The Nene Crossings Benefice

Fr. John writes..............

We are approaching the 100th Anniversary of the end of the first world war.

With the death of the final veterans in the last couple of years, we are left with no living veterans of that war, to tell us their tales, we are left with just writings and recordings…. One day, quicker than we imagine, no doubt, the same will be said of veterans of the second world war. It is why it is so important to remember and treasure such folk whilst we still have them.

I was reminded of this a little while ago. I was listening to an internet broadcast of that famous speech by Neville Chamberlain,

I am speaking to you today from the cabinet room at 10 Downing Street”,

and I wondered what it must have been like to have heard it for real, for the first time….. the sense of the heavy heart, seems to echo out of the words spoken. The Prime Minster, just like those who were listening, must have had images of the first world war, ‘the war to end all wars’, alive and kicking in their minds…. They had experienced it for themselves, and the effects of war was something they knew about….

So I’ve been talking to folk who did hear it, to try to find out what it was like to hear it. One remembered being on holiday with a treasured aunt, she was a nurse, and within an hour they changed their plans, and were back on a train to London, so she could report to the hospital where she worked. Another chap said, after he heard the broadcast, he went out into the garden, alone, to weep… not in fear, but in self doubt ….. would he be up to the inevitable challenges that would lay ahead of him? (I have to say, that judging by the array of unspoken-of medals discovered in a drawer after his death… the answer had been a resounding yes!)

For those of us who were not there, we need those voices to tell us what it was like, at that moment. We hear the words, but with the benefit of hindsight… we know the end of the story…… we know that four and a half years later, the red flag would fly over the Reichstag and there would be dancing down the Mall. But for those listening in 1939 it was not so certain, a swastika over Buckingham Palace and goose-stepping up the Mall were real possibilities. The comfort of hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The story of Jesus himself is a case in point, in hindsight, he knew how the story ends, so what was there to worry about… and we can even rob the cross of its sting, what was there to be worried about? He knew he would come back. I am reminded of the C.S.Lewis quote in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Lucy angrily complains to Aslan, that he made them weep at his death on the stone table, when all along he knew things would be well ….. and his response…… ‘well no one has ever dared do it before’…… would you risk death for somebody you knew and loved?… would you risk it for a stranger?

With love and prayers

Fr. John