And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. Matthew 24.6–8 (NRSV)
Dear All Saints and St Mary’s
War is a reality of the fallen world, in which we live. Today, the relative stability that we have had in Europe since the end of the second world war feels more fragile than ever. During the cold war, the great powers exported their wars to various distant countries in South America and Africa. Now, wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land are encroaching on Europe’s borders and the relative peace we have enjoyed seems in danger.
Yet in all the fear and anger, Jesus’ speaks of a clear message. “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” (Matthew 5.44). It is a message that speaks of reconciliation, of valuing each individual and of working for the benefit of all. It speaks against seeking vengeance and punishment and for trying to resolve issues in a way that take everyone’s needs into account.
Wars are the clearest sign of human sinfulness. Sometimes, a war becomes inevitable because of all the human failings that have led up to it. Sometimes a war is the result of fear or misunderstanding. Sometimes it is greed or political expediency. Whatever the cause, the way we fight warts matters. However, what we do afterward matters much more.
The reason why Europe has had an unprecedented period of relative peace since the second world war is that serious effort was made to rebuild and reconcile a war-torn continent. Many of those who came to power after the war shared the hope of Robert Schuman that “war…becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible” (the Schuman declaration, 9 May 1950).
This vision was deeply rooted in the Christian convictions of Schuman and many others. Loving your enemy means building a post war society, in which people from all nations can flourish. “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble”, the book of Proverbs reminds us (24.17), but rather “If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink” (25.21).
One of the articles on this Thursday’s episode of From our own correspondent on BBC Radio 4 (also available from BBC Sounds and as a podcast) was from Ramla in central Israel. This is one of Israel’s mixed cities with both Jewish and Arab populations. It describes of a group of Jews and Arabs meeting together to discuss ways to defuse tensions and work together. It is one small sign that, even in the darkest moments, reconciliation is possible, and that people of different backgrounds can work together for peace.
We will have more opportunities to think and pray about this at our Remembrance Day services on Sunday. These are as follows:
All Age Service and Act of Remembrance
Act of Remembrance
Fishponds Park War Memorial
Note that the service at All Saints starts slightly later than usual so the act of remembrance can take place at 11.00 am.
We have our usual midweek services this week, with Celtic Morning Prayer at All Saints on Wednesday and Holy Communion at St Mary’s on Thursday. Next week we have our usual third Sunday pattern with Holy Communion at both St Mary’s and All Saints. This gives the following services for the coming week:
Celtic Morning Prayer
In the words of the collect for Remembrance Day, let us pray
Almighty Father, whose will is to restore all things in your beloved Son, the King of all: govern the hearts and minds of those in authority, and bring the families of the nations, divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin, to be subject to his just and gentle rule; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Yours in Christ
Mark Simms Licensed Lay Minister
Benefice of All Saints and St Mary, Fishponds