Sunday, 8 November 2020

‘If you are not big enough
to lose, you are not
big enough to win’

Is the Trump golf resort in Doonbeg going to close before climate change brings down another small part of the Trump Empire? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Patrick Comerford

My desk-top calendars is one of those tear-away calendars with a combination of pithy and witty quotes, Christmas-cracker-style witticisms, and miscellaneous recollections of the ‘on-this-day’ sort. At the weekend, there is just one page for the two days, Saturday and Sunday.

I sometimes only get to read these one-liners when I tear off the previous day’s page the following morning. But I was struck this weekend that two combined citations for yesterday and today say:

‘Mary Robinson was elected Ireland’s first woman president – 1990’

and:

‘If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win.’

Yes, it is worth celebrating that the United States has elected its first woman Vice-President; but it’s reassuring to be reminded that the Republic of Ireland is a full generation – 30 years – ahead of the US when it comes to being progressive on women’s place in politics.

And it is salutary to think that in his refusal to concede he has lost, Donald J Trump is not even big enough to accept the candid kitchen advice given on a tearaway calendar: ‘If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win.’

Even when Trump gives way, it’s not all over. He remains in office for the best part of the next three months, and I do not doubt that he is capable of wreaking untold damage during that time.

There was an American colloquialism that, despite its now apparent sexism, became almost a proverb: ‘It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.’

And this saga in America is probably not over until somebody sings to the point that Trump goes to jail.

One of the reasons that Trump has been so reluctant and so begrudging when it comes to conceding victory to Joe Biden must be his fear of ending up in jail.

Steve Bannon has yet to be arrested for his remarks a few days that amounted to incitement to murder. Demagoguery is hardly a criminal offence. But is Trump going to be arrested for inciting riotous behaviour, inciting racist hatred or abuse of office?

There is still a possibility that over the next few weeks that he resigns, Pence succeeds as President, and signs a presidential order that pardons Trump of any criminal offences in office, icluding tax fraud, abuse and misuse of office and criminal conspiracy. But that does not prevent civil actions for rape, assault, and reckless trading.

He owes hundreds of millions to people who have helped him build his businesses but who have never been paid. Forbes reportedly recently that lenders will expect his businesses to pay back an estimated $900 million in the next four years, an alarmingly accelerated timetable that involves more than twice as much debt as the president previously indicated. he inflated his assets togain loans, and deflated them when it came his tax liabilities.

How long can Mar a Lago survive?

Is the Trump golf resort in Doonbeg going to close before the climate change that Trump denies sees the sand dunes below erodes, bringing down another small part of the Trump Empire?

Sunday intercessions on
8 November 2020,
Third Sunday before Advent,
Remembrance Sunday

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, Dublin, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Let us pray:

‘The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey’ (Joshua 24: 24):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the rulers and nations of the world,
that they may pursue justice, mercy and peace.

We pray for all nations torn and divided by war and strife today,
we bring before you the people
of the Middle East, including, Syria, Yemen and Iraq,
the people of Israel and Palestine,
the people of Afghanistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan,
for all who are caught up in and victims of
violence, war and oppression …
and we pray for all peacemakers,
and all who defend democracy and human rights.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may we always be ready for the banquet,
for we ‘know neither the day nor the hour’ (Matthew 25:12):
we pray for the Church throughout the world,
that we may be a foretaste of the peaceable kingdom.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Church in the Province of the West Indies
and the Most Revd Howard Gregory,
Primate and Bishop of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

Throughout the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross,
for Bishop Paul Colton,
and for the people and priests of the diocese.

We pray for our bishop, Kenneth,
and for his ministry, mission and witness …

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray this week
for the Killarney and Aghadoe Union of Parishes,
Archdeacon Simon Lumby, and the people of
Saint Mary’s Church, Killarney, and Holy Trinity Church, Muckross.

We pray for our own parishes and people and for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
May we keep in mind that day when the Lord ‘will descend from heaven,
and the dead in Christ will rise first’ (I Thessalonians 4: 16):

We give thanks for new life …
We pray for those in need and those who seek healing …
In our hearts, we name individuals, families, neighbours,
care homes, hospitals, voluntary groups …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Sylvia … Alan … Margaret … Lorraine …
Ajay… Ena … Eileen …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
the Poyntz, Armstrong, Kearon and Redmond families …
we remember those from these parishes who died in wars and who are named on memorials in our parishes …
we remember the dead in our own families and among friends …
we give thanks for all who have served abroad
with Irish peacekeeping missions …
including nine Irish soldiers killed in the Niemba massacre 60 years ago on this day, 8 November 1960 …
may their memories be a blessing to us …

They shall grow not old
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer for today in the prayer diary
of the Anglican mission agency USPG
(United Society Partners in the Gospel):

Loving God,
as we remember those lost to war
may we be instruments of your peace
and a support to those they have left behind. Amen.

