Thought for the Week – week 45

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On any reckoning, the centenary of the armistice that brought the First World War to an end is a moment to stop and reflect.

It is heartening that this especially poignant Remembrance Day will be thoughtfully observed by communities throughout Argyll, along with many others across the country.

One person who thought deeply about the catastrophic effect of the First World War was the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. A year after the armistice he wrote his famous poem, The Second Coming, including the lines:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Struggling with this loss of moral bearings, Yeats took from the Christian tradition the idea of the second coming – the time when Christ will come again to set things right and bring about the reign of God.

In Christian belief, this forms a horizon of hope. In the aftermath of the Great War, Yeats lacked such confidence. He could only ask, with foreboding: ‘And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’

After 100 years, where are we? Is the falcon able to hear the falconer? Is the centre able to hold? As we reflect on the sacrifice made on our behalf by those who gave their lives in time of war, what will we make of the peace and freedom they bequeathed to us?

The Bible recognises times of turmoil when it is hard to find our bearings. But it points us to a centre that can hold. As generations of Scots have sung, in the metrical version of Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and our strength.
in straits a present aid;
therefore, although the earth be moved
we will not be afraid.

Kenneth Ross
Parish Minister, Netherlorn