A reflection for Remembrance Day
Watching Journey’s End this week, brilliantly performed by a cast of Marlborough College pupils, I was once more struck by the ‘matter-of-factness’ with which so many gave and risked their lives. No great sense of heroism or vocation to fight for justice, peace and freedom, but much more a sense that this is just what needs to be done.
It was the same unsentimental attitude that I experienced when I spoke to a WWII veteran a few years ago now. It was after a Remembrance service in Manchester, and I got talking to someone who landed on the beaches in Normandy. As he was speaking, I started to realise that this man had left his own family and friends to fight for the freedom of others: another country, people he didn’t know, including my own ancestors.
I felt a sense of great gratitude, and my first, almost instinctive, reaction was to wonder what I could do in return. How could I give back what he had given me? How could I reciprocate the sacrifices he and so many others had made. Of course, the answer is, that we cannot reciprocate. We can remember and honour those who risked and those who gave their lives, but we cannot pay them back.
What we can do, however, and what we must do when we remember, is to commit ourselves to uphold what others have fought for: freedom, justice and peace. On Remembrance Sunday we stand alongside those who have fought more recently, and those who are in the armed forces now. Our standing alongside cannot be limited to keeping two minutes silence and wearing a poppy, but we too must respond to injustice and oppression when we see it.
Whether we campaign for equality, write letters to those in prison, or stand up for those who are marginalised in our own community, at times, we too have to leave behind what is familiar and safe to stand up for what we believe in. Just like those who left Britain to fight for the freedom of Europe, also we need to be able to see beyond our own immediate needs.
Any act of remembrance needs to be accompanied by an act of commitment. When we remember and honour those who have gone before us, our lives will be touched and changed. So, may we commit ourselves with the help of one another, trusting in a God who made himself known as a human, vulnerable and scared as we can be too:
Merciful God, we offer to you the fears in us
that have not yet been cast out by love:
May we accept the hope you have placed
in the hearts of all people,
And live lives of justice, courage and mercy;
through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.