The Parishes of Crail and St Ayle

Reflections from Peter Neilson 

Sunday - 14 November 2021

 

Dear Friends in Crail and St Ayle,

 

We are entering the season of Remembrance, a poignant time for those with military connections, touched by conflicts past and recent, but also for those whose hearts hold a relentless ache for loved ones who have died, always remembered when others seem to have forgotten.  The pandemic has added its unique pain.

When we say the words “We will remember them” this year, I suggest that we broaden our remembrance to those who have fought a different battle and lost.

Grace and peace to you.

Peter

 

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Gathering into the Presence of God

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matt 5:4)

God of comfort and hope,

In this season of remembrance

when waves of grief

Lap at our feet or crash over our heads,

Draw close with Your unique blessing for those who mourn

And the strong comfort which you give

That is deeper than human words.

 

Darkness and light are the same to You, O God,

Present in the Cross when You seemed to be absent,

Opening doors of hope from a sealed tomb.

Lord Jesus Christ, roll away the heavy stone

That lies on our hearts, and let us walk into tomorrow

With new hope and stronger faith. AMEN 

 

Listening for God’s Word

Today’s Gospel Reading: Mark 13:5-8

Jesus said to them: Watch that no-one deceives you.  Many will come in my name, claiming “I am he”, and will deceive many.  When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines.  These are the beginning of the birth-pangs.

Marked by Absence

 

If any country is an example of “wars and rumours of wars”, it is Afghanistan.

“Shadow City – a woman walks in Kabul”, written by the Indian journalist, Taran N. Khan, gives us fascinating insights into the capital of Afghanistan, which has featured so vividly in the news in recent months.  From the Anglo-Afghan Wars of the 19th century, through to the Soviet invasion in the 1970s and 1980s, the Taliban controlled 1990’s and the US invasion in 2001, she describes a city and a nation afflicted by war, civil and international.  70% of the population suffers from anxiety or depression, alternating between hope and habit, the hope of peace and the habit of violence.

The Western influence of the past 20 years has opened doors of opportunity for women through education and respect for human rights.  Even with the abrupt departure of foreign troops and the chaotic inability of the Taliban to govern a modern nation well, that legacy of hope and possibility remains as a vision that, once seen, cannot be unseen.

One phrase stands out as she describes this city broken by war: “marked by absence”.  She describes the number of graves, some randomly dug where people died, some beautifully kept in British style from a previous era, and Shahuda, the “graveyard of the martyrs” who died for their country.  Apart from the graves, the city is “marked by absence” because of the many who have simply disappeared from the land, in a desperate search for a more peaceful place to raise families.

In this season of Remembrance, our minds will travel to different war zones and different times, but we would do well to remember Afghanistan, the people who remain, the people who have fled and the soldiers who served there over the past 20 years.

War is cruel.  Casualties are inevitable.  When victory is achieved, the cost is given some meaning.  However, with the events in Afghanistan unfolding in such chaos, many serving soldiers have been left feeling suicidal because the high cost seems pointless.

They echo the poets of WWI who wrote of the futility of war, and the songs of the 1960s Vietnam era, “when will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?”  Even Jesus spoke of history being the story of “wars and rumours of wars” till the end of time.  Bleak as it is, it seems that we may never learn.

And yet he ends with this cryptic hint of hope: “These are the beginning of birth-pangs.”

Let us remember and pray for the many lives “marked by absence” in many ways, that something new may be birthed in them, according to the mysterious promise of Jesus.

 

Prayers of Intercession

 

We hold before God our violent world

So much cruelty, so much suffering –

holding in our minds

the images of buildings bombed,

children maimed and people drowning....

May Your light break into our dark hearts.

Come, Lord, Come.

 

We hold before God our armed forces:

Those who risk their lives

on land and sea and air;

Those who act to preserve fragile peace

At home and in other lands

May they be kept safe

Amidst the dangers they endure.

Come, Lord, Come.

We hold before God

friends who need God today,

Those in the exhausting confusion of grief

And those facing life-limiting illness

of body and mind.

May Your grace be sufficient for them.

Come, Lord, Come.

 

We hold before God

those who do not know God

Those too hurt to trust

and those too proud to obey.

May You find a way to surprise them with joy.

Come, Lord, Come.

AMEN

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