The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge, my saviour
(From the Second Book of Samuel, chapter 22)
Over the past week regulars of Damerham’s Coffee Pot group have been emailing
memories and photos of the VE Day experience of our forbears (and one or two memories of those who were actually there). Perhaps you’ve also been reflecting on your parents’, or grandparents’ wartime experience. It’s been moving to recognise afresh the significance of their collective national effort. And our appreciation is sharpened by the road we’re all currently travelling together.
Many of us have come to understand what it is to be engaged in a great common
endeavour. We see that our choices, our forbearance, our self-discipline, make a direct
contribution to a common struggle, waging a vital campaign against an unseen, and sometimes deadly, enemy. Sadly some choose not to play their part, and some act with the intent to do deliberate and real harm. But the great majority now, as then, shoulder their share of self-denial, of steadfastness and sacrifice, and bear their losses and sorrows with quiet fortitude.
Seventy five years on, the contrast between VE Day’s mass gatherings, military parades and crowded street parties, and our own more subdued commemorations has been stark. On Victory in Europe Day strangers, neighbours and families rejoiced together that they were, at last, able to share in celebrating a hard-won victory which, in the darkest days of the war, had looked anything but certain. After nearly six long years, at last the bells could ring out; and bright lights could pierce the darkness, free from fear of violence and harm. Though challenges, exertions and sacrifices still lay ahead, it was a moment to savour.
For us the way ahead remains uncharted territory. Fears and anxieties are understandable, as they were for the disciples trying – and failing – to accommodate the news that Jesus was leaving them: that he was ‘going on ahead’. As Jesus approached his great trial, his disciples feared abandonment. Jesus’ response was to assure them that their future was already secure in him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
In giving thanks to a rejoicing Nation and Commonwealth, both King and Prime Minister directed their people to turn to God (whoever their God might be) with prayers of thanksgiving, just as they had turned to God in the darkest days of the war to beseech his help. Our forbears were asked to do what David did in our Old Testament reading, to turn to God in thanksgiving for being delivered from the hands of their enemies. So let us also pray to our God. For in the end, deliverance is achieved by more than human endeavour; it is an act of grace.