This year the moat of the Tower of London will be filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies in memory of the soldiers from Britain and the Colonies who died in the Great War, and the money raised by the installation will be given to charities associated with the Armed Forces. The world has changed in very many ways in the past one hundred years, and most of those changes have been improvements, even if our nostalgia for costume drama would suggest the contrary.
Can we reflect for a moment on two things which have not changed – and first among those is the ability of people to inflict pain and suffering, conflict and terror on one another. Since photographers brought back images of the horrors of the trenches, and land laid waste and men killed and maimed, we have known the cost of war, but have seemingly been willing to go on paying that cost. We still face the ancient question – when are the actions of one group or nation so damaging, so violent, that others are
justified in using equal or greater violence to resist them, either for their own security or for the preservation of others? When anyone is certain that their views are so right that everyone else should conform to them, and that disagreement is not to be tolerated, then we have the potential for sectarianism and violence to support it – the end manifestation of such certainty is cruel murder of an innocent individual. The gospels show us precisely that pattern leading to the crucifixion of Jesus, some of those in authority could not bear to have their views questioned and so eliminated the One they saw as a threat. Anyone who will pause and reflect on history will see that it was not quite the answer which it was intended to be. If you take one flower and cut it down then there is a good chance that soon you will have a greater number of flowers springing up from the scattered seed – that is the way the cycle of creation works.
And that is the second unchanging pattern “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” this is God’s covenant with people from the earliest days, and it is a promise of kindness and provision. Many of you will have reflected in August on the outbreak of the Great War, and will come together in November for the services on Remembrance Day – can I invite you in between those two occasions to join our worship and celebration of Harvest Festival that together we may give thanks for God’s eternal goodness, and so obtain some comfort and perspective about the repeated inhumanity of man to man.
with love and blessings