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We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun, or feel the rain,
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly, and spent
Their all for us, loved, too, the sun and rain?
A bird upon the rain-wet lilac sings–
But we, how shall we turn to little things
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heartbreak in the heart of things?
Wilfrid Gibson, 1878-1962
Wilfrid Gibson was rejected four times for military service in the First World War, though he was eventually accepted as a Private in a UK based Motor Transport Corps. His poem Lament addresses itself to the survivors of the conflict and conveys something of the ambiguity of their feelings: it is, in part, a poignant meditation on the guilt of the survivor who understands ‘the heartbreak in the heart of things’.
Two and a half thousand years ago some of the survivors of the Jewish exile in Babylon were allowed to return to Jerusalem by the
King of Persia. They found a city devastated and God’s temple destroyed. They, too, knew the guilt of survival and felt heartbreak at
what had been lost. Yet through the prophet Haggai they also found encouragement and an assurance of God’s will that, through them, ‘the latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former’.
Over a hundred years on from the slaughter of so many million on the western front, when war once again stalks our continent, the silence of Remembrance-tide will once again draw us into the heartbreak of war. In that silence may we hear both the assurance and the challenge of God, who calls us to work together for a world built on the peace and reconciliation which are the foundations of human flourishing. That would be splendour indeed.
With prayers and good wishes,
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