Our Sunday services in November will take us through All Saints Day, the Book of Ruth and Christ the King Sunday. This is a time of preparation for the season of Advent – when we remember with amazement the story of Christ’s coming, and with great hope and longing we look forward to His return. But on November 11 we will have a different reason to pause and remember – and perhaps our hope and longing for the return of Christ will be felt with even greater urgency.
This year marks 100 years since the Armistice agreement of World War One was signed in a French railway carriage in the Compiegne forest, north of Paris on November 11th, 1918. Over 16 million people lost their lives in the 1914-1918 conflict. It was meant to be the ‘war to end all wars’ and yet what followed was the most violent century of war-making our planet has ever seen. As we remember the sacrifice of the fallen 100 years later, we need to do so with sobriety and care.
There is no glory in war. And we do a terrible disservice to those who gave their lives, if we confuse lament with nostalgia, or sorrow with pride. Brave men and women lost their lives on both sides of this bloody conflict. And the not-so-brave fell alongside them. And also the confused, and the blood-thirsty, and the panic-stricken, and the hopeful. Mortar shells, machine-gun fire, dysentery and the Spanish flu do not discriminate between nationalities, or character. War is hell…
This Armistice Day, we will wear our poppies, and the bugler will play, and we will hear the recitation of Laurence Binyon’s haunting ‘Ode For the Fallen’:
… They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
And yet, for those of us who dare to follow the way of Christ, for those of us who long for the Prince of Peace to bring justice and reconciliation to the world, we would do well to also remember an even more ancient poem and prayer:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.