Remembrance Day
Father Nick De Keyser
Rector of All Saints', Stock

For the older generations, Remembrance Day is a day of sad and bitter memories. Memories of friends and loved ones killed in action, of wailing sirens, of the night sky lit with fire and search lights, of homes and churches made desolate by German bombs.
For many, Remembrance day brings back memories of shivering in some Arctic convoy or sweating it out in the green hell of the Burmese jungle, or of standing a very long way from Tipperary knee-deep in Flanders mud.
But for those of us who are younger there are no such memories today. It is perhaps hard for many of us to feel deeply about such things that happened before we were born. We are much more concerned with what is happening now and with what may happen in the future: about inflation and unemployment and about rises in the mortgage, about the homeless; about what is still happening in war torn areas of our world, more recently in Iraq.
Today few of us under the age of 60 have known the horrors and suffering of war at first hand. Yet we have read the war diaries and history books, we've seen the films, and we have even laughed at Dad's Army on television. We learn that the youth of England gave their lives to make this world safe for democracy and a land fit for heroes, and we perhaps look around and wonder what on earth has gone wrong.
So does that mean that we can be cynical - that a Remembrance Day service is an empty ritual, a bit of folk religion? No - because if there is one thing that unites us all on a day like this it is that suffering in one from or another is inescapable. It unites us all.
The one thing we can be sure of in a very uncertain life is that sooner or later suffering will test us and all our convictions, it will burn away all that is shallow and unreal, it will expose us to our weaknesses, it will strip us down to our common humanity and our common need of each other. "God is tried in the fire", says Scripture, "and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity."
The test of a man and of each generation lies not just in what it suffers but in how it suffers - in what we make of the suffering that comes our way in whatever form.
On a day like this it is good to know that the Christian faith offers no easy Gospel. It. too, centres on a young man who, because of his own unflinching faith and courage, ended his days on earth limp and bleeding on a cross.
He could easily have dodged it. But he knew, as we in our hearts know too, that that was not the way and not the end. And God used that terrifying setback to his purpose to become instead the means of fulfilling his plan. Out of Jesus' death there has come endless blessing and goodness for mankind that could have been achieved, men being what they are, in no other way
I believe that Jesus' death encourages us to go on believing in goodness, to go on believing in God's purpose for his world, for you and for me. And not only to go on believing but to go on working - for peace, for justice, for reconciliation, for understanding, for the victory of truth over falsehood, for the rights and the brotherhood and the dignity of man.
So that is the question that each Remembrance Day puts to us: what are you making if your own suffering? Remembrance Day asks a question that changes and transforms us the deeper we allow it to go. God can make all our suffering fruitful and creative when we offer it unconditionally to him.
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