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|3:15pm||Last entry for sightseeing|
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Sermon preached on the third Sunday before Advent, Remembrance Sunday (11 November 2012) by The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel
The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel looks at the human quest for life by focusing on the often ignored statue to the Kinder Transport at Liverpool Street Station.
Micah 4: 1-5 Philippians 4: 6-9
At Liverpool Street Station, there is a thanksgiving memorial to the Jewish children saved from Nazi persecution by way of what was called the Kinder Transport. 10,000 children were relocated to the United Kingdom on trains which brought many of them into Liverpool Street between 1938 and 1939. The initiative led to other such projects, not least that spearheaded by Sir Nicholas Winton, now 103 years old, and who unveiled the beautiful and moving memorial at Liverpool Street Station in 2003.
The memorial is often difficult to appreciate. It consists of children sitting with their small suitcases waiting for their name to be called for the train journey which will take them to safety but which will also of course take them away from their parents. But today the world carries on around it as if nothing had happened in those dark days of the late 1930s. The memorial has become a useful perch for very different people in our own day also waiting the call on the tannoy for trains which will take them off to business appointments or weekends away.
It’s also a good dropping off point for litter, and half empty coffee containers – and crumpled up chip cartons rustle against the feet of the little children whose tense stare looks into the half distance awaiting a destiny they simply cannot fathom.
It is a moment frozen in time by the skill of an artist which, at one level, defies the passage of time – placing an implacable foot in the door of memory loss as the busy world moves on and the kinder transport and all it represented is in danger of being forgotten – but which, at another level, almost gives permission for the world to move on because what it represented was a fight for freedom of mind and heart – releasing human potential to look ever further into the future.
Painful though it sometimes is to see the memorial at Liverpool Street Station almost ignored, it is a symbol of our freedom both that the memorial is there in the first place and that people may choose to pause and contemplate or continue with their own preoccupations.
Nevertheless, just as that bronze gaze looks towards an unfathomable destiny, so human potential looking ever further into the future can never be certain of what it is that it is reaching towards.
So that the slightly chaotic scene at Liverpool Street Station is a neat parable of what matters in the human quest for life in all its fullness: freedom set against the backdrop of memory.
What that scene indicates is that we must always have one eye firmly fixed on the past carefully informing the other eye which is firmly fixed on the future.
But as our world turns ever faster and faster and as our preoccupations become ever more and more preoccupying, moments of remembrance become not so much desirable as essential if the busy eye fixed on the future is to see with greater clarity.
After all, we know too well that the prophetic vision in our first reading this morning of military arsenal being turned into agricultural equipment has not been realised in our own age and the fact that Syria is not a European state on our doorstep makes no difference to the need to challenge what is happening there. Indeed, it is as urgent as were our obligations in the two world wars of the twentieth century.
Sometimes I think our lassitude is because we don’t allow that eye fixed on the future to look far enough ahead to make a difference. The governance of this country, for example, doesn’t seem able to look much beyond May 2015 in matters of policy but those of us with little children in our families know that May 2015 is a mere breath away in the great scheme of things. And, if we’re not clear about that, go to Liverpool Street Station and look at the little children cast in time who seem to be looking much further into the future than perhaps we ever bother to do.
The Church stands on the crossroad of time and eternity. It is a place of remembrance and of hope – of commemoration and of celebration. More than any other institution, it has one eye firmly fixed on the past carefully informing the other eye firmly fixed on the future. But, like individuals and the many groupings of people that make up common humanity, the Church fails if it looks only to the past but it also fails if it makes ill-informed lurches into an unknown future.
Christ on the cross knew this: when his sacrifice cancelled past debts in order to set people free – free to be the people whom God intends us to be. But if, having benefited from his sacrifice, we fail actively to build a future in which all of God’s creatures are free to be the people whom God intended them to be, then we are guilty of letting the rubbish of our lives pile up around the cross, the memorial of our salvation, as if it wasn’t even there.
Christianity proclaims freedom set against the backdrop of memory. St Paul said in our second lesson this morning: ‘Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.’
The next time you are in Liverpool Street Station, pause a while and remember, and then live the freedom that has been won for you in Christ and maintained for you by the men and women whom we remember today.