A Bible Reading: Isaiah 2. 2 – 4
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills,and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion,the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nationsand will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
My grandfather fought in the First World War, a young man in the prime of life. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme, a battle which turned out to be one of the most bitter, deadly and costly battles of the war. 19,000 died on the first day alone. Over five months, 3 million soldiers on both sides fought in the battle, which left more than one million either dead or wounded. A truly terrible statistic.
During the Second World War, Grandpa was part of the local unit of the Homeguard. He was always regaling us with tales of their antics in true ‘Dad’s Army’ style. He occasionally sang songs from WW1 usually with his own comical version of the lyrics. I’m sure he remembered only too well the horrors of the WW1 trenches, but to the best of my knowledge he never once spoke about them. The memories were just too terrible.
My parents had friends in Germany, who they had met through choir trips to Leicester’s twin city, Krefeld. Ilsa’s father had also fought in the First World War on the opposing side, also a young man in the prime of life. In his study there was a photograph of him as a young man in German army uniform. He only made mention of WW1 once, and that was to cover the photo with his hand, so that only the smiling face remained, a poignant gesture of friendship and the putting of bygone hostilities behind us.
During these past months, war has again loomed in Europe. We have heard repeated reports of loss of life, since Russia invaded Ukrainian cities and towns in February. Over the months, we have seen continual images of devastated towns and cities with bombed out buildings and innocent civilians fleeing from their homes. Here, in the Walgrave Benefice, we have welcomed a few of these Ukrainian families to live among us in safety. We have heard firsthand the worry, fear and heartbreak of family members left behind, fighting on the front line or those simply too frail to leave their homes.
As we approach Remembrance Weekend this year, it will have a deeper and more profound significance. We will stand together in solidarity alongside our Ukrainian friends as we remember all those affected by war past and present. And we will pray… and we will pray sincerely. We will share together in the Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation and we will pray fervently for peace. With the prophet, Isaiah, we long for a time when swords are refashioned into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, when guns are silenced and bombing ceases. When armaments are requisitioned and transformed into the tools of peace. When nations will not rise up to gain dominion over one another and they will not need to train for war anymore.
Please come and join us at the War Memorials across the benefice to unite in the prayer for peace.
The Prayer of St Francis – A Prayer for Peace Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me give love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is sadness, joy;
where there is darkness, light;
for your mercy’s sake.
Make me a channel of your peace sung by Katharine Jenkins