Saturday, 12 November 2016

Remembrance Sunday 2016

“For those who laid down their lives for God and country”

There was some discussion at the Parish Council about the wording of the memorial plaque on the green in front of St. Margaret’s church. I think that it came out about right. We gather today in common with millions of people to remember and honour those who have fought for their country and after this service we will lay our poppies on this stone with these words as a symbol of our remembrance. The remembrance collect we have just read includes the words: “Hear our prayers and thanksgivings for all who we remember this day.”

But I wonder if this is enough? Yes we should surely remember and give thanks for the men and women who gave of themselves and who are still doing so in hostile environments, deployed across the world in the many conflicts that continue to rage but I think that I want us to do more.

To quote, once again from Archbishop Temple broadcasting in 1939

“No positive good can be done by force; that is true. But evil can be checked and held back by force and it is precisely for this that we may be called upon to use it.”

We might very well think about the first part of the sentence – “no positive good can be done by force“ in reference to recent conflicts and we have as a nation been thinking about the wars in the Middle East where the use of force is seen by some to have had unwelcome consequences. That no positive good can arise  is of course why we avoid using force wherever possible. But in the same theatre the second part of Temple’s sentence can also be seen to be true “Evil can be checked and held back by force.” We saw the evil of the Second World War when liberating soldiers discovered Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Ravensbruck and Dachau among others, we saw the evil in Serbia and in Rwanda, we have seen the evil of violent men in Paris and I am fearful of the evil we shall yet discover in Mosul.

Those who gave their lives gave them to preserve a way of life, to preserve our rights, freedoms and liberties; theirs was a struggle for good against evil a good that resided in shared values especially in the way they believed and understood that we should behave towards one another.

And that is why the words on the stone are not simply “for those who laid down their lives for country” – but “for God and country” because there was more to it – and the best values the best ways of living together come from our understanding of God and his message of love. 

When we lay our poppy on the stone it is this that I would like us to also think about. Is our society the one they were fighting for, do we as a community and as individuals do more than remember, do we struggle to uphold and live by these values that they fought for and for which many are fighting for still?

As we read this morning:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you, no-one, ”says Jesus “has greater love than this – to lay down one’s life for ones friends.”   

Let us then lay our poppy to remember and honour but also let us think deeply as we do about our lives and how we live together let us resolve to live up to the values of those who sacrificed themselves for us.


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