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Remembrance Sunday Reflection

(Mark's talk from the service at the War Memorial on Sunday 10th November 2019)

In a few moments I am going to ask us all to remember in silence those who have given their lives in active service of this country. 
”We are going to be silent, not to glorify war, but to honour those who have given their lives for our freedom.” The total number of military and civilian deaths in World War I are estimated to be in the range of 15 to 19 million. Ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. The Allies alone lost about 6 million military personnel. World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, which was about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion).

But these are not numbers, they are people. People’s sons and daughters, husbands, wives, friends and each one was longed for, hoped for, wept for. Rudyard Kipling puts it like this:

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not on this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing and this tide.
“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not on this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
“Oh dear, what comfort can I find?”
None on this tide.

After World War II nations where divided and another war began, the Cold War. Thirty years go that wall came down with renewed hope for peace and reconciliation in our time. There is joy and hope in those moments of peace. Yet we find ourselves in divided times again. This time it is not war or physical walls, but the technology in our hands that separates us into conflicted tribes. Social platforms that were intended to bring us together and win us new freedoms have given us unwritten permission to hurl insults at one another. A new war of words and ideas is upon us, where anyone outside our tribe can be destroyed with a few short sentences. This is even more pronounced now that we are in election season and we see daily political take downs on every side. Don’t worry I am not going to tell you how to vote, other than encouraging you to vote with your own conscience and to not allow yourself to be in conflict with those who vote differently from you. 

After our silence I will ask you three questions. You may or may not be comfortable with the elements of faith or God in these statements. But I hope we can be clear together about our resolve and their foundation. They are based on example of Jesus Christ who gave his life for all so that we could be at peace and the dividing wall of hostility could be torn down. These resolves are for nations, for politicians, for world powers, but they are also for us: for our daily lives, our individual choices, our relationships with our neighbours. These resolves are for the oldest in our communities, the families, those living alone, for the teenagers and the children. 

Every single one of us resolving again: that the sacrifices made in war shall not be in vain. That we shall strive with unshakeable faith and unswerving purpose for peace and justice for all mankind. So we are going to be silent, not to glorify war, but to honour those who have given their lives for our freedom. And we will resolve to not to squander their sacrifice but to seek peace and justice for all.