Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: “A victory only half won”.

Fifth Sunday of Easter
10 May 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

As most of you will be aware, the 8th May was the anniversary of VE Day

The day when the guns fell silent in Europe seventy five years ago

More than one million people celebrated in the streets of Great Britain

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of this event, last year, the British Government designated 8th May as a Bank holiday

Celebrations were planned across the country for what was designated “VE Day weekend”

Celebrations which have now had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus

When the holiday weekend was announced last year, the Minister in charge said

“It will ensure as many people as possible have the opportunity to remember and honour our heroes of the Second World War and reflect on the sacrifices of a generation.”

Sir Andrew Gregory, chief executive of SSAFA, said

“It is our duty to keep the events of the past alive including future generations – this is how we ensure that such a conflict never happens again,”

I must confess to an initial degree of scepticism when the celebrations were announced

First of all, the bank holiday took us all by surprise

It wasn’t even included in our calendars and diaries

So why did it appear so suddenly?

Secondly, it seems so long ago – my Mother was just nine years old at the time

She has since died of old age

Thirdly we have Remembrance Sunday in any event

Why another seemingly unplanned event?

I suspected it was an attempt, in part at least, to fuse nostalgia for the past with a certain political vision of the future

A future which is now even more complicated than any of us could have predicted

However, given that the event is now upon us, I do think there are some important lessons to be learned from this event

First and foremost, this may well be the last occasion when we can, as a nation, remember those who fought in WW2 alone

On Remembrance Sunday we remember all wars, from 1914 to date, together with victims of terror

So it is rare that a war is singled out

Those who fought in WW2 will be in their early nineties and their moment will soon pass

However, whilst they are still in living memory, it is only right and proper that we mark their sacrifice, courage and indomitable spirit

Colonel Tom exemplifies this perfectly with heroism extending into his hundredth year

As Ben Wallace said, “he not only embodies the spirit of our incredible veteran community, but the resolve of this nation.”

And we salute him and all those who fought and died to bring us freedom in 1945

Secondly, I believe that this anniversary needs to be marked specifically because we fought a Just War in 1939-45

The evil of Nazism had to be confronted and came at huge personal cost to our country and to the world

However, there was no other option but to face it down and, the fact that so many of our brave men and women sacrificed everything, does this nation great credit

It is perhaps worth pausing to reflect on this alone…

But also on the fact that we have become involved in so many unjust wars since

I should know, I took part in one of them

Going forward into the future we must temper our constant thirst for war

The international legal order cannot be discarded just because it is inconvenient

If we go down that route, then we just create a lawless world

Finally, it is worth pausing at this moment in time to reflect on the conditions which gave rise to WW2

The 1930’s started with a period of great economic turbulence

The distribution of income and wealth was not dissimilar to our own times

Where there had been no marked increase in real wages for ordinary people for some time

As a result, politics were populist and angry – just like our own

This year also marks the anniversary of the liberation of Belsen

The pictures are quite horrific but come at a time when anti-Semitism, in this country and elsewhere in Europe, is at its worst since WW2

The same applies to the equally pernicious Islamophobia

This is not the 1930’s – but many of the historic conditions that were present in the 1930’ also characterise our own society today

We need to be constantly on our guard to ensure that war does not happen again as old alliances are fractured and remoulded

As I said at the start of my sermon, what no one could have predicted at the announcement of these celebrations was that they would be cancelled due to a pandemic

So rather than indulging in a weekend of nostalgia, we have another battle to fight in the here and now – this weekend for some of us

President Truman said on VE Day that it was “a victory only half won” and those words seem so appropriate today

Our victory against the first wave of the pandemic is only half won too, if at all

But despite the tragedy, global conflicts can be a catalyst for profound change

Those who survived the horrors of WW2 came back to build a better world

So too, in our time, where because of the virus, we can see more clearly than ever, the injustices in our society

An event like this should not be a longing to return to vanished past – as was intended- but rather the opportunity to build a better future, together

So looking forward  and not backwards, may we take this opportunity to build a better world which reflects Kingdom values and not just our own selfish ambitions