From the Rectory – VE Day 2020.
Friday 8 May 2020. 75 years ago today, the guns fell silent across Europe. The war with Japan would continue a further 3 months; the East-West division of Europe would continue a further 45 years; but in Europe the guns were silent, their war was over. We tend to focus on the particular evil of Hitler’s National Socialism, but in many ways, WW2 was an extension of WW1: unfinished business. In humiliating and impoverishing a defeated Germany, the 1919 Treaty of Versailles contributed to the rise of Hitler and all he stood for. How different the approach taken in 1945. Former enemies worked together so that, out of the ashes of bitter conflict a new, prosperous and largely peaceful community of nations arose. One that has helped preserve peace in Europe for 75 years.
Peace doesn’t just happen; it needs to be worked at and it can be costly. On the wall behind the high altar in Coventry’s bomb shattered cathedral are inscribed two words “Father Forgive”. As the Roman soldiers nailed him to the cross, Jesus prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” I remember as a child asking why the Cathedral had left out ‘them’, after all ‘they’ had destroyed it. I learned then, as we all need to learn and relearn, that forgiveness is something that we all need to both give and receive. This same Jesus taught us to pray ’Father forgive us our offences, as we forgive those who offend us.’
Forgiveness is a two-way process. VE day falls in the season of Easter. Easter, the season of hope, when Jesus rose from the dead, defeating death and opening up for us the pathway to eternal life. But, we must never forget that the love of God which gives us the resurrection, is built on both the suffering of Good Friday, and on that prayer of forgiveness. The sharing of that love with us today owes much to Jesus’ disciples’ willingness to follow his example; to give and forgive.
Victory in Europe marked the end of nearly 6 years of sacrificial struggle. Winning the peace would be no less demanding. The last 75 years is testimony to the willingness of so many who, having given much in war, continued to serve others in the cause of peace. Perhaps the most important act of self-giving has been that willingness to forgive and accept forgiveness.
To access this week’s pew sheet please click on the link on the Downloads section.