9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
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,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Over the last few years, I have visited several countries in Eastern Europe. I certainly remember visiting Belarus – a country that now seems to be rather more in the news than it was. I remember three years ago watching a television program about ‘Victory day’. I watched a young Belarussian woman at a war memorial singing a tribute to the noble Russian soldier.
Victory day is the day that in several of the former countries of the USSR they celebrate the victory over Nazi Germany. If we consider the history of Belarus, we can understand why this might be so. As the German army advanced on Leningrad, it fought its way through Belarus. Then while it besieged Leningrad it occupied Belarus. Finally, when the tide turned, The Soviet army drove the German army back through Belarus, through this period, Belarus lost a third of its population Apart from those who managed to flee, all of the sizable Jewish population were murdered. Many villages were levelled and many, many of the non-Jewish population were also murdered. If you visit Minsk, the capital of Belarus you will find a city that had to be completely rebuilt from scratch after the war. Do not expect to find an old town or a historic centre.
I understand where they come from.
In this country we come together for Remembrance Sunday, sometimes on certain anniversaries we might think about VE day or VJ day, but central to our society is Remembrance. I am glad that we have Remembrance Sunday. We remember the past, no one should forget it – but we look for the future. We remember those who were lost, those who suffered, the widow, the orphan and we say to ourselves – no more, never again.
If we look at our long-term history, we have fought Wales and Ireland and Scotland, we have fought every other country in Europe as well as many in the wider world. We acknowledge that there have been times when we have got it wrong, no one is perfect. Our enemies have become our friends and allies. We remember but we look to a better future.
My very best wishes