Remembrance Sunday – Are we in danger of forgetting?

Later this month we will be observing Remembrance Sunday, the annual occasion when we as a nation can come together to mark and remember with gratitude all those who gave their lives serving their country throughout two world wars and other conflicts. This simple act of remembrance is supposed to encourage us to strive for peace as we appreciate the incredible cost of war and the damage that it does to all concerned. Yet it seems as if the world in which we live is more fragile than ever, not only in terms of the environment marked by the COP26 climate conference, but by the volatile nature of world relations. Although we may have got used to the almost routine launching of missiles by North Korea over the seas of South Korea, the world was shocked by the belief that China had launched a hypersonic missile that flew around the world at five times the speed of sound. Senator Lindsey Graham said, “If in fact, the Chinese have developed a hypersonic missile that can deliver a nuclear weapon, it’s a military game-changer when it comes to nuclear forces – God help us all”.  “We have no idea how they did this,” another US intelligence official is quoted as saying. Despite the fact that the Chinese may simply be developing their space technology and that respective nations are still seeking investment and wishing ‘to do business’ with China, the International Institute for Strategic Studies has concluded that its global ambitions are clear, for in terms of tonnage, China has launched more submarines and warships than any other nation, equivalent to the entire Royal Navy every four years.

And yet, as recent events in Afghanistan remind us, military take overs by dictatorial regimes do not always lead to greater freedoms, security, prosperity or peace. We seem to be in danger of forgetting ourselves and the terrible cost of war and hostility. Surely, the heart of the problem is the problem of the human heart! – especially when people, countries and nations seek to manipulate, gain control and take advantage of those around them. The Christian will be mindful of the words of Jesus, who reminded the crowds that “out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, .. theft, murder, .. greed, .. arrogance and folly” (Mark 9.21-22). The recent death of Sir David Amess was a tragedy, but his family were absolutely right when they called for a change of heart. “Our hearts are shattered,” they said. “We ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all”. Jesus had said something similar when he had commanded his disciples “to love each other as I have loved you” (John 15.9). Loving like this requires a real change of heart, mind and perspective; one that does not seek to simply better oneself, but puts the other person first so that collectively we might all live better lives of freedom, love, joy and peace. These are the goals, values and ambitions that we should strive for and those that previous generations fought so hard to protect at great cost. So let us all take a moment to come together this Remembrance Sunday – ‘lest we forget’.  

  

Be careful … that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Deuteronomy 4.9

Silence … We Will Remember Them

Silence

‘Silence is golden’ or so we are told, but at 4.20am on the 11th November 1918, the last soldiers went ‘over the top’ and the world was far from silent or golden; in fact, it was dirty, dark, noisy and red. Although the Armistice was signed at 5.00am in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiegne, France, it wouldn’t be until the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month that the guns of Europe finally fell silent. The Great War would be over, but not until there had been another 2,738 men killed and 10,944 casualties on that single morning alone. In fact the numbers of those who died during the First World War are staggering. In the UK around six million men were mobilised, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That’s around 11.5% of all men that went to fight ‘for King and Country’. The Hall of Memory at the famous Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium contains the names of 54,896 unidentified Commonwealth soldiers. On completion it was discovered to be too small to contain all the names, so another 34,984 were inscribed elsewhere… and that’s just the unidentified soldiers. An estimated 16.5 million people (military and civilian) are believed to have died in total. With so many people killed and so many families torn apart as they bore the consequences of the conflict, it’s easy to see why this was considered to be the Great War, for the numbers are huge. Although these make fearsome statistics, we should never forget that these are all individuals, people who were known and loved by their families and friends; a point which remains true even for those whose names were eventually classified as ‘known only to God’.

This year on November 11th we will be holding our usual Remembrance Day Services across the benefice and I would like to invite you to strongly consider coming to one if you can as we remember with gratitude and grateful respect all those who have died in two world wars and other major conflicts. However, at All Saints Necton at 6.00pm we are going to be holding a special service to commemorate not only those who died in the conflict, but also to give thanks for the end of the First World War, as this year marks the centenary of its end. The service will finish with the bells in our church tower joining the nation in ringing a short celebratory salute to mark the end of the war. Please join us as we mark this special and significant occasion.


Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15.13