Today is Armistice Day here in the UK, when we remember those who have lost their lives in military service. We use a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance because after the First World War, poppies grew across the fields of Flanders where previously people had fought and died.
It’s often a day that provokes mixed feelings. I know people who are uncomfortable wearing the red poppy as they see it as promoting and glorifying armed conflict.
I understand this point of view but I am sad that people feel this is the case. The poppy bloomed across the fields after the war was over. To some the visual display of red was a reminder of all the blood that was shed in that terrible conflict. But at the same time as the red might be reminiscent of blood, the fact that poppies grew on these fields is, I believe, a symbol of renewal and restoration. That something beautiful can again grow, where once there was pain, suffering, loss and despair.
Over the last few days, two news stories have stood out for me. The first item; a Marine has been charged with murdering an enemy combatant who had surrendered. The second; through social networking sites, hundreds of people gathered at the funeral of a 99 year old World War II veteran who they never knew, but whose life they felt it was important to honour.
These stories for me stand alongside each other as an illustration of the divided and dividing nature of armed conflict.
We live in a broken world, and there are often no human solutions to our very human problems, and life is messy.
And it was into this broken and human world that Jesus came. He came to bring reconciliation, and peace, and liberation from the brokenness of this World.
And so while I hate armed conflict, war and violence, for me it’s not an option to just let Armistice day go by without marking it.
I wear the red poppy to remember …
To remember, but not to celebrate.
To remember, but not to glorify.
To remember, but not to be triumphant.
To remember, and to acknowledge the loss, the pain and the sacrifice.
To remember, and to be grateful for peace.
To remember, and to keep alive the horrors of war and armed conflict, so that we do not take today’s decisions lightly.
I take comfort in the vision for our future depicted in the book of Revelation …
Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Revelation 21:1-4