And a prayer on Remembrance Sunday in Common Worship

Almighty and eternal God,
from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted,
either by death or life:
hear our prayers and thanksgivings
for all whom we remember this day;
fulfil in them the purpose of your love;
and bring us all, with them, to your eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Merciful Father …

These intercessions were prepared for use in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes on Sunday 8 November 2020.

‘Their name liveth for evermore’ … the Irish National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge, Dublin, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

Material from Common Worship is subject to copyright © The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Further information on this copyright is available at this page.

‘They shall grow not old … age shall not
weary them, nor the years condemn’

Fading poppies in a garden on Beacon Street in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 8 November 2020

The Third Sunday before Advent,

Remembrance Sunday


The Readings: Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78: 1-7; I Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13.

There is a link to the Readings HERE.

The War Memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Our first reading this morning (Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25) describes a treaty between God and his people, like a treaty between a victorious king and a vanquished people.

The people are free to worship God or the local gods, but they elect to serve God (verse 15), and they recognise all God has done for them.

On Remembrance Sunday, we might ask how God protects people, whether they are victorious in conflict or have been vanquished

Our psalm (Psalm 78: 1-7) teaches that God has continued his saving acts in history despite the unfaithfulness of people. They should recount for generations to come how God has intervened in human affairs through his ‘power’ and ‘wonderful works.’

Does God continue to work through mighty acts and in history?

Or does God come alongside people, identify with their sufferings, and suffer with them?

The epistle reading (I Thessalonians 4: 13-18) challenges us to think about appropriate ways of remembering those who ‘have fallen asleep,’ the dead, on this morning, Remembrance Sunday.

Is there a thin borderline that separates remembering the dead and glorifying war?

Is there a way in which we might realise that God identifies with our sufferings through war, injustice and oppression, whether that is in the past or today?

The setting for the Gospel reading (Matthew 25: 1-13) is on the Mount of Olives, looking down on the Temple, where Christ has been teaching in the week leading up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection. In the Church, we too are preparing, preparing for Advent, when we think about Christ’s Second Coming, as King in Glory, at the end of time: ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Matthew 23: 39).

Christ is speaking about the connection we should make between how we live now and what will happen at the Second Coming.

Christ comes not as a special, added decoration for shop windows in the weeks before Christmas, or to make the Christmas crib cosy and comfortable … and everything else in the window marketable.

This Gospel reading challenges us: do we too easily accept the easy values of this world’s kingdoms … or are we prepared to meet the demands and expectations of the Kingdom of God?

The exhortation to ‘Keep awake’ is a call to be prepared – for the coming of the Kingdom of God, for the Second Coming of Christ.

I recently came across a poem, ‘Prayer of a Soldier in France,’ by the American poet Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), who died in France in World War I. His poem shows not only how Christ identifies with suffering in war-time but our suffering at all times:

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

May I conclude on this Remembrance Sunday with a well-known prayer from Westminster Abbey:

May God grant
to the living grace,
to the departed rest,
to the Church and the World peace and concord,
and to us sinners eternal life. Amen

‘Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom … and five were wise’ (Matthew 25: 1-2) … sculptures at the West Front of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Matthew 25: 1-13 (NRSVA):

1 [Jesus said:] ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9 But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

‘Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom … Five of them were foolish’ (Matthew 25: 1-2) … sculptures at the West Front of Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Ordinary Time, Year A)

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty Father,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the king of all:
Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

God of peace,
whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom
and restored the broken to wholeness of life:
Look with compassion on the anguish of the world,
and by your healing power
make whole both people and nations;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

‘Age shall not weary them’ … fading poppies among weeds by the roadside in Comberford village, Staffordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

62, Abide with me (CD 4)
537, O God, our help in ages past (CD 31) or
494, Beauty for brokenness (CD 29)

A prayer for peace at the west front of Westminster Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

This sermon was part of a celebration of the Eucharist in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes on Sunday 8 November 2020.

Wreaths at the War Memorial in Pery Square, Limerick … Sunday 8 November 2020 is the Third Sunday before Advent and Remembrance Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)