“Remember, Remember the 5th of November…” Many of us learned those lines of poetry as children when we celebrated with the annual bonfire and fireworks, probably just having a good time.
Well! November is here again.
November is an interesting time when we can get out our history books as we look back at the events in our country’s past. This year we will be looking back 100 years to the time when the Armistice to end World War One was ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (November) in 1918. It has, of course, for a long time been a time to pay our respects to the fallen from all wars from the First and Second World War to the recent wars where our nation has become involved.
The loss of life in war over the centuries has been a tragedy for many families with loved ones lost in the conflict, and in more recent wars where innocent civilians have lost their homes and in many cases their lives with the colateral damage of modern warfare.
Sadly, wars did not start or finish with the First World War. If you pick up a Bible and read the Old Testament you will read stories of conflicts, not always declared as ‘war’, but still conflicts where lives were lost. Looking up the word ‘war’ in a concordance (an index or dictionary of the words or passages of a book or author – in this case the Bible), there are seven references to war in the Old Testament and three in the New Testament. Such was the history of the world. When we turn to the New Testament and the life of Jesus, the Jews were under the rule of the Roman Empire. As we read the story of the crucifixion we read of the influence of the Roman dictators, but Jesus did not go with the crowds that wanted to overthrow Roman rule. In Matthew’s Gospel we read how they challenged Jesus regarding the payment of taxes to the Roman government, but Jesus challemged their ideas (read Matthew 22 verses 17 to 22). In Matthew 26 verses 51 & 52 we learn what happened when one of the disciples drew his sword, and Jesus is recorded as saying, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
The destruction and suffering caused by war is tragic for all involved. Perhaps one of the greatest messages is to be found in Coventry. When the old cathedral was destroyed by a German bomb in 1948 the Provost put the words “Father Forgive” behind the charred cross in the ruins. When asked why not “Father Forgive Them” he said “because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, a quotation from Romans 3:23 – a thought for us as we stand in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragedy of war, not just in the two World Wars, but the many other conflicts in the world, including those on the news today.
Ron Hetherington Reader Minister.