Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Rememberence - Keeping faith among the poppies

Everything is quiet as we remember -

In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In the quiet is an unease. Blood is always red, that of the victor and the vanquished, that of the innocent and the guilty. Who is who I am not sure I know, yet I want to remember them all as their blood cries out from the ground. I want to remember what we have done to ourselves in all its vainglorious vanity. The grey sky seems appropriate to the impossibility of black and white and the depressing hopelessness of war.
Exodus is the first book of the Bible. In the Hebrew scriptures the creation account is a story told to make sense of the world that an oppressed people find themselves in. God is the 'God who brought us up out of Egypt' 33 times and the 'Creator God' only 6 times. Our predominant picture of God as creator is correct but perhaps allows God to be just about distant enough to allow us the moral space we need to do what we do. But if God is fundamentally a God of liberation then that is a far more uncomfortable truth. I am forever grateful at the price paid by the men and women who were cut down for this freedom I enjoy. But the Liberator God, the
Jesus who announced his mission as Prince of Peace by saying -
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised
seems to call more from me than just rememberance. He calls us back from the brink of us v them that blinds us to the fact that we are all us. He calls us to dare to imagine a way of peace bringing that does not ever again cost so much. A way that cost God himself his own son. The story of Christ the Liberator calls me to imagine a different way to Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw. The torch; be yours to hold it high.
This very different story of shedding blood for peace -
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
So we remember the blood shed and seeped into ancient soil, our blood and even the very blood of God. And we know that God was here with us, knowing the struggle of peacemaking in a violent world. And we know there is a hope that all that death was not in vain, that in the death of God there is the hope of resurrection Life. A life that does not demand our blood but a life that is possible because God spilt his in this messy grey world. A life that calls us to follow suit to hold on to a different imagination and put our own bodies on the line as we walk the path of a peace that this world can hardly conceive of.
May the God who is our/The liberator give us courage to join him in refusing them v us, in loving our enemies and in our faltering failing efforts to see through this low cloud a bright light of peace for our world. It takes an almost unimaginable courage to be willing to 'go to war' but i think it takes an even greater step of faith to 'go to peace'.
God, grant us the faith to go to peace.

1 comment:

mark said...

I certainly think it is a pity the way 'remembrance' has changed. At the end of WW1 there was much more clarity. People had experienced war and had come to realise that war itself was wrong. WW1 was to be 'the war to end all wars'. Britain began disarming itself, enormous effort was put into diplomacy, remembrance was about remembering what war really was like - not some heroic crusade, but brutal, savage.

Then, after WW2 its meaning changed. The idea that war itself is savage became less of a central focus and it became remembering the heroes who fought to bring us freedom.

WW1 could never have been about remembering people who had won our freedom because it was pointless war that won no freedom. Similar things could be said about more recent wars.

For me, remembrance day is about remembering that war is horrendous and should not be contemplated. Maybe if we had had this kind of perspective on remembrance day, Blair and Bush would have a keener understanding of what they were doing when they went to war. Maybe they wouldn't have gone to war!

Let us never forget...that more British veterans of the Falklands committed suicide than were killed in the war. etc etc.