sin writ large!

Yet, Jesus’s death was also a moment of supreme courage and sacrifice. He gave his life willingly, because somehow through his death the power of sin is neutralised as he took God’s anger at our sin on himself and went on to conquer death in his resurrection.

And he did this because he loves us. He himself said in the second reading:

“Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

And so he calls those who accept and trust in this great act of love and choose to follow him, to love in return. Love is the opposite of sin. It is the desire to treat the other as important and as valuable as yourself, so that you don’t exploit them to get what you want, but like Jesus, you are willing to make sacrifices for their good. As the world is transformed by this love of Jesus, so peace grows and wars cease.

Of course this is still a work in progress, even those who have claimed to be followers of Jesus, often fail to live this out as Jesus wants. But ultimately, as Christians today, our hope, like Isiaiah’s is not in what we might achieve, but in the promised future God will bring about, when Jesus returns. We look with hope to a life beyond this life, where there will be no more wars or suffering or pain or peace. A life not without God, but where we see him face to face. That may feel like a far off dream, but when like Isaiah we have confidence in God’s ultimate plan for the future, we will want to help to bring it about as much as is possible now.

We need nations and our armed forces to control the worst effects of human sin and evil. But, will you come to Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to help transform your heart and have hope for a better future?

Christmas Tree Festival

Would you like to decorate a tree for the Christmas Tree festival at St. George’s this year?

We invite friends, families, schools, organisations, Church Hall users, businesses in the town and those who are in sympathy with the restoration of this beautiful church to exhibit a small decorated tree in the FIFTEENTH CHRISTMAS TREE FESTIVAL and make it the best ever.

We feel that a real tree of 3 to 4 feet in height would be suitable.  We are able to supply stands and if you would like us to order a tree for you please indicate on your response, the price is £23.  In previous years visitors have commented on the lovely scent as well as the magical sight which greeted them as they entered the church.

Suggestions for decoration include Christmas Carol or song, a colour theme or something specifically connected with the exhibitor.  We have an electrical supply.  For businesses this is an inexpensive way to advertise and also to support the church.

Setting up will take place on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th December between 2 – 5pm and the Festival will be open to visitors from 9th – 18th December.  Opening times are 2 – 5pm on each day.

Trees remain the property of the exhibitor but most people are happy to leave them in the church throughout the Christmas period.  If you want to remove your tree would you tell us so that we can arrange a time.

There will be a small prize for the favourite tree chosen by visitors.

To apply to have a tree in the festival, please download complete and return the form below with a cheque for £23 by Saturday 26th November.

Youth Initiative (YI) , Sundays 5:00-7:30pm

The rest of this term YI are trialling a new pattern for their get togethers. The youth have said that they want to take more opportunities to invite friends along.  So, we are relocating to the church hall, where we start the evening at 5:00pm with bible study and worship, have food together and then open our doors from 6:30-7:30pm for games and activities.

It would be great to build up a team of volunteers to enable growth in our work with the youth. Please talk to Claire if interested.

Something new that we will now attend as part of our YI program is ‘The Event.’ The Event is a Churches together in Thanet youth meeting that happens the 4th Sunday of each month. It is a great opportunity to meet young people from other churches and youth groups.

So, this month’s YI meets as follows:

  • Sunday 13th November – YI in church hall 5-7:30
  • Sunday 20th November – YI in church hall 5-7:30
  • Sunday 27th November – YI joining The Event 6-8 venue tbc.

Remembrance Sunday

This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday and St. George’s will once again be hosting Ramsgate’s Civic Remembrance Day service. There will be an act of remembrance around the memorial in front of the church leading up to 11am, then we will enter the church for the service itself. We welcome all the cadets, veterans, armed service members and town councillors and members of the mayor’s team.

Confirmation Service

“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through the gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

Confirmation Service at St. Luke’s

This Sunday, there will not be a service at St. George’s as we are joining St. Luke’s for one our twice a year joint services. This is a special confirmation service.

We welcome Bishop Rose to St. Luke’s and confirmation candidates from St. Luke’s, St. Laurence, All Saints Westbrook and St. Mary’s Minster as well as their supporters. The service will be a bit different to normal. There will be Sunday Club to which St. George’s Sunday School members are welcome, but we are encouraging the Secondary School age pupils to join us for the whole service. Sunday Club will re-join us for the baptism and confirmation itself. After the service everyone is welcome to stay for a finger buffet and refreshments.

Paul Worledge writes:

“One of the best things about being a vicar is getting to see how God is at work in people’s lives as he calls them to a living and transformative faith in him. This Sunday we are celebrating what God has been doing in the lives of fourteen of our brothers and sisters in Christ as they are confirmed at St. Luke’s 11am service. Seven are from St. Luke’s and seven from three other local churches.

