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A boy playing at soldiers – Thoughts on Remembrance Sunday 2013

November 9, 2013

When I was a kid I used to love war films; still do. There is excitement, adventure and danger. I used to play at being soldier, or play cowboys and Indians; anything to give me the excuse to pretend to fight. I loved toy guns and knives, and tanks and war planes. Anything to do with war and I loved it. Every day after school I would mow down my friends with a machine gun, or be shot by them. Then we’d get up again, or argue that we weren’t dead, they’d missed – maybe even have a different sort of fight – Then we’d go home for tea and it would all start again the next day.

I remember the fun of diving behind hedges, and crawling on my belly through gardens. I remember watching war films or westerns with my Granddad on wet Saturday’s. There’s a glamour to war games and war films. No one is really killed. You can see your favourite action hero again in the next film. Indeed, most modern action heroes go through impossible things and survive with barely a scratch.

If only war were like that. But in real war people are shot and killed … and they don’t get up again. Soldiers are maimed and scarred, mentally as well as physically. Civilians, including little children are killed too, just for being in the wrong place. War is messy and brutal, but we don’t really like to hear that.

Just think of that Royal Marine who has been convicted of murder for killing a wounded Taliban fighter. He has been convicted but from some of the coverage you would think that he had shot someone on Mere St. in Diss. It is wrong to kill the helpless wounded, but the Taliban do it all the time. I am simply saddened by the whole sorry affair. I am also annoyed that it took a retired Marine officer to call for clemency during sentencing and for the situation surrounding this reclass act to be taken into account. We rightly expect the highest standards from our soldiers but we should also have some understanding of what they face in our name, and remember that when they fail.

War is a brutal thing, and it does brutal things to the minds of those who take part. In real war, real people die, and that could be you or the mate next to you, and that must do something to you, it would me, especially over time.

So war may be necessary or just, but it is still bloody and brutal; it is something so different from my young boy’s dream of excitement and adventure. This all sounds so depressing. But I am not depressed. I am very sad, but there is still hope, at least I think so.

I need to find some hope, and I have found it in shovel loads in a Bible reading from Revelation 21. In verse 3 I read, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

So, I know that God is here with me right now. He is also out there on the battlefield. He is in the front line base, and out with the patrol.

God is here with us in this world. A world that we keep messing up. A world made beautiful that we seem determined to litter with corpses. We may do so much that is a million miles from the love of God, but still God sticks with us. That gives me hope.

God became part of our world as Jesus so that we could learn that he is with us, and so that he can save us from ourselves. By being born Jesus shows that God is part of this world, the good and the bad – The happy times like births and marriages – The times of horror and hatred too – God is with us in our family parties, He will be with us at Christmas. God is also with us as we face times of war, and torture and death.

God is here with us throughout all of it. I have learned that God is with me in life: good or bad, happy or sad – makes no difference, He is here. I have found that Christianity is a practical faith that makes sense of all of life, the pain in life as well as the joy. That’s why I’m here as a minister because this faith can make such a difference to anyone’s life. My life has been changed for the better, so anyone’s life can be equally changed. That’s a hope worth having.

That Bible reading was also a vision of the end of all things, of the hope of heaven, where God will “wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21.4)

Now that is hope! A hope that takes seriously the horror of war, and the evils in the world. A hope that heals the hurts and pain. Pain and death may still be with us, but they won’t be with us forever. This Bible passage gives a clear understanding that hate may be powerful, but love is more powerful still.

I don’t feel much different from the young boy I was who liked to play soldiers. I still have the urge to crawl through the undergrowth and jump out making machine gun noises! I may know more about the reality of war but I still crave the excitement and adventure. But now the adventure is to bring hope, and the excitement comes when eyes light up with love. I want now to fight for a better world.

I want to work to see more of that hope becoming a reality here and now, and to see it complete in heaven. So to finish my ramblings I pray to God “Please, wipe away every tear from our eyes, heal the pain and mourning. Lord Jesus, show us a better way!”

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