A time for silence
"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" Matthew 5. 44
Watching the 2-minute silence at last night's Festival of Remembrance, when thousands of poppies fluttered from the ceiling of the Albert Hall onto the perfectly arranged cast of performers, was a thing of beauty and a triumph of choreography. But what it commemorates clearly was neither. 'Remembrance' will forever be associated primarily with the 1st World War, although it has been appropriated quite understandably for every conflict since, including the 2nd World War and our various excursions in the Middle East and beyond. The ugliness of the chaos and carnage of, Ypres, Arras, the Somme, Gallipoli, &c deserves remembering both for the sake of those who perished and for its cautionary value: the appalling consequence of political failure.
Impressive ceremonies have nothing to say if they are for their own sake. But if they are about replacing beauty for brokenness, then they offer a powerful place to begin, drawing together representatives both of the current generation of service personnel and of the citizens they serve, from the humblest members of the audience to Her Majesty the Queen. Like the falling poppies, the Festival of Remembrance finds further expression in the myriad local Acts of Remembrance which will descend upon every community in the land today. They are occasions which bring everyday life to a shuddering halt, as we are compelled to reflect on the freedoms we take for granted.
And they are more than that. They are the basis upon which reconciliation is built. Remembering the suffering which results from the breakdown of international relations redoubles our determination to work on those relationships. That so many of these ceremonies will either be led by a minister of religion or will be suffused in an atmosphere of faith reminds us that in this, as in all things, we are accountable to a higher power. Christians believe that this "higher power" made himself known to us in the person of Jesus Christ, whose words "Love your friends - and your enemies" will ring out today. Jesus proved those words by putting them into practice in his own life - and death and resurrection.