Each of their stories and journeys are different. Some have grown up in the church, others have only turned to Jesus in the last year or so. Their ages vary from 16 to 60. Some are students, whilst others are at work or unable to work.

They are a diverse group of people, but all are called by the Father, loved by the Son who died for them to save them and have the Holy Spirit working in them to sanctify them. That is transform them to be holy in God’s sight and to live more and more in the wonderful way of Christ. Ultimately with us they will share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ in eternity.

It is also encouraging in hearing their stories how a combination of experiencing Christian community and hearing the truth of God’s word spoken have been foundational in securing their faith. That is as true for those who have grown up in the church as it is for those who have chosen to come to church for the first time.

So, as we rejoice in what God has been doing amongst them, let’s pray that we will see many more come to trust in him in the same way.”

Introducing Jemima Brown, our new Regeneration Officer

Jemima has lived in Broadstairs since 2014 with her husband, their teenage son and a much-loved rescue cat. She also works as an artist and enjoys swimming in the sea.

We are delighted to have her join us to work for 20 hours per week (mainly Monday to Wednesday) to help develop a renewed vision for the use of our buildings and to help raise funds for the associated development. This is a five-year post for Project200 with the hope that our buildings become increasingly  fit for purpose and a great resource for the local community by the church’s 200th anniversary in 2027.

Find out more about Project 200.

Finding Mercy (Luke 18:9-14)

Where does your confidence lie? In the government, family, friends or yourself? In this parable that Jesus tells, it is the one who puts their confidence in God rather than themselves who find true mercy!

Sermon as preached at St. Luke’s on the same day

Where do we put our confidence? I wonder particularly in the past few weeks whether we have questioned where our confidence is placed? Who or what do we trust in? With the crisis of living and the uncertainties that it feels like we face on a weekly basis in the leadership of our country, having lived through an uncertain pandemic, there are many of us that are feeling the pressures of life and might be feeling burdened and prevented from living a full life. We might even be questioning how can we thrive in this life? If we’re truthful isn’t that what we all want? To thrive not just survive?

That might seem like a bleak beginning to what I want to share with you today but bear with me, it isn’t bleak at all because the parable from Luke’s gospel  reminds us of where our confidence should be placed and how that impacts transforms and changes our lives and the lives of others. The message in this parable from Luke’s gospel is about the confidence we can have in Jesus to help us navigate life and death and life for all eternity.

It’s a really apt parable for today actually as we have welcomed Aiofe into our church family on this day of her baptism. These baptismal promises that have been taken for her are about seeking after a life where Aiofe can flourish, where sin and rebellion against God is turned away from, and a choice is made to submit to Jesus, following His way, acknowledging him as the way, the truth and the life, and living a life of faith and obedience that helps Aoife to flourish.

In John’s gospel 10:10 Jesus spoke these words – I have come to give life, and life  in all its fullness – in all its abundance. That’s what we want for Aoife, that’s what we want for each other. Jesus wants us to thrive.

My question for myself and for all of us this morning therefore is this – Where does your confidence come from in order to thrive? What do we put our trust in and how does that manifest itself in how we live, in what we might say and do.

We would like to think in an ideal world that our systems and structures, with assistance from those with expertise, can enable us to thrive. that systems are in place to allow all to be treated fairly – have the same access to healthcare, hygiene, shelter, heat and food. This can be a challenge. Particularly in current times. It is good to be reminded that No one on this earth is perfect. Leaders can come and go. They are only human. But we would like to think in an ideal world that our systems and structures, with assistance from those with expertise, can enable us to thrive. But what happens when that doesn’t happen?

Where can we put our confidence?

If we can’t always be confident in the authorities and structures that surround us, surely we can be confident in ourselves? In our own skills, our own ability to be a good person, the ability to manage our finances, to manage family life, to get an income, to be successful in our work, in volunteering and serving. These things give us joy and purpose. So Sometimes our confidence in living a full life is because of what we do. But What happens when we don’t feel successful, when we compare ourselves to others, when maybe we become ill and are no longer able to Do things we previously could. What gives us confidence then?

Structures and authorities and even our own abilities can be good things. Please don’t think that I’m saying that they are not. Not every structure is bad. In the Old Testament God put structures in place that were to help his people thrive and be right with him. And God has given each of us amazing personalities and skills unique to each of us. But what I am saying is that these things are temporary and can be far from what God intended because of the sin and brokenness of this world. That is why our confidence for a full life needs to be about who God is. And what he has done for us. 

That is the message within this parable that Jesus told.

He told this parable because there were some around him who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else (NIV), the NRSV says Jesus told it to those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt. 

And it’s into this context Jesus tells this parable.

For some it’s a fairly well known parable – Jesus has two characters one a Pharisee

The other a tax collector.

