Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Greater Love    (10/28/2018)

At the moment, In our part of the world, we are deep into a time of remembering.  This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the ending of the First World War in 1918.  Our town is covered in decorative poppies, vividly reminding us of the lives lost and blood shed in the terrible events of what used to be called The Great War.

Within our Cathedral is a dramatic display combining mud from the local army camp with mud from the Belgian battlefield of Passchendaele.  Out of the drying mud are emerging figures of a soldier leading his horse, a wounded soldier being met by a nurse, and another soldier moving from the horrors of war towards home and a new future.

The many hundreds who are coming to see the display are clearly very moved by it.  What is portrayed is emotional, and it touches deep chords of grief and sorrow.  The mud reminds us of the suffering, the images show a mixture of despair and hope.  Even if none of our own relations were involved, we are reminded of our own griefs, and of the present suffering going on in fresh war zones today.  The reality of it all hits us.

Many of those who survived and came back from the First World War, like my grandfather, were so deeply shocked by what they had endured that they were never themselves afterwards.  It is painful to be reminded of how young so many of them were.  Some were only 17 or 18, or even younger.  Very many were in their 20s and 30s.  And many suffered for the rest of their lives.

Jesus too was young when he confronted death, probably no more than 33 years of age.  He was faced with a battle not between nations or communities, but the ultimate battle with evil and death itself.  It was a battle he chose to fight, laying down his life, for the sake of others, for all, to bring about a victory that would last.

Many war memorials bear the words - “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  The words were spoken by Jesus in the build-up to his own death (see John 15, verse 13).  In the face of conflict and death, sacrifice for the sake of love becomes the reason for action. Jesus’ next words were, “You are my friends if you do what I command you”.  He died for us.

War is appallingly awful, but within it there may be sacrifice which is never ultimately wasted, and which may be an echo of that loving sacrifice which Jesus made to set us free from the power of evil and the fear of death.  In his resurrection, beyond death, is the dawn of new hope and of peace with God.

As we remember the sufferings of war, Lord, help us to remember your own suffering too, and to see in your death and resurrection the sign of God’s love for all.

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