Sunday 13th November 2011 is Remembrance Sunday and we will reflect this in our Service. We will pause, with the nation, for a two minute silence at 11am and spend time in reflection and prayer.
I have the privilege of walking with people as they come towards the end of their lives. Amongst many other things, it is a time of questioning and reflecting about the meaning of life in general, and the meaning of their lives in particular. So often I am reminded of what a huge shadow the Second World War cast on those who lived through it. It seems to be a shadow that never leaves. This, I am sure, is true of every war.
I think of a man who refused ever to talk about all that he had seen and heard. Unable to find the words to express the horror. Unable to process. Unable to leave the trauma behind.
I think of a group of men who talked fervently and often about the ‘glory’ of it all: the planes, the guns, the adventure. Just another way to anaesthetise themselves from the reality of all they had known
I think of those who made the annual pilgrimage to Dunkirk. Just to stand there again. Just to be near those they had known. Just to somehow deal with it.
I think of a lady who recalls the terror, as a child, of huddling under the stairs with her family as the bombers went overhead. They would sing a hymn to drown out the noise, pass the time and bring comfort to the soul. She speaks of it as if it was yesterday. This is what they sang:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.
But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.
If our love were but more simple,
We should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine
In the sweetness of our Lord.
(FW Faber 1814-63)
Is God’s love broad enough for all the pain and trauma of this world? I believe it is. One of the greatest privileges for me is to see people discover a Father in heaven whose love can turn our ‘mourning to dancing’ (Psalm 30:11), ‘set free those oppressed’ (Luke 4:18-19) and ‘drive out every fear’ (1 John 4:18). This is my prayer for all who gather at Burlington this Sunday, and all who will stand in remembrance around the world.