Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism

Thoughts before Remembrance Sunday

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I’ve just written my sermon for tomorrow morning, Remembrance Sunday, and I’d like to share with you some thoughts that moved and inspired me.

Leonard Wilson was Bishop of Singapore during the Second World War, he became a prisoner of war and was tortured. He was later Bishop of Birmingham. He recommended three thoughts for us all to carry in our hearts on Remembrance Sunday, and I commend them to you now.

  1. Thankfulness for our deliverance and the sacrifice of others.
  2. Penitence for human sin and evil.
  3. Dedication to work for peace and justice in the world.

I think those are three pillars around which to base any act of remembrance. I have a few qualms about the use of the loaded word ‘sacrifice’, but I assume everyone understands that it means nothing more metaphysical than standing in the breach to face death so others might live.

There are two prayers that I find useful meditations. In a prayer for prisoners of war during the Second World War are these words,

Grant that their fetterless spirit
and their patience under indignity
may so shine before men
that they may see the futility of hate,
and that we may be granted power
to use thy words of our enemies
‘They know not what they do’.

And after that war, without any sense of triumphalism, this prayer was used,

Almighty God,
who bringest good out of evil
and makest the wrath of man turn to thy praise;
we beseech thee that
on the wreck of the wasted years
the peacemakers may build a new world
and a lasting peace;
and that the nations may be united
in a firmer fellowship
for the promotion of thy glory
and the good of all mankind.

It is sad, but inevitable, that over half a century later, that prayer still needs to be prayed.

When the field of war lies quiet,
ploughed rough with shell and soul,
the poppy buds and grows,
between the crater and the tread,
the return of life and hope,
the bidding for remembrance.

Author: Gareth Hughes

A priest of the Church of England, who is Chaplain of Hertford College, Oxford, and doing Syriac research at Oxford University.

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