Monthly Talking Point – November 2018

This months edition is provided by
Dr Alison Johnston

We are in November again a time that is very special to a number of us, a time to remember and reflect on the duties undertaken for Queen and Country in the recent past. But still we find in Church that our duty to lead a service is much tougher than some of the duties undertaken on active service, as Remembrance Sunday is a challenge for those of us taking a service where children are present. Many people in the congregation have no experience of living through a war; while at the same time there will be of course a mix of members of the church family for whom this can be a very poignant and emotional occasion. Increasingly such services include mention of wars more recent than the two major world wars of the 20th century, Falklands, Yugoslavia, including present-day fighting in the Middle East. It also includes prayers for those members of the armed forces, who are part of peacekeeping initiatives in a number of world trouble spots. Although it is called Remembrance Sunday there is also an increasing desire to complement the looking back with prayers for peace in the future.

For a lot of children Remembrance Sunday will be identified most easily as Poppy Sunday. Both in church and perhaps in school at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month and the two-minute silence to remember those who died during wars. Thankfully at least two generations in this country have not been part of a war that affected lives as directly as did the First and Second World Wars and therefore it is useful to direct their thoughts and prayers towards the theme of ‘making peace’. I can say that through God’s grace and from personal experience that great friendships are born out of getting to know former foe after hostilities ended and we now share experiences and look forward to a peaceful and long-lasting future in friendship and regularly meet at this time of year alternately in each other’s countries.

Many see the poppy as a sign of hope, inspired as it is by the poppy fields in Belgium, where the flowers grew on the very land that had during the First World War been battlegrounds. From this we got to know the traditional poem ‘they shall not grow old’. We can supplement this very special poem with a few words from the Bible for example as from Psalm 46: 9-10:

(It is God, who)… makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear.
He burns the chariots with fire.
Be still and know that I am God.
I am exalted among the nations.
I am exalted in the earth.

As for us as Christians each Sunday is a Remembrance Day. It is the day when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus, who won for the entire world a different and deeper kind of peace. God’s peace gift to us is Jesus. He is God’s gift to all who will receive Him. Jesus makes peace with God for us and as we learn how to pass this gift on, we become peacemakers and peace-givers too. He empowers us to be peace-bringers. When generally we think of peace we think of peace with the other side, but there is a battle here at home, here around us.

It is one undertaken by former service personnel who gave everything for their country and after being injured physically or mentally and discharged are left abandoned, without recognition. So, on this Remembrance Sunday may your prayers of peace be for all in need. Prince Harry gave us the Invictus Games which has highlighted the need and brought peace to those who have been given a chance.

What can you do to be a person of peace and as we learn from Matthew 5: 9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.’

Dr Alison Johnston
Caversham Park Church