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Home Who's who Bishops The Bishop of Sherborne Sermons, articles, and media Sermon preached at Service for Road Traffic, Sep 2019

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Sermon preached at Service for Road Traffic, Sep 2019

by Michael Ford last modified 09 Oct, 2019 10:41 AM

Bishop Karen preached at a Service of Remembrance for those who have been killed or injured on its roads and those who serve them, at Wimborne Minster on Saturday 21st September at 11am.

Thank you for being here. I am aware that we have gathered for many reasons, some because your day to day job brings you into contact with life and death, whether you are a carer or a trainer, a member of the emergency services, you are aware of danger; for others you are here because you yourself have been affected by a road traffic accident or someone you know has, whether because they have died or been injured or you even may have been driving. Thank you for being here.

I moved to Buckinghamshire from Kent in 2006 and was surprised and shocked at that time because on various local roads had been placed signs indicating how many road accidents or fatalities there had been in the last few years. It made me think, and it made me be careful in perhaps quite an impersonal way. However, since moving to Dorset in 2016 I have become significantly more aware of the accidents that happen on our roads. It may be the use of new media where news of accidents are posted regularly, or it may be the rural roads, or lack of duel carriageway, it may be because I drive myself about 10,000 miles a year around Dorset but because it is a County I have grown to love and care for, and you are my friends and from my communities I felt it was appropriate to do something.

I have been encouraged that others have taken up the batten and care too. So this service is a chance to thank all those who day by day keep us safe, and who tend and care for all those who are victims of road traffic accidents. Thank you for your service, your courage and your commitment.

It is also however a chance for us to remember. Those who we have loved but see no longer, maybe those we have waited alongside but have seen them not survive and those who have been suddenly snatched from us in a moment, when there was not a chance to even say goodbye.

Death is one of the last and greatest taboos in our culture. Medically we’ve confined it to hospitals and hospices away from prying eyes. Yet we know it lurks in day-to-day life, rearing its ugly head often when we are least expecting it. All of us who gather here this morning have been affected by death in some way or another, whether we have escaped it or been touched by it, we all have been disturbed by it and changed by it.

In a moment we are going to give thanks for life – for the lives of those who have been near and dear to us, and whom we miss, and to give thanks for our own lives – by tying our white piece of wool to one of the branches of those trees. These trees will then stand in this Minster for a while as a reminder of the preciousness of life and to honour those we love.

Our loved ones live on in us and if community means anything it surely means sharing our memories of the departed, not forgetting them, as we carry with us those we have known and loved, some for just a short time. They will never be forgotten.

Remembrance is important and places are important therefore it helps us to do something tangible, and later on during our prayers candles will be lit as we draw again into our love those who have died, those who have been injured, those who serve and those who use our roads.

The two readings we have heard today remind us too that God cares and God remembers. The Old Testament reading speaks powerfully ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.’

It’s a message of hope for us both in our grieving for those we have lost and as we continue to live life here on earth. Whether trapped in a car, overwhelmed by life’s hardships, bereavements and struggles, we are never cut off from God’s faithfulness. A faithfulness that has gone on for centuries as this great church gives testimony to thousands of hymns that have been sung, and this sacred space holds millions of prayers that have been uttered including our own.

The Old Testament writer of those words was Jeremiah, and his life was not great! In fact he felt that God had turned his hand against him again and again, all day long. He was tormented physically and mentally, his pain was acute and chronic and he could not find a remedy for it. He was ready to give up, his hope was gone.

Jeremiah however forced himself to think about God’s character and in particular his faithfulness. He remembered the good times, why he got up in the morning, the things that made him smile. He focussed on God’s love, a Hebrew word rich in meaning, a love that was loyal, that will not let go, of God sticking by his people because they were each infinitely special. His compassion never fails, it is limitless, his rivers of mercy run full and constant. It’s like we wake up every morning with our purses full of money, our car full of petrol, our fridge full of food, God’s compassion can never be used up.

And we have that reflected in Jesus. Our second reading recalled that visit Jesus made to his friends Mary and Martha. He was too late, his friend Lazarus had already died and we hear those words. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible.

Two words – Jesus wept!

I believe that God does not stand overlooking our pain, watching us respond; he does not show a lack of care if we cut the corner, or find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time; he does not watch wagging his finger – he is in there with us, feeling it all, comforting, strengthening, crying.

Christ cares today for you and for me. For the dangers we put ourselves in, for our roads, for our safety. I hope that you can leave here knowing something of that in your hearts.

We remember and God remembers, because if we do not then we forget at our peril. When I was young I was a member of the Tufty club. It was all about road safety, and I remember people visiting our school and telling us to look right, and left and right again. I remember then later on taking my cycling proficiency badge and being told to look and signal, something I remember also my driving instructor telling me. I remember that advert ‘Clunk Click every trip’ about wearing a seat belt and I remember, after my drivers awareness course only one so far, how hard it is to stop quickly at even 30mph.

I am pleased that we have been able to combine this service with some driver awareness. Rural roads are dangerous roads, if we are late for a meeting, run into a tractor or miss driving on a motorway. Our busy village and town roads are dangerous if we don’t expect to see people crossing, or pulling out of a side road. Remembrance helps us stop making the same mistakes again.

I am pleased we have some members of Rotary here who are supplying children with fluorescent bibs so they can be seen, and that the High Sheriff has taken up this cause too for his year in office.

As we bring all of this into our act of remembrance now as we silently tie our wool onto the trees, remember that all of this is known to God whose steadfast love never ceases and whose compassion never ends. Amen

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