When I read this story, I realised that even on the days I think life has been tough, I've had it easy!
Today is Remembrance Sunday, and to tell the truth I always find preaching on this day one of the hardest things. We have an unusual mix in church: our own folk, who want to be fed spiritually; ex- and serving-military who are there for the day to remember colleagues who have suffered and died, and their own time in service; and various youth organisations, from the Brownies to the cadets, many of whom are there because they have been told to be! Add to these a sprinkling of civic dignitaries from the police, the fire services, the life boats et al, and of course a good deal of political presence (from a government minister downwards), and you have a full church (actually today a very full church - the fullest we have had on Remembrance Sunday in my time here).
And I have to speak to them all.
You'll understand that I lay awake half the night even after working solidly on my talk, running it over and over, making sure that I was happy with what I was doing. Because, being me I am not happy to do a simple thing - I wanted to deconstruct Remembrance, to pull apart what we think we are doing on this day and then to put it back together in a way that has an integrity and a Christian emphasis and life that points forwards not backwards.
I was helped enormously by Cameron Curry (aged 11) who brilliantly read out On Flanders Fields at the start of my talk,and by Matthew Truelove who sang Enrique Iglesias' Hero towards the end (far better than the original - the boy is far better than he knows, and we are blessed to have him). I contrasted nostalgia, vengeance, national pride and sentimentality, and called for remembering that recalled the past accurately so that we could build a better future; remembering that was pulled into a cathedral of forgiveness by the one who laid down his life for his friends and cried "Father forgive" so that we cannot forget and be lost in an endless cycle of war without end; remembering that takes pride in its country but sees humanity in its fellows in all lands because all recieve from Jesus the right to be treated as neighbours, to be blessed and not cursed, to be loved and not hated; and remembering that sees a hero in an act of bravery for a fellow in the midst of an inexplicable war, but does not lose its context or its sorrow as we honour that bravery.
Remembering must drive us to make tomorrow better than yesterday, and this cannot be done if we ignore truths about today, or simply dwell on the past. Those who died that we might be better off are badly served if simply sit around remembering how good it used to be. We remember - lest we forget: so that the youngest will never know what the oldest have seen, and the oldest might never imagine what the youngest will take for granted.
(Those monks in that BBC report should remember a few things too.)
And it poured down as we set out for the park, after the church service, to complete our remembering at the town war memorial. Though I had a very good chat with our MP, Kim Howells, who told me that the chap next to him in church (mercifully anonymous) had said: "Marcus was good this morning; he's not up to that standard every week, you know."