On Friday we commemorated the 75th anniversary of VE Day. This marked the end of the Second World War in Europe. The actual end of the Second World War did not come for another three months with the victory over Japan. This is sometimes referred to as the forgotten war and so there will be more on this in the summer.
When you have been through the best part of six years of conflict and restrictions, indeed rationing was not over, the relief will have been enormous. We are enduring significant disturbance at the moment and it is a battle of life and death, this virus being so contagious and without a vaccine. When this is over, no doubt there will be a major celebration. We can, therefore, understand why, during his broadcast to the nation on 8th May 1945, King George VIth called this “a great deliverance”.
On Friday the Queen reminded us of this and spoke of how her generation had “kept faith that the cause was right”. The message she said for VE Day was to “never give up and never despair”. It is to know the direction, the purpose and hold to it; to be confident in who we are, what matters to us, and where our hope lies.
The earliest Christians, followers of the risen Christ, referred to themselves as followers of “The Way”. St Luke tells us in Acts that it was not until Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch that “the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26), sometime around AD46. The word literally means ‘Messiah People’, people who follow the Way of the Messiah, because that is what the word Christ means. So, we remain people of the Way, but that way is the way of Jesus Christ.
In our Gospel reading we were taken back to this title deed (John 14:1-14). Jesus tells Thomas that he is the Way, The Truth and the Life. As our anthem from Fiji told us,
‘without a way there is no going, without the truth there is no knowing and without the life there is no living’.
The Way is to be firmly rooted and set in the life and hope and truth of Jesus Christ, so that when difficulties come, we are resilient and able to remain stable and secure.
With a lot of people asking what will come out of this crisis, the best answers take us back to who we are and who we are being called to become. That has not changed, whatever the scenery may look like. We are still beloved children of God, inheritors in Christ and shaped by the Spirit. We are people of faith, hope and love. Those lie at the core of The Way because they are built on truth and show God’s life. The greatest of them is love because that is the point, the source and the goal of all that there is.
So, when we want to think about what shape the future should take, the guide is the rule of love. And if we want to protect ourselves then we need to think how love will do this. The NHS, our care system and health care have turned out to be not just a welfare system, but the front line of our national defences. And the more we look at this virus, the more we realise just how interrelated we all are and our world is. There is unlikely to be a solution to this virus that does not join the world in partnership. Rivals, enemies and friends will have to work together. Perhaps a virus can be a force for good after all – as destructive as it is.
And that is one of the side effects of battling any great danger. In the 1940s the world had to come together to deal with an aggressor who threatened the security of everyone through the horrors of the Nazi regime. The cause against this was right, the challenge not to give up or despair because evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction and one of those seeds is its ability to mobilise and unite previous rivals in common cause. So, perhaps we are being called to a more inclusive, equitable and just worldview. That will be no bad thing.
Today is the beginning of Christian Aid Week. While charity begins at home, it is where we learn it, it does not end there. It extends to embrace everyone – become an expression of the rule of love. As we become more aware of the webs that unite the world, so aid is an important part of our responsibility to our global neighbours and friends. Supporting them turns out to be in our own interests, part of our defences, though generosity is the rule of love at work and that is why this week matters. We usually give out envelopes this week, but that campaign has this year had to be online. There are details of how to give in the newsletter.
The Way is Jesus Christ, his light and hope and peace.
The Truth is love, it’s fire and passion and uniting.
The Life is the gift we receive and share and in which we flourish.
May Christ the way, the truth and the life, be for us all our sure ground for faith, our firm support for hope and the assurance of God’s love.
Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Sermon for Easter 5, Live-streamed Sunday 10th May 202