|For the older generations,
Remembrance Day is a day of sad and bitter memories. Memories of friends and
loved ones killed in action, of wailing sirens, of the night sky lit with fire
and search lights, of homes and churches made desolate by German bombs.
|For many, Remembrance day
brings back memories of shivering in some Arctic convoy or sweating it out in
the green hell of the Burmese jungle, or of standing a very long way from
Tipperary knee-deep in Flanders mud.
|But for those of us who are
younger there are no such memories today. It is perhaps hard for many of us to
feel deeply about such things that happened before we were born. We are much
more concerned with what is happening now and with what may happen in the
future: about inflation and unemployment and about rises in the mortgage, about
the homeless; about what is still happening in war torn areas of our world,
more recently in Iraq.
|Today few of us under the
age of 60 have known the horrors and suffering of war at first hand. Yet we
have read the war diaries and history books, we've seen the films, and we have
even laughed at Dad's Army on television. We learn that the youth of England
gave their lives to make this world safe for democracy and a land fit for
heroes, and we perhaps look around and wonder what on earth has gone wrong.
|So does that mean that we
can be cynical - that a Remembrance Day service is an empty ritual, a bit of
folk religion? No - because if there is one thing that unites us all on a day
like this it is that suffering in one from or another is inescapable. It unites
|The one thing we can be
sure of in a very uncertain life is that sooner or later suffering will test us
and all our convictions, it will burn away all that is shallow and unreal, it
will expose us to our weaknesses, it will strip us down to our common humanity
and our common need of each other. "God is tried in the fire", says Scripture,
"and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity."
|The test of a man and of
each generation lies not just in what it suffers but in how it suffers - in
what we make of the suffering that comes our way in whatever form.
|On a day like this it is
good to know that the Christian faith offers no easy Gospel. It. too, centres
on a young man who, because of his own unflinching faith and courage, ended his
days on earth limp and bleeding on a cross.
|He could easily have dodged
it. But he knew, as we in our hearts know too, that that was not the way and
not the end. And God used that terrifying setback to his purpose to become
instead the means of fulfilling his plan. Out of Jesus' death there has come
endless blessing and goodness for mankind that could have been achieved, men
being what they are, in no other way
|I believe that Jesus' death
encourages us to go on believing in goodness, to go on believing in God's
purpose for his world, for you and for me. And not only to go on believing but
to go on working - for peace, for justice, for reconciliation, for
understanding, for the victory of truth over falsehood, for the rights and the
brotherhood and the dignity of man.
|So that is the question
that each Remembrance Day puts to us: what are you making if your own
suffering? Remembrance Day asks a question that changes and transforms us the
deeper we allow it to go. God can make all our suffering fruitful and creative
when we offer it unconditionally to him.