During my time in the School Sixth Form we had a visit from some researchers looking into the life of the poet Wilfred Owen; their visit prompted me to read some of the most incredible war poems ever penned. They come from the harsh experience of one engaged in that awful dehumanising trench warfare yet they are blended with a depth of sadness as Owen writes of the pity of it all. He was killed two weeks before the Armistice. Now, one hundred years on from the end of those terrible atrocities in a world battered by many lesser but equally scarring conflicts, what can we do to bring an end to the injustices that persuade people that rights can only be won by force of arms?
Jesus wanted our prayer to be for a kingdom on earth that mirrored God’s kingdom in heaven but he was sufficiently pragmatic to know that there would often be “wars and rumours of war” given the sinful state of our human nature. We are all bound into the human condition and find it hard to put aside the hurts and bruises we encounter from other humans. A few years before the First World War broke out GK Chesterton published an essay with the title “What is wrong with the world?” and came up with the answer: ”I am” as he contemplated his own inadequacies and failings.
Remembrance Sunday comes as a yearly reminder of the sacrifices demanded in war-time and of the pathos of our solemn yet fleeting feeling that we will repent of our sins against God and neighbour and learn to love our fellow men and women despite their differences and peculiarities.
I’ve just read a book entitled “Reconciliation- the journey of a lifetime”. Its message is that reconciliation is a lifetime’s quest which only ends in Eternity. To be reconciled means to make friends with those we thought of as enemies. The message of the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is that God has enabled us to be his friends through Jesus taking on our guilt and making us fit to relate to a Holy God. We now are challenged to live as God’s friends and to spread that friendship as widely as we can.
One of Owen’s poems imagines a meeting between himself and an alien soldier he has killed in close combat. They recognise after death that they had so much in common which in a better world would have made them friends not enemies, but it is now too late.
Can we, remembering that we are embraced by the infinite love of God, by our small acts of forgiveness and our generosity of spirit, point the way towards a world of peace where there is no longer any need for war?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace! Brian