We will gather together on Remembrance Sunday, just as many of us do every Sunday, to worship God: to praise and honour him, to proclaim our love for him and to celebrate his love for us. But it will be within that worship, before God, that we offer our Remembrance of the evil days of war, with their suffering, their losses and their deaths. Some of us may still have heavy hearts at this time; for many families it will still hold some very sad memories. For a lot of people the pain and reality of war is still very vivid. But for many, world war is something almost totally unreal, something to be read about or to see on the television. Perhaps, some of us are cushioned from the reality and effects of war. BUT we must remain aware of the perils and evils of war.

I am one of the lucky ones, I personally have no first hand experience of the horrors of warfare. Like many children of the Sixties I have parents who have childhood memories of the second world war, and surviving friends who were involved in the action. I have memories of parents recalling their childhood experiences, which at the time seemed to be a great adventure (they were lucky, they did not live in places that were bombed out, and they did not lose any immediate family in battle). Thousands did..

As I grew up, I had no great feelings about warfare or Remembrance. As a Cub Scout I would attend services such as happen on Remembrance Sunday and not really have a clue as to what they were about. War was probably something glorified by Hollywood and comic book heroes. At the time that was probably just as well. The trouble was that as I and many of my peers reached early adulthood, had no understanding of the importance of Remembrance, to the point that it became meaningless to us. Services and ceremonies such as will be held on the 11th meant nothing, they were for those who for some strange reason wanted to hang on to experiences of years ago, to us they even seemed to glorify war, many of us even as far as saying we would have nothing to-do with Remembrance... HOW WRONG WE WERE!

 

Its hard to talk about the real costs. About how your comrades died. About how your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your friends paid the costs of war. About the vice-like grip of sheer terror. About how your own mind and heart were deeply affected and were never quite the same again.

It's important too that those of you who were there, those of you who fought, and those of you who served and waited here while friends died across the seas, feel that all that happened was worth while. That it made a difference. And that those who sacrificed so much, are honoured and rewarded.

So Remembrance Sunday is a day for memories. And we gather together particularly to remember and honour those who fought in the wars of this century. To remember what it was like. How awful it really was. To remember those who were there. And to remember those who never returned.

And mingling with those memories is a little red flame - the poppy, the symbol of Remembrance. I remember seeing a documentary of veterans standing at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, speechless as they surveyed the names of 54,896 missing British Soldiers who fought on the fields of Flanders all those years ago. I had a Great Uncle who fought on those fields, and did not returned home. Not until I saw that documentary, did I have any idea of what he must have been through...where the symbol of the poppy comes from - my feelings whilst sitting in the comfort of my armchair overlooking fields where thousands died are indescribable. The red and black of the poppy remind us of the blood and death, symbol of life wasted. But the poppy is also a symbol of hope, green for peace and red for life.

But what of their deeper message? We can't sit back and say "they died for us to give us freedom and peace and now all is all right" patently it is not. Wars go on: the Falklands, the Gulf War Iraq, unrest in the Holy Land, Africa, Northern Ireland, and Afghanistan at present to mention just a few. Peace is never secure. Those who lost their lives and those who survived on battlefields, in bombings, the hideous extermination camps, at Sea and in the air - all links in the long chain of history, a chain being bitterly forged even now. To make sense of their sacrifices, we must carry on the struggle against evil, whenever it is found, wherever it is found and in whatever shape it takes.

Let us on this Remembrance Sunday and everyday continue to honour our dead and to hold high the torch which they can no longer carry.

Rev. Canon Stuart Ansell

Remembrance Day

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