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8th November 2015 - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs

Reflection on Remembrance

With the passing of the years the wearing of a poppy at this time of year has become almost absolute. Public figures are criticised if they appear lacking the 'must-have' accessory from mid October. Politicians are accused of photo-shopping poppies onto their publicity material.
This year even one of our local Riding Schools wanted to be involved with selling poppies and supporting the Royal British Legion - as we do ourselves here this morning. And I salute the work of the RBL and I am - mainly - pleased that poppies are everywhere - in all our schools. Sported by all nationalities, festooning town clocks and war memorials and of course, churches.

I get a bit more uncomfortable when they are worn as almost as fashion accessories - and you might say with reason that I am as guilty as anyone of this as I wear my poppy earrings this morning. And maybe it doesn't matter - the end justifies the means and it really matters that we support our armed forces, and especially those who return from theatres of war suffering the consequences of armed conflict - both physical and increasingly mental and emotional. But what does the Poppy actually stand for? I started to wonder and came up with some of the following suggestions...

is for power; parliament; parachute; politics / polity; prejudice; Passion

O is for ordinance - both written and the armoured kind; operations - those flown and those performed on injured bodies; oil, orders (to be followed); occupation - control of a country by a foreign military power; old - and they who shall not grow to be so..., obligation;

P is for prayer; Peace - peace-talks and peace makers; paradox; people - people displaced and desperate, searching for refuge in a callous world; Padre, pilot, pluck, parents - waiting for their sons and daughters to return...

P is also the chemical symbol for , phosphorous - which is a component of horrible weapons; parade ; private - the lowest rank in the British Army; prisoner of war; pain

Y is the symbol of an unknown or variable number or thing; for Why? Why must there be wars and rumours of war? Questions and uncertainty; year(s); Yahweh; you who bear a responsibility for peace.

We approach Remembrance Sunday with ambivalent feelings. No right-minded person enjoys war; we all know the cost in lives, devastated cities, ruined landscapes and grief. We know about "collateral damage", the indiscriminate slaughter, the unintended victims, the losses brought about by error. News bulletins bring us word of the chaos, privation and disease that come in the wake of war, and we see how, from the ravaged lands, spill the wounded, the dispossessed, the fearful and the furious. This year of all years we have become aware of the fearful and the furious....

None of us wants to glorify strife within or between nations. And yet there are the men and women whom we send to fight, and who go in our name.

Some believe war is totally wrong, a betrayal of the God of love, unthinkable for Christians. Others consider that there are circumstances in which going to war is fully justified.

Because we humans have not learnt to live without strife; because we do not know whether war multiplies evil, or if evil would reign supreme if no resistance were offered; because we have the wisdom neither to resist threats without violence, nor to settle disputes with peace, sometimes we fight. Our motives are complex; sometimes our wars seem righteous, fought to overcome a legitimate enemy, sometimes war is waged through error and misjudgement- even falsehood, sometimes it is begun through pride or anger.

One thing is certain, though. For as long as soldiers fight in our name, for as long as they give their lives, for as long as they return wounded, for as long as their families grieve, we must honour them for their sacrifice, support them in their need, and comfort them in their suffering. We must never glorify war, nor disregard the cost. But in turning from war and all its evils, may we not turn from those whom we send to fight, nor cease to value the fragile peace that they have won.

One other thing is certain. War is not to be a lasting feature of human life. At the end of time, God will provide for the healing of the nations, and the Lord who is "Prince of Peace" will be our light. (Revelation 22 v 1-5, Isaiah 9 v 6). Until then, we must value those who risk their lives in war on our behalf.

"In Flanders fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row"

How could we forget?