“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.” Col 3;15
We have heard the Exhortation this morning and I would like to read you the poem from which it is taken.Written by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), it was published in The Times newspaper on 21st September 1914.
For The Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Today we remember not only the soldiers written about in this poem but all those who have died as a result of more recent conflicts.
Remembrance Sunday draws human beings together in a way is almost unique. Young and old gather to remember and reflect, each allowing some aspect of the reality of war to touch their being. Some who gather will bring new or not so new memories of active service. Some will carry in their heart the memory of a specially loved one who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many will be stretching their imaginations to try to grasp what those people must be feeling. All will be praying that as time rolls forwards human beings will find ways of resolving their differences and repelling aggressors which do not involve warfare.
Today I carry my great grandfather, served in the dorset rifles setting foot on foreign soil on 23rd novemebr 1914. it is his medals that I am wearing today. My great grandmother was fortunate that he returned, although as with many, life in the trenches it took its toll and he died not many years after leaving my great grandmother with six children. My great uncle was on the HMS Hood and I have at home a copy of the last ever photo of him taken with his brothers and sisters. My son said to me a while ago whilst watching a TV program about the HMS Hood. His words “ I have just witnessed the death of my Great .great uncle. I hadn’t really thought about in that way.
So today and again on Wednesday a period of silence is observed. What does that silence say. There are two kinds of silence.
One is because no one wants to communicate. This is the frosty, thick, awkward, hostile, silence which is an outward expression of irreconcilable hostility. And it is often a prelude to violence. The guns and bombs begin only after the talking has stopped.
The other sort of silence is calm and mutual, it is the recognition that what matters is so much more than we can ever say that we might as well honour that fact by shutting up for a bit.
Can you imagine what it must have been like on that Christmas Day when hostilities stopped, all be it for a short while and silenced reigned. One wonders if hostilities could stop for a short while why did they resume.
I wish to share with you an extract from memories of a soldier on the Christmas Day truce
“It was rather foggy actually at first that morning but when the fog cleared we began to climb out of the trench and wave and then quickly jump in again in case they shot at us. But nobody did shoot and eventually several people got out and some of us went forward beyond our barbed wire.Anyway eventually a couple of chaps met in no man’s land and shook hands and turned round and waved and we all cheered and then we flocked out like a football crowd. Sort of running as fast as we could – it was very broken ground and people fell into shell holes and things – but still we all got into the middle eventually and we began to all shake hands and then we began to swap things like cigarettes and cigars and chocolate and cognac and we gave them a bit of rum and so on and everything got very friendly and happy and we stayed out there the whole of the day.I have a letter here I wrote on Boxing Day 1914: ‘It was a beautiful day – the ground was white with frost. Some of them were trying to arrange a football match but it didn’t come off. Talk about peace and goodwill – I never saw a friendlier sight. We tried to explain to each other that we bore no malice.’
Then the silence ended and hostilities resumed.
The silence of Armistice Day – the silence of Remembrance Sunday – is this sort of silence. It is the recognition that in order to do justice to what has happened, to do justice to the cost of war – its sacrifice and shame – we do not need to tell another story or sing another song. Rather we need to be silent together. No words are enough to convey how we feel.
But we know too that the power of remembrance is that while it connects us with sadness it also inspires us in hope.
It is our duty this day to ensure that those who in the cause of peace have given, and continue to give, of their life, their health, their youth, are honoured and remembered. But in our remembering we must also vow to give of ourselves for the good of humanity, especially of the generations yet to come; who will themselves one day stand in silent remembrance and grow in hope, we are called to stand with each other, to remember, yes, and to be agents of change, through God’s love, justice and peace.
Our reading this morning taken from Colossians ch3
“Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing.”
We are called to be one ,belong to one body and to live in peace.