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An End to War?'

Ven Ricky Panter, Archdeacon of Liverpool, Remembrance Sunday, November 11th, 2012

The new Archbishop of Canterbury is particularly well equipped to meet the challenges of his new role: his ‘skill set’ includes, business, finance and conflict resolution.

This is exactly what the prophet Micah foretold: ‘He will settle disputes – among the nations, among the great powers near and far. They will hammer their swords into ploughs and their spears into pruning knives.  Nations will never again go to war, never  prepare for battle again.

Bishop Justin Welby has already been involved in conflict resolution, in the USA, Nigeria, and Kenya. If his appointment is a response to the desperate need for better relationships – in the church and the world, then it looks like some prayers have been answered! Maybe he’s the man to help turn the tide. You may remember when he got the Cathedral bells to ring John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ He’s not afraid to confront, and argue his cause – but he can do it with grace and humour – which is disarming. And we need disarming people, who can confront injustice and violence, and offer another way to live in ‘Shalom’ together.

Because this year Remembrance Day falls on the 11th (hour, day, month) radio discussions about those for whom it still came just too late – over 800 died on 11/11/1918  – still fighting and hoping that it would all end – but they didn’t live to celebrate Armistice. They hoped, but didn’t see the fruit of their labours and their sacrifice, their hope was unfulfilled.

What do we say to hope that leads no further than despair and failure? How do we answer when, in the words of Jesus in the Gospel, ‘Terrible distress comes upon the land’?

I said that Justin had been to Kenya and Nigeria, both now four years ago. He returned harrowed by what he had seen and experienced –people hacked to death for no better reason than that they were a different tribe or religion – no one side really any better than the other
When you see that kind of hatred , Jesus’s further words about ‘God’s punishment falling on his people’ makes an awful kind of sense. Hatred of anyone – wanting them gone, not caring what happens to them, is the absolute opposite of God’s purpose in creating us. He made us for relationships of patience and love – to care for one another, regardless of whether we share the same background, colour or preferences..

Because we are made in the image of God and we are all His children – we have to avoid hatred at all costs – DISARM it!  I’m not preaching pacifism here, I’m not even espousing a Ghandi or Martin Luther King type of organised Passive Resistance… they have their adherents and their place in the process.

I’m talking about a different activity – the attempt to settle disputes – not giving in to hatred, not writing off those whose words, intentions and actions are incomprehensible to us - but praying for them, engaging with them, believing that there might just be some common ground on which to build a better relationship.

I asked what we should do when hope has been overtaken by despair – when Peace came too late – lives were lost, communities destroyed.  We do what the Hillsborough families are slowly coming to terms with now that the truth about that tragedy is finally being uncovered… we look for justice.

And that is much bigger than revenge or retribution – it’s a settlement that is right for all those involved – because no one is utterly worthless. Living in a world where disputes are so often ‘settled’ with angry and violent standoffs – and then with guns and bombs that simply escalate the violence, it feels like there can be no such justice. Bishop James spoke at Synod yesterday about the ancients believing that the earth is so evil that justice has fled for ever! But the cross on which Jesus Christ suffered an innocent death was God’s demonstration, once and for all, that faith and love are not overcome – even though the worst in this world is thrown at them..

Lives may be lost but hope can still flower – because we are not isolated individuals, only living and dying to ourselves. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Rom 14:7

Some are overtaken in this life – we remember today the millions in two world wars, and sadly many seemingly pointless conflicts since then – but others must take up the baton of hope – and look to what Micah saw and wrote about settling disputes and disarming the violence and destruction - God knows we need that.

It shouldn’t just be down to a new Archbishop – it’s something all of us should devote ourselves to in situations great and small – near or far.

None of us lives for ourselves alone – we live for the Lord, who gave his life to make peace.



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