Remembrance Sunday 2015

poppies
Poppies by Giuseppe Moscato (www.flickr.com/photos/pinomoscato/)
Image source: Flickr. Used under Creative Commons licence

For people of a certain age or religious belief, Remembrance Sunday is uncomplicated. We pray for the dead and ask God to change our hearts and minds so that war is done away with altogether. Our prayer may be tinged with memories of family members looking out of black and white photographs into a future they were destined never to know, or seared by remembrance of the terrible wounds of mind and body borne even now by those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. But it is essentially unsentimental, unarguable. People fought; they died; we remember, and we pray. We are grateful for the sacrifices that made our freedoms possible, but we don’t want them repeated. We want a world at peace.

But what if we haven’t grown up with those photographs — if we have swallowed wholesale the revisionist histories or political ideologies that confuse ends and means  and make us uncertain, troubled? What if we have no faith that looks through death? Then, I think, we are left with little more than vague sentiment, regret and fear. Millions of deaths, whether as combatants or civilians, are hard to get our minds round. The more we know about the conduct of this war or that and the political shenanigans that accompanied them, the further away we are from any sense of personal connectedness, the less easy it is to accept the simple view of history. We walk hesitantly where our forebears strode confidently. And if we have no faith, the poppies and the bugle calls bring no peace, no certainty that ultimately sin and failure are redeemed, only regret and an unfathomable bleakness of mind and spirit. We are in the wilderness again.

This morning many of us will have our own private memories of war and the grief that war brings, but even if we don’t, this national act of remembrance is one in which we can take part with integrity and purposefulness. During the two minutes’ silence let us pray not only for the fallen and the wounded, for forgiveness and healing, but also for understanding. Just as peace begins within, so does war. The conflicts of the twenty-first century look like being very different from those of the twentieth, but the toll they will exact in terms of human suffering and death will be the same. Unless we are prepared to make the effort to understand others, we can be sure we will have to pay the price. ‘Peace has her victories no less than war,’ we are told. Indeed, and the greatest of these is to make war impossible. Let us remember that, too.

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6 thoughts on “Remembrance Sunday 2015”

  1. Now that I am “of a certain age” I find that the particular keeping of Remembrance Sunday (actually my mind of a certain age remains more attuned to “Armistice Day” and the bang as the maroon went off, but no matter . . . ) means less and less, but that somehow the things of remembrance form a continuous whole as the news rolls in day by day. Perhaps the elderly, not subject to the cares and stresses of the daily job live a more contemplative life – which once I (to my shame) would have dismissed as “staring at the wall”. Oh dear.

  2. Thanks,Sister, for this post. The word you used-“bleakness” jumped out as I read these thoughts. In ihe face of so much uncertainty and violence it is easy to feel bleak about the world. The hope that seems greater than bleakness is the idea that it is possible to make sense of things ,to help bring order and purpose and peace into the world one person at a time – by each of us working at becoming more peaceful in our own hearts and lives
    Again,thanks.

  3. “We walk hesitantly where our forebears strode confidently. And if we have no faith, the poppies and the bugle calls bring no peace, no certainty that ultimately sin and failure are redeemed, only regret and an unfathomable bleakness of mind and spirit. We are in the wilderness again.”
    This so perfectly encapsulates what appears to underpin opinion now, something we too can recognise – perhaps share the pangs at the bleakness.
    Thank you for what you have written: it has moved me more profoundly than anything said or written on this subject, for a long time.

  4. I find the focus on the World Wars (now very much faded to history) slightly uncomfortable, having grown up knowing that my father’s experiences in the Fawklands and elsewhere have left their mark on his life, and more recently having to accept the apologies (not needed) from an uncle who missed our wedding because he was in the middle east at the time. Conflict and the effects on lives has never ceased, it’s just it is now harder to believe the story that our side is the right one, and easier to focus on the wars of the past.

    So as I get older the prayers for peace, and reconciliation, and eternal hope for all of us, gets increasingly important to the remembrance service.

  5. The day we cease to remember will mark the triumph of evil over goodness. The Devil has visited much devastation upon the Earth and God’s children through war. The unnecessary slaughter and misery of the Great War led to the unprecedented evil of World War II. To forestall a repeat of these tragedies, harbingers of peace established the United Nations, the Council of Europe and latterly the European Union so that we might negotiate rather than fight about our differences.
    I am a confirmed pacifist but am grateful to those who fought and in many cases lost their lives so that I may have the freedom to make my choice. How does the world cope with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Putin et al? Only the Lord knows. Pax vobiscum

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