This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:1-5 NIVUK)
As you might know, history is one of my hobbies. I enjoyed learning about history in school, and while I haven’t taken my study of history any further in an academic sense, I do enjoy reading about it in my own time. I am particularly interested in the time of the Roman Empire, and the Napoleonic Wars/Victorian Era Britain (just to let you know a little more about my interests!).
Because I enjoy learning about history so much, I get frustrated when I perceive others failing to learn from history. This can be on a global scale: for example, the frightening rise of far-right groups in Europe in the last few years (did we learn nothing from the 1939-1945 war against such powers?!). This frustration can also be more personal, and aimed at myself as much as anyone else: I can’t be the only person who sometimes fails to learn from my own past mistakes!
History and remembrance are important. It’s why we have an annual service of remembrance on the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day. This year, Remembrance Sunday is particularly significant: it will be exactly 100 years since, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent, and the war which was supposed to end all wars finally concluded (another frustration: if we had truly learned the lessons of World War 1, it would have been the war to end all wars. Sadly, war and conflict continue to engulf our world).
The Christian faith is, in part, a faith of remembrance. We are invited, every time we open the Bible, to look back, read and remember the experiences of those faithful people who lived hundreds or thousands of years before us: such as Isaiah, who is quoted above. Yet, this quotation, and the Bible as a whole, also encourage us to look forward in hope: trusting and believing in the work of God to put our world right.
This work peaked with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and will peak again when Christ returns. We trust that, when He does come back, God will do as He promised through Isaiah: that the weapons of war will be destroyed, that peace will reign, and we will live eternally and harmoniously with God and all His faithful. It will be the world God always intended; free from the sin which we have allowed to spoil this world.
And so it is that, when we gather on Sunday 11th November, we are not there to glorify war, or celebrate that “our side” won: we are there to look back, remembering those on all sides who died in conflict, giving thanks for those times when wars end and peace returns; but we also look forward, declaring that we, as the people of God, will pursue the cause of peace wherever we can, and trusting in the assured hope that, one day, God will ensure that peace will reign in our world for all eternity.
May God bless you,