Luke often uses a caricature image of Pharisees as a villain type – but on the whole the Pharisees genuinely wanted to live well for God. The Pharisees were a Jewish movement that emphasized the importance of obedience to the law of Moses. Living in accordance with torah was a way of making God’s benefits visible and accessible in all aspects of life for all who were Jewish. You could say it helped them thrive.

Jesus here uses The Pharisee to portray the caricature of someone who appears fairly confident in themself and disparaging of others, meaning being unkind, thinking others aren’t as worthy, showing them contempt.

You can just hear it – ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ (NIV  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’). 

His prayer is a not so humble brag – there is no acknowledgment of his own standing before God, or that he needs anything from God. It’s a list of how great He is, what He has done – he feels comparably better off, compared to the tax collector and is praising himself rather than God.

Jesus didn’t use the parable to villify all Pharisees but to make the point that our confidence is not in what we do but in what God has done.

The bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) – same brush for all. Yet the Pharisee doesn’t acknowledge his sin at all. He appears only confident in his ability to go above and beyond what is normally required of a Jew in terms of fasting and tithing. Jews are required to fast only on the Day of Atonement, and here he is fasting twice a week. Jews are required to tithe only the production of their fields. But here he tithes everything. It’s As if that is how he is saved, how he can have a relationship with God, have an abundant life. By trusting in himself.

Where is the Pharisee’s confidence, his trust? It doesn’t appear to be in God’s love and forgiveness. He thinks it’s in what he can do, he thinks he is so much better than the tax collector – his prayer focuses on himself. And because he’s focussed on himself it affects his attitude towards others. Causing him to disparage them, show them contempt.

The Pharisee had confidence in his own ability to be a good person, a good believer but the tax collector has confidence in Gods mercy, it is the tax collector who acknowledges his own sin and his need for God. And it was this tax collector that Jesus says is the one made right with God

This might well have shocked Jesus’ audience – that the holy Pharisee is seen as a villain type and the tax collector who was seen as a bad egg – working in cahoots with the Romans, is the one seen as ‘right with God’

The parable is showing us, to use the words of one commentator that: ‘All kinds of people—whether publicans, Pharisees, pastors, parishioners, politicians, or perpetrators—are capable of repentance and all kinds of people – whether publicans, Pharisees, pastors, parishioners, politicians, or perpetrators – are capable of thinking less of others, showing others contempt. Those attitudes express themselves in how we view our neighbours and in whether we rely upon God to guide our daily lives.’

This parable isn’t about whether you’re a Pharisee or a tax collector. Not all Pharisees are self-righteous and looking down on others, and not all followers of Jesus are humble servants. In the bible James and John, friends of Jesus, for instance, try to guarantee themselves top billing in the kingdom – their Mum asks Jesus if they can sit in the ruling party in heaven (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45). 

What this parable is teaching us is that Pride and self-confidence is a trap any of us can fall into and one we should want to avoid because it can lead to having contempt for others, just as the pharisee showed contempt for the tax collector – thinking he was better.

The Message version of the bible translates Jesus’s summing up of the parable in this way – If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Message)

When we acknowledge our need for Jesus and repent of our sin it is then that we become fully ourselves, fully who we’ve been created to be, living life in all its fullness, in all its abundance. We become more than ourselves because our confidence is not in ourselves, in our ability to be a good Christian, it is in what Jesus has done for us, and because of what he has done we can become part of his family, living under Gods rule in Gods kingdom.

The Pharisee was confident in himself, the tax collector was confident in who God is.

If we say we’re confident in who Jesus is, that we trust in him, how does that impact our every day life? And How does that help in a crisis of living? When work is scarce and financial worries are pressing?

The journey to a life of thriving can begin with that simple prayer ‘Have mercy on me a sinner’ – when we are right with God we begin the journey in a life where we can truly thrive.

Being confident in what Jesus has done for us can, should and does transform how we view the problems of this world.

Being confident in God Shifts focus off of ourselves and on to others, not showing contempt but showing love. and if they’re playing their part too it means we have others looking out for us also 

But saying Put your confidence in God can seem on the surface a really twee thing to say when bills are piling up or health is deteriorating

I have a fair few examples of how in my life having put my confidence in God – praying the prayer have mercy on me a sinner, from my baptism until now, has helped in these situations 

I remember the loan of a car, money for a holiday, exciting food parcels, the support given by our church family in many ways through my mums terminal illness, the generosity of others when I was really Ill with covid in providing meals. Yet through all of it I was confident in Gods love and mercy, having prayed have mercy on me. Knowing where I stand before God.

So even in the uncertainties of life today we can be confident in Gods mercy and forgiveness – it is not a twee answer – we can be confident of Gods goodness. Being part of Gods kingdom, his family, helps us to thrive as we are part of something bigger than ourselves and all play our part which began when we said Lord have mercy on me.

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