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

The Battle For Britain – Body, Mind And Soul!

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few” said the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the 20th August 1940; a momentous speech that has gone down in history as capturing the essence of the British struggle against the German Luftwaffe during that period known as ‘The Battle of Britain’ (chiefly from the 10th July – 15th September 1940, although ‘The Blitz’ continued until the end of October). The battle was significant because it was the first battle to be conducted solely in the air and the only battle to have ever taken place in the skies of England. The Prime Minister’s words were of course spoken at a time when it wasn’t clear what the outcome would be, but now 80 years on we can all give thanks that they prevailed and gratefully remember the huge debt this nation owes to the bravery of the nearly 3000 British, Czech and Polish airmen of the Royal Air Force who fought during the Battle of Britain of whom only around half survived. Their average age being only 22. Although this article concentrates on the RAF and the airmen Winston Churchill referred to as ‘The Few’ it would be wrong to forget the soldiers and sailors who took part in so many other battles around the world during the First and Second World Wars, and other subsequent conflicts defending the nation. Nor should we forget the support given by so many others in so many various auxiliary and supportive positions (including that of family and friends) – and in this particular instance the thousands of volunteer plane spotters whose vigilance, alongside radar, gave us advanced warning of German air attacks. Naturally, Churchill was right to say that ‘never … was so much owed by so many to so few’, but equally ‘the few’ depended upon the efforts of ‘the many’ to keep them airborne with the best possible fighting chance. The nation was at war and they were in it together.

Once again, we are today at war, facing a period of great fear, upheaval and uncertainty – but this time our ‘enemy’ is largely hidden and unseen; and depending upon where we live, the threat against us may be ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’. Once again we rely upon ‘the few’, doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers to keep us safe and alive, but in this ‘battle for Britain’, we all have a part to play, and whether we be young or old, we all have a collective and individual responsibility to be vigilant and diligent, playing our part to keep one another safe. We are in this battle together!

In this period of difficulty and uncertainty, it’s only too easy to become anxious, fearful and depressed, but actually we have a great deal of power. We can defeat this virus if we choose to do the right things and obey the rules. ‘Love’ they say, ‘makes the world go around’, but the Christian will know that the greatest source of love is actually God himself, who ‘so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3.16). The tremendous thing about God’s love is that regardless of the circumstances, whether they be good or bad (and whether we feel it or not), God’s love is constant and totally reliable. ‘Never will I leave you nor forsake you’ he says in Hebrews 13.5 which can be a great comfort to us all, and especially to those who feel lonely, anxious or afraid. So as we pay our tributes and respects this Remembrance Sunday, let us not lose heart but be inspired by those who gave so much for us and with God’s help do our best to faithfully follow their example and win this new battle – together!  

faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11.1


In Search Of Heroes – Lawrence Of Arabia

T.E._Lawrence_With_Lawrence_in_Arabia

It was 1917 and the horrors of the First World War were truly etched in people’s minds. Initial optimism that the war might be over by Christmas had been well and truly blown away in the dark clouds of 1914. Things if anything were getting worse. The bravery of so many young men who fought for ‘King and Country’ was not in question, but the dreadful stalemate of events on the Western Front had come at a terrible cost. In fact, danger was not so far away for on June 13th 1917, London suffered its highest loss of civilian casualties as German airplanes bombed the city. The Americans had just entered the war and the British were desperately trying to make headway in the muddy fields of Ypres (more commonly known as Passchendaele) but were being repeatedly pushed back by German artillery. In September the British revised their strategy but made slow progress (a mere 1000 yards), but edged ever closer to Passchendaele. What the country needed most of all was hope – and some good news. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, General Edmund Allenby began an attack on Turkish defences which stretched from Gaza to Beersheba in Southern Palestine. The Turks began to retreat towards Jerusalem with the Allies in pursuit. They were aided by a group of Arab fighters led by T.E. Lawrence, an Arab speaking English archaeologist later known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Lawrence and his guerrilla fighting force had already captured Aquaba on July 6th. So, aided by the photographer Lowell Thomas, Lawrence’s fame began to spread as he was depicted as a hero in gleaming white robes who rode to victory on a camel, a warrior-prince of the desert.

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Lawrence’s courage and resourcefulness were not in doubt but his depiction as a British hero was a real morale boost to all those who had suffered so much back at home. Finally, General Allenby was able to march on foot into Jerusalem thus ending the four century reign of that city by the Turks. The Prime Minister David Lloyd George described the capture as a ‘Christmas present for the British people’. Finally, Passchendaele also fell towards the end of the year.

This Remembrance Sunday we will be remembering all those ‘heroes’ who have served their country in times of war and of great need. We will remember those with great stories of their own alongside those whose stories are largely unknown but who suffered much – with many paying the ultimate price. In truth, no act of war can ever be called a ‘good news story’, but we can remember with pride and gratitude all those ordinary men and women, who didn’t think of themselves as remotely heroic, but still gave so much, so that we might be free – whose exploits we gratefully remember and commemorate on Remembrance Sunday.

The Christian will be familiar with another quiet hero who rode into Jerusalem so many years before (not on a camel, but a donkey), who also suffered much and eventually paid the ultimate price by his death upon the cross. At first glance his death seemed to be the epitome of innocent suffering and vanquished hope – but, in reality, his death was the means by which the greatest victory of all was achieved, offering the greatest prize of all, to all those who put their faith and trust in him – life in all its fulness and the forgiveness of sins.

So, please join us this Remembrance Sunday as we commemorate all those who gave up so much for others in the context of the one whose life, death and resurrection brings the greatest hope of all.


“On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” 2 Corinthians 1.10b


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