Remembrance Day Sermon - Narborough


Remembrance Sunday 2018 – 100th Anniversary of ending of 1st World War At 5am on the eleventh of November 1918 the Armistice Treaty was signed and at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month - the sound of battle fell silent, over Europe. On that morning alone there were 10,944 casualties and 2,738 deaths on the Western Front. The December parish magazine for 1918 records that on 3 November Henry Reynolds of Narford died in France. Whilst William Powley of Narborough who had only been in France for 3 weeks died on 7 November 1918 after being gassed if he had lived to November 12th he would have been 26 years old. Both men were married. In the course of the years of the First World War - thousands of human beings had lost their lives on both sides of the conflict – someone’s husband, wife, mother, father, brother, sister, all gone – their hopes and dreams of a normal life never fulfilled. Soon it was hailed as the “war to end all wars” – sadly as we were to learn that was not the case. Many had lost their lives for a few feet or a few yards on the battlefield. Many had endured pain and mud and fear – as well as showing much courage. Already the Boer War had become history – only remembered as for example in this churchyard by a headstone which tells of a local man Albert Coates of the Norfolk Mounted Infantry who died in that war on 27 May 1901. Each year since 1919 a 2 minute silence has been observed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. King George V in calling for a 2 minute silence called for “ all locomotion to cease, so that in perfect stillness, the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the Glorious Dead Now we have come to the 100th anniversary of the signing of that Armistice Treaty. We look back and recall a Second World War was to follow and subsequent conflicts of Korea, Suez, Aden, the Falklands, wars in Kuwait,Iraq and Afghanistan and still to this day fighting and human tragedy in Syria and the Yemen. Acts of violence destroying human life even in the cities and neighbourhoods of these islands and the almost weekly round of gun crime in America and many will wonder what will it take for the human race to turn away from such appalling acts? How can there be reconciliation and compassion one for another when political leaders, as in this last week, speak of the “beauty of barbed wire”. Look on the pictures and art work of those who recorded those battle scenes from the first world war and call it beautiful – I think not. Read the poems of the war poets – of Brooke, Kipling and Sasson, Owen, amongst others, and be reminded of the human pain and cost when we fail to resolve our differences peacefully. Poetry which told the real story previously shielded from the public back home. The prophets Micah and Isaiah had a hope – a dream of “swords beaten into ploughshears, spears into pruning hooks – so that nation shall not lift up sword against nation again” – we heard it proclaimed again in that first lesson. Throughout the lead up to this 100th anniversary the emphasis has been on remembering the individuals who lost their lives. The “Glorious Dead” is how they are described on the Cenotaph in London – many of them unknown warriors, as you are reminded, as you enter Westminster Abbey to be greeted by the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Many families have been tracing the genealogy of their family history – especially to learn the individual story of their loved ones lost in battle. Outside in this churchyard lie many pilots who died learning to fly over the fields of Narborough during the First World War, before being sent to the front. Including men from around the world – from Canada and from new Zealand Up and down the country silouetted figures have appeared in market places, in churchyards, in side cathedrals and churches to remind us of the personal stories that are their story. Susan and I were moved to see on Thursday afternoon in our own Cathedral the Passion of Edith Cavell – told in art form – of the nurse – who was executed for helping around 200 allied soldiers to escape to freedom. Her courage, her example – one of many caught in that passage of scripture from John’s gospel – our second lesson – “greater love hath no-one than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. What courage that act of compassion – the same act of love demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. The religious leaders of the time had said better that one man die for the people. Edith Cavell before her execution is reported to have said; “patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone” (even one’s enemies) Today we wear our poppies – we place our wooden crosses As an act of hope that we will remember them and their sacrifice for us. But as an old soldier said on the radio last Thursday – what of the “Glorious Living” and our responsibility to them? The Service Charities play an important role in supporting those who have survived conflict, just as many other charities help victims of crime and violence. As we shall sing in a moment we had a dream. They had a dream – of a better world – a better life. The 1st World War turned the social order of this nation upside down. Life was never again what it had been. Any bereavement means that life is never the same again – but their memories live on. The challenge is that the memory shapes our present, and the future, for the better and does not just become confined to history. Achieving peace and reconciliation can take many years of hard work and commitment. But bitterness and anger if allowed to reign, destroys everyone. Recalling the words of Harry Patch the last survivor of the First World War – when he said No war is worth one life. We honour the dead in silence – as we remember them and their sacrifice with gratitude. We honour them also in our striving for a better world for everyone. May the memory of those who died inspire our service to the living. May the memory of past destruction, move us to build for the future. Canon Stuart NAirn