Blow, Gabriel, Blow!
Words for Remembrance Sunday – 8 November 2020 – A cyber sermon from the Vicarage
Text: For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4.13-18)
God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.
If you could plan your own passing how would you go? I am sure most of us would ask for gently, quietly, and without pain. This is a prayer which the Faithful have made for centuries at the beginning of the Night-time Office of Compline:
The Officiant begins
The Lord Almighty grant us
a peaceful night and a perfect end.
Some, as the many collections of Famous Last Words indicates, seem to have made a conscious decision to ‘Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’. The story, which I hope is not apocryphal, that attracts me most is about the passing of G.F. Handel. It is said that he was listening to a performance of his oratorio Messiah on Maundy Thursday when during the singing of the aria The Trumpet Shall Sound as if called by the music he stood bolt upright and then collapsed dying three days later on Easter Day. That is something worth singing an Alleluia Chorus about!
During today, and again on Wednesday (Armistice Day) trumpets and bugles will sound and call us to silence.
A silence that is about the passing of many
A silence that is about an end to war
A silence that is a commitment to peace and justice
A silence that, even in our separateness brings us together
A silence that reminds us that there will come a glorious day when we will be with the Lord for ever.
Silence is often difficult to cope with. After all who has not been caught up in an ‘awkward silence’? I know for myself that one of the reasons why I keep busy (often over-busy) is so that I can avoid silence. Why is this? Because I have come to learn that silence is a dangerous place to go. In the middle of silence I have no control or power and can only surrender myself to the voice of another.
If I make enough noise, if I talk over enough people, if I chatter and mansplain often and frequently enough I no longer have to listen to the voice in the Silence.
But what is there to be found in silence that cannot be found elsewhere?
Surely the Scriptures have enough words within themselves to fill the silence?
Why should we have to, year by year, face its endless questions and call?
In the silence I hear the breaking of the heart of God
In the silence I see the tears of the bereaved
In the silence I taste the tears of the soldier frightened of dying
In the silence I can almost touch our common humanity and know that, regardless of petty divisions of race or gender or politics we are one.
Silence is a hard place to live, which is why there is still so much bitterness, strife and war in the world. If we are to be one (and we will be when the Last Trumpet sounds) we must reject the petty games we play which only disfigure God’s image in our sisters and brother and, ultimately, in ourselves also. In silence we have the possibility of discovering our humanity despite our bestial treatment of each other, and find ourselves wrapped safe in the Everlasting Arms regardless of how many times we have tried to wriggle out of them.
And so I want the trumpet and the bugle calls this Remembrance Sunday to be loud and shrill to compel me to silence.
I am tired of being alone in a world teeming with estranged family members.
I am fed up with always standing shamefaced before my Beloved – even though I know I am always forgiven, which somehow makes it worse.
I am frustrated that, given a warrant to make God’s creation blossom and prosper we have strip-mined all good gifts around us instead.
Our bleeding wounded world needs silence
Our beloved dead need us to be quiet for a space
The Fallen ask us to stop and call for peace
The forgotten want to hear us call their names
The unforgiven need to know that they are welcomed home.
And in the days ahead, as the silence breaks into our lives we need to let it wash over us, heal our wounds, forgive us our past, remind us that we are not alone and leave us with the promise that we will be with the Lord for ever.
[This blog ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow!’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged]
 Compline (or Night Prayer) is included in Common Worship Daily Prayer used by the Church of England. It is available, with Midday Prayer, for free in the Time to Pray App here. Why not give it a try?