Tower of London have caught the imagination of millions of people as well as being an impressive work of art. The 888,246 ceramic sculptures each represents a British fatality in the Great War, what we now call the First World War. As a way of depicting the loss of life it is evocative. I find the poppy crosses at war memorials around the country with their personal messages and individual names on them poignant for the personal touch.
These are of course only part of the picture because there are many others who died too. When I was vicar of a village in Kent there was a memorial in the church to those who died in a munitions explosion in the works on the Oare and Uplees marshes and these included women, none of them combatants as such. Also excluded from this image are those who fought on the other side, conscripted German soldiers, those who volunteered and those just too frightened not to do any other. War pits people who might otherwise be friends against one another in a brutal fight. It is always a sign of sin and division and that is never the place we want to stay in.
One hundred years on we are no longer at war with Germany. They are our partners in trade, in NATO and while there may be some differences of opinion between their government and ours on the shape of Europe and immigration, we are working together to build a brighter future. This set me thinking about the purpose of remembrance and a longing for those we are in conflict with now that the day will come when they too will be partners with us in building a new tomorrow for mutual flourishing. War always needs to have an end game in sight and it should not be the annihilation of the other.
In the following prayer written for the 100th Anniversary of the Beginning of the First World War I have aimed to bring together some of these thoughts.
God, who in Christ,
came to reconcile the world to yourself
redeeming all that had been lost in sin and division;
hear our prayer for all who fought,
from this nation and the Commonwealth,
and also from nations once our enemies
but now our friends and partners,
that those with whom we are in conflict now
may likewise come to share with us in a new tomorrow
where peace and concord reign
and all may flourish in the freedom and purpose of your love
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
See also 'Lest we forget: The month that led to WW1'