November sees us move from Harvest to Remembrance to Advent: from celebration to contemplation to anticipation. But, friends, I am troubled. Despite holding services of remembrance each year we still live in a world where there is war. Only the other day I found myself stirred to anger at the news as it reported yet another airstrike on a hospital in Syria. It was a “double tap”, meaning they came around for a second run to target people as they were fleeing. What happened to the Geneva Convention? What’s the point of remembering past conflicts when we still can’t live at peace with one another? This is not to say we shouldn’t keep these special days, but when will we learn from them?
One of my favourite War Poems is Wilfred Owen’s Futility. I’ve always been struck by its gentle imagery starkly contrasted with the surrounding brutality of its setting. Here, a century after its creation the words seem to ring out louder than ever:
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
Yet, as the echoes of October’s harvest celebrations fade I’m also reminded of a passage in the book of Micah that says:
“The Lord will mediate between peoples
and will settle disputes between strong nations far away.
They will hammer their swords into plough-shares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will no longer fight against nation,
nor train for war anymore.” (4:3)
It gives me hope. Furthermore, people are living this scripture in places like Mozambique where, after decades of civil war, a treaty was signed and people surrendered their weapons in exchange for tools to be able to work the land and make a living. Some of these weapons have been melted down to make those tools and machinery while others have been made into art. I love this. I have attached pictures to inspire us.
Let us remember the great cost once more but with renewed vigour and resolve to learn from it. Today more than ever, our young people look to us to make sense of the crazy world they encounter. What will we tell them? What world will they inherit from us? As we move towards Advent let us continue to work for a better world, inspired by the God who promised peace and came down to us in form of an innocent child. Not a warrior. Whose message was one of peace and of radical love especially for those on the fringes of society.
Photos courtesy of ‘ebaumsworld’