They are not so common now, but in some schools alongside those rather grand boards that celebrate achievement. You know the sort of thing Rugby 1910; First XV Captain, H.P.T. Madforrugger.
Alongside these boards for achievement are war memorials. We like so many churches have one here in St. Mary’s. Yet for me there is something about a war memorial in a school, a place of learning and life that seems particularly wrong.
Most of the time, as indeed it should, life goes on the children run past and pay little attention to it. Maybe though, once a year that old dusty board becomes a focus for the life of that community, as they remember.
Those in sixth form especially might just imagine what it must have been in like in 1914 to enlist, to be so filled with zeal for king and country that this is what you had to do.
And as we know so many young men didn’t come back.
One hundred years on, it’s still the sense of waste that prevails in my mind. The waste of young life and the potential they still had to fulfill.
And I want to think about fulfilling our potential a bit this morning, through silence and encountering the wisdom of God.
Just a couple of weeks ago we hosted a funeral here for a young mum of 33 and again the sense of loss was inevitably around what might have been.
And that’s what, in part at least the names point to on war memorial direct us, inviting us to think what have been.
When I think of those who die young, my thoughts invariably turn to Jesus, for he too died before his time.
For those who journeyed with him to his death on the cross, their sadness too would be framed by the “what ifs” and the “maybes”. The potential unfulfilled.
Words were pointless for them as they watched him die, they stood at the foot of the cross and watched in silence.
In time of course, they would come to see his death as a beginning bot for the moment let’s stay with those standing there for there are parallels with their feelings and our own on this Remembrance Sunday.
For the silence they knew and we observe as we gather at our War Memorial a little later invites us into the place where words fail.
Some of you may remember I wrote a few months ago of some words of T.S. Eliot in his Poem Burnt Norton part of the Four Quartets. There he writes ‘Words crack and sometimes break under the burden.’
The burden of life as some of you know can sometimes be great, the sadness we carry, the numbness we feel goes beyond words so that all we can do is stop and be silent.
This Remembrance Sunday carries with it what we might call a heavy and deliberate silence. When the weight of the years, the sadness, no less diminished by the passage of time remains and we remember.
Yet there are two more elements to that silence, for it isn’t just about remembering the past, it’s also about the here and now as we remember the ongoing wars of our world.
Think for example of Syria and Northern Iraq or Gaza, the tales from those troubled places are heart-breaking.
Silence for the past, the present and also for the future. As we think how we might honour those who were never able to fulfil their potential, never had the opportunities we have.
Past, present and future all are held in Gods’ love. The silence is a precious time when we in some seek the wisdom of God, seek an encounter beyond words, so that we might dwell more in God’s gracious wisdom and less in our own.
Something of that wisdom was revealed on the cross. St. Paul wrote of it when he said ‘God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.’(1)
The cross reminds us that God’s wisdom isn’t revealed through shouting and posturing rather through weakness and loss, things that often do at first glance at least appear foolish.
In our first reading this morning, the writer calls us back to the wisdom of God which he describes as ‘radiant and unfading’, the source of ‘perfect understanding’
Surely as we remember this day we need something of this ‘perfect understanding’ both in our own imperfect lives and in the imperfect world in which we live.
Yet the wisdom of God revealed to us on the cross, is so often something we ignore, history tells us that.
We are flawed human beings who sometimes turn away from its message. Consequently it’s easy to lose heart as we think of the past and the present and remember, times when the radiance of God’s wisdom, the perfect understanding it brings seem so absent.
Yet even in the darkest hour, there are glimmers of hope, of peace and new life, of a greater wisdom cracking through the layers of human foolishness so that something new can emerge.
For example, today marks the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. That wall, a symbol of oppression and tyranny, destroyed by the desire for freedom and new life.
And we glimpse something of that new life in our own lives too. For though we likely know the darkness we know too how light prevails.
So may we as we enter the heavy silence that surrounds today remember;
those who have gone before,
those in the midst of war now
and also pray for ourselves as we look to the future that we might be changed by that silence where we encounter the radiant and unfading wisdom of God.
|↑1||1 Corinthians 1|