‘Gwyn eu byd y tangnefeddwyr: canys hwy a elwir yn blant i Dduw’
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)
For over one hundred years people in this country have gathered on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day to give thanks to Almighty God for all who have served and died for the peace in which we live. We give thanks for those who continue to serve and protect us. We are grateful that the Armed Services have helped administer the vaccine against Coronavirus, playing their part to keep this country safe, and to save lives. We give thanks for the work of the Royal British Legion, raising money to support service personnel for one hundred years, and wish them continued success.
When we recall the sacrifice made by people from the villages in which we live, from this country and from all over the world, our remembrance must be an active one which has an effect on our lives. We recall the generosity of those who have tried to ensure that we can live lives free from warfare and suffering. Such generosity must leave a mark on our lives, and help us to learn from the mistakes of the past and try not to repeat them in the future.
There is no-one who has not been touched by the events of the past one hundred years. Many people, members of our own families, gladly offered, and still continue to offer themselves for the safety and security of humanity. An act of remembrance has a deeper significance when we know that members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are on active service overseas, working for peace and stability, for a safer, fairer, world, where people can live in peace and plenty. We remember too all the victims of warfare, the countless millions who have lost their lives in a century characterised by conflict. Our reaction will, of necessity, be a complex one: a mixture of sadness and thankfulness, gratitude and grief. While we are grateful to live in a country at peace, we cannot fail to be moved by the cost of military and civilian lives, throughout the world, which continues to this day.
Peace is not simply the absence of war, but the right ordering of the world around us. It means living the way God wants us to live, in harmony, and love, one with another. That is why peacemakers are children of God. To live in peace is the will of God. God wants humanity to flourish. What peacemakers do reflects what Jesus Christ has done for us:
‘Ac, wedi iddo wneuthur heddwch trwy waed ei groes ef, trwyddo ef gymodi pob peth ag ef ei hun; trwyddo ef, meddaf, pa un bynnag ai pethau ar y ddaear, ai pethau yn y nefoedd’
‘and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.’ (Colossians 1:20).
Christ’s sacrifice inspired many of our forebears. Christ bought us peace by the shedding of His own blood. In the face of anger and aggression, Jesus’ response was love. Christ is our peace, and Christians are called to follow Him. We do so knowing that the Cross, like our Cenotaph, is not a place of shame and defeat, but rather victory. The love of God has triumphed, and all will be well.
Does God want us to fight? No! War may be just, and undertaken for the right reasons, but we are supposed to live in peace. Human nature longs for wealth and power and is willing to stop at nothing to acquire it. Christ, however, shows us another way — the way of love and gentleness, which longs to heal and reconcile. This is what Christ proclaimed on earth, and continues to do — to draw people into the peace of the Kingdom of God, where wounds are healed and divisions reconciled.
We are thankful for those who sacrificed themselves for us, and we honour their memory by treasuring peace won at so great a cost. We are serious about peace, because it is the will of God, and the means of human flourishing. It is precious, and it is for everyone. We are thankful that we are alive and able to give thanks for those who gave their lives for us, and we commit ourselves to being peacemakers in our own lives, in our community, and in our world. What greater tribute could there be to the fallen than for us to work for a world where all may live in peace and security, for such is the Kingdom of God. By doing this we honour their memory and share the treasure they have given us with humanity.We are called to be generous, after the example of Generous God, who loved us so much that He gave His Son to die for us.
God’s Kingdom is a radical place which seeks to transform humanity into the image of Our Loving Creator. For two thousand years Christians have been living lives of love and service. We continue in church, in chapel, and in our daily live, to make God’s Kingdom a reality here and now, through what Christ has done for us, and the sacrifice of our forebears.
We will remember them.