Some of you will be aware that this September I became the minister for Winchcombe Methodist Church whilst continuing at Tewkesbury and Apperley Methodist Churches where I have been minister for two years. It was a real privilege to be asked to give a reflection during Winchcombe town’s service of remembrance this morning. Huge crowds gathered to honour all those who gave their lives for our freedom. In my message I challenged whether we had learnt anything at all and considered where the search for peace must really be sought. My reflection is given below.
So today we honour all those who gave their lives – the ultimate sacrifice – that we might have a hope for the future and that all may live in peace. Yet we would all agree, I am sure, that Peace in our world today remains a hope yet to be fulfilled. Increasing tensions in the world make us wonder if we have learnt anything at all.
The problem is of course that there is a deep flaw in all of us that from time to time must simply have its own way. It represents my way or no way. It is black or white, yes or no, there is no room for compromise or negotiation for mercy or forgiveness. It seeks only for the self to win and the other to lose and can even rejoice in the downfall of others.
And try as hard as we might to tame this part of ourselves, when the right buttons are pressed we can be quite uncompromising in demanding our own way.
When we watch conflicts played out on our TV’s and dictatorial world leaders playing brinkmanship it is so easy to distance ourselves and our own patterns of wanting our own way (all be they on a smaller scale) but we have them. They are played out in families and churches in neighbourly disputes and in the workplace. Sometimes such behaviour comes out as bullying or intimidating, or oppressing people, other times it comes out as power struggling and it is most likely that we have all, at sometime in our lives, either inflicted or been afflicted by this oppressive mindset. And, we don’t have to do very much at all to inflict or impose our rule over others…we can reject or exclude people merely by our body language, inflicting huge damage to another’s sense of self worth and all because they don’t see the world the way we think they should! ….
Once again we are seeing some very extreme examples of this my way or no way mindset in some current world leaders and we must continue to resist and to take a stance against oppressive regimens …for this very cause we stand here today giving our grateful thanks and honouring the sacrifice of so many… yet at the same time we are also called to model peace. It’s a difficult tension to hold. But if our prayers for world peace are to be answered then we each have to take responsibility for addressing that my way or no way flaw in our own soul.
Gandhi put it this way ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
This was the teaching that Jesus lived and taught us to live. If you really want this world to know lasting peace and freedom from oppression then be that in your dealings with others.
One Christian writer who addresses this deep flaw in the human consciousness gives us the idea of the crucified mind.The Crucified mind is in essence the opposite of the my way or no way world view. He depicts it as
- A humble mind.
- As expressing a love that does not insist on its own way.
- As expressing a love that seeks the benefit of others
- A mind that does not bulldoze or crusade through history, culture or peoples lives demanding conformation
- A mind that is inclusive and is able to embrace diversity
It is then the very opposite of the oppressive, egocentric mindset.
So if we are truly to honour those who gave their lives for our freedom and for the hope of future peace – we must address our own inner my way or no way tendencies.
Aligning our own hearts with the qualities of peace and humility will allow Light to shine through the darkness – transforming, healing and bringing us to a glorious vision of hope. So let us remember and honour those who died not just with our thoughts and remembrances but also with our intentions and actions so that our own lives model the message of hope that they gave their lives for.
Or to quote that wonderful verse from Micah in the Old Testament….this is what is required:
That you act justly, Love Mercy and to walk humbly with your God.