Sermon – Rev. Kate McFarlane
Most Holy Spirit who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude
And bid its angry tumult cease
And give, for wild confusion, peace.
These are the words we have just sung, a prayer for peace to be given where there is darkness, rudeness, anger and confusion; an apt prayer, perhaps, sadly, for our country and our world in this current time, yet also an apt reflection on the anniversary we will celebrate next year, the 75th anniversary of V.E. Day.
Victory in Europe day, the monumental occasion when millions spilled onto Britain’s streets to mark the ending of the war in Europe. It would, of course, be several terrible months before VJ Day and the end of hostilities in the Far East, but it was, nevertheless, a moment of great celebration and unutterable relief after the horrors of 6 years of war.
Churchill had the Ministry of Food check there was a sufficient supply of beer for people to drink a toast in the capital and the Board of Trade, with a rather delightful lightness of heart, announced people could buy red, white and blue bunting without using up their ration coupons.
But it was a difficult day too for all who were mourning the millions who had died in the conflict, an estimated 70 to 85 million across the globe, 50 to 55 million of them civilians, over 450,000 of them British. Many millions were left homeless in their own lands or as stateless refugees. On VE Day, St Paul’s cathedral held 10 consecutive services, all packed, seeking to offer thousands of people an opportunity to give thanks but also to grieve.
Next year we are invited, once more, to remember these events on the 8th May, ‘VE Day’ Bank Holiday. Across our country and around the world, including here in Marston, bugles will play, church bells will ring, a toast will be drunk to all the heroes of World War II, stories will be told and passed on to the younger generations, and street parties will celebrate. Cities, towns and villages are invited to proclaim a specially written ‘Cry for peace around the World’, part of which I will read to you now…..
Citizens, one and all,
Please join this cry for peace,
that you now hear from me.
Remember men & women, old & young,
who died to make us free.
As we remember this special day, do not forget
that every day someone needs your aid,
Do not put away your poppies,
letting your memories fade.
Celebrate that VE Day is a time to remember,
beyond the solemn wreaths of the 11th of November.
Let’s thank all those who have gone before,
with their colours proudly unfurled.
Join us as united we say, “Peace to the world”.
‘Do not forget that every day someone needs your aid’: ‘Join us united as we say, Peace to the world’; this cry for peace is a challenge for us in our country with its current divisions.
75 years ago next May, people took to the streets hoping for a better future. Whatwould they make of us and our current times of ‘chaos dark and rude, angry tumult or wild confusion’?
Today’s bible reading speaks of God offering us a peaceable wisdom, a gentle wisdom without partiality or hypocrisy. And we heard too Jesus’ beautiful words to his friends; ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, do not let them be afraid.’
Such is the peace our country and our world, needs; a peace which can come if we, each of us, lay to one side our fears, our troubled, partisan, defensiveness, and seek instead to engage with one another, regardless of our political allegiances, if we seek to connect with people, gently and open heartedly, person to person.
My prayer today, especially in this time of fierce electioneering, is that none of us should do disservice to those who gave their lives in either world war, by glibly throwing aside decades of comparative peace or by allowing our divisions to fester.
My fervent prayer is for a peace-nurturing wisdom; that our eyes and understanding may be opened to others, however different from us they may appear, and that we may work alongside those, whose opinions we may never be able to share, but with whom we may still strive together for peace and for a wise and gentle compassion in our own country and in our world.
What better tribute could we possibly offer to those whose precious sacrifice we remember today?