The scripture passages for Remembrance Day, which we and many other churches read on Sunday November 12th, are among the “greatest hits” of hope in salvation through Jesus Christ.
Still, they raise reflective questions.
The first reading, Wisdom 3:1-9, sets the tone. It asserts a reality that is different from what we perceive with our senses. It emphasizes the twin benefits of immortality and reward…some of which are highlighted below.
… the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
Those who trust in the Lord will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
The context of the poem suggests that being in the hand of God is a safe and comfortable place to be. It evokes a parent’s concern for a newborn. At the same time, it describes a blessed post-death transition… they seemed to have died and their departure a disaster …; but they are at peace.
Psalm 116:1-8, on the other hand, looks to God for life and comfort here and now, not after death. Here is part of that psalm.
The snares of death encompassed me…;
I suffered distress and anguish.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
‘O Lord, I pray, save my life!’
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
The psalmist acknowledges distress and anguish at times, but asserts that, ultimately, God saved me.
The epistle, 1 Peter 1:3-9 picks up on this theme of distress and anguish being part of life but focuses on Jesus Christ as the embodiment of the hope. In his letter, Peter puts contemporary suffering in an eternal perspective.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading…
In this you rejoice, even if, for a little while, you have had to suffer various trials, so the genuineness of your faith… tested by fire… may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice … for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The gospel, John 6:37-40, is part of the chapter in which Jesus fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish. After that, the crowd followed him, wanting more bread. Jesus sought to transform their desire with a metaphor about bread. That edited preamble to this morning’s gospel goes as follows.
You are looking for me… because you ate your fill of loaves. Do not work for food that perishes, but food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you… They said, ‘What must we do …?’ Jesus answered, ‘…believe in him whom he has sent.’
They said, ‘What sign will you give that we may…believe you?…Our ancestors ate manna…Jesus said,…It was not Moses who gave the bread …but my Father who gives the true bread from heaven. The bread of God…comes from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, whoever believes in me will never be thirsty …
This is the point at which the gospel for Sunday begins.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.
This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’
Christ promised that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day … As his followers we believe that this will happen, in some mysterious way that we do not comprehend now. Still, the hope gives us something to live for, here and now and casts our current lives in a different perspective.