Sermon for National Association Retired Police Officers 25th November
Ecclesiasticus 44 1-15
Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations. 2 The Lord apportioned to them* great glory, his majesty from the beginning. 3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and made a name for themselves by their valour; those who gave counsel because they were intelligent; those who spoke in prophetic oracles; 4 those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; they were wise in their words of instruction; 5 those who composed musical tunes, or put verses in writing; 6 rich men endowed with resources, living peacefully in their homes— 7 all these were honoured in their generations, and were the pride of their times. 8 Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise. 9 But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them. 10 But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; 11 their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children.* 12 Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake. 13 Their offspring will continue for ever, and their glory will never be blotted out. 14 Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation. 15 The assembly declares* their wisdom, and the congregation proclaims their praise.
Ecclesiasticus was apparently written by Jesus, grandson of Sirach, sometime between 190 and 170 BC. He was a philosophical observer of life who lived in Jerusalem and was well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures and traditions.
I suppose that after 30 years of being a police officer and now nearly 14 years retired and a member of NARPO I should really begin this talk with these immortal words from Police Sergeant Dixon of Dock Green, “evening-all”
Many of my old colleagues ask me ‘so after being a copper how’d you end up a vicar?’, my only answer is to say, “God knows”, coz to be perfectly frank, even I don’t know. Suffice to say like all police officers, when the guvnors direct you to do something, as long as its legal, we just do what we’re told.
We tend to forget that being a police officer isn’t just a job, it’s still what we refer to as a vocation, it means we do it because we have a sense of community spirit, a sense of justice for all, a sense of helping others a sense of standing up for those who might not be able to stand up for themselves. That’s why it’s called the ‘thin blue line’, but by god that thin line seems to be getting thinner all the time doesn’t it.
so how does that link with our purpose of being here today to remember the 190 Bedfordshire Police officers who served in the Great War of 1914-18, …….22 who gave their lives in that conflict and 168 who also served and came back, probably changed men. many probably with injuries, both physical and mental so much so that some died years later they returned home from the effects of the injuries they received.
I read the Bedfordshire police web page by Keith Jackson remembering some from the police service who served and as he said that details of the service history of some of those who died or served is still a mystery, but let me remind you of a bit from our reading today
10 But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; 11 their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children.*
We might not know, but I firmly believe that ‘God Knows’. All those officers are all know to God. I read somewhere many years ago that police officers were amongst the largest number of volunteers to answer the call up in 1914, those were the days before ‘reserved occupations’
Their sense of vocation and sense of justice and sense of protecting others would have perhaps been a deciding factor in their doing their duty for King & Country, perhaps they were used to being the thin blue line even then, and decided that they would join up and become the thin khaki line against the foe , continuing the sense of vocation from their civilian role into the military role to defend the country.
I would never use the phrase that they were ‘ordinary men’ who joined up, because every soldier then and now is an extraordinary person, when I was in the army I met many extraordinary men and women, when I was in the Metropolitan Police for 30 years I met many more.
Our soldiers are all men and women together doing extraordinary things standing between those who sought to invade and those who just wanted to live in peace at home.
The spirit of those extraordinary people still lives in the person of every man and woman who comes after them
the reading says 11 their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children. *
Their wealth is evident in the character of those who still seek the vocation of being a police officer, it is still evident in the purpose of preserving life and limb, it is still evident in the bravery of police officers who stand between the law breakers and those who are victims of crime, the prevention and detection of crime, you might say I’m being fanciful in saying that, but I bet you, there isn’t a copper out there who isn’t working their socks off to do their duty to the best of their ability and who knows, with proper funding and proper resourcing and with more officers, the police could well begin to beat the changing trends in crimes rather than playing catch-up all the time.