All Quiet on the Western Front

Early in the new version of All Quiet on the Western Front we see what happens to the uniforms of the German soldiers who are killed in the trenches. They are packed up in huge bundles, taken away for the blood to be washed out, and then the bullet holes and rips are repaired in factories. So when Paul, a fresh-faced new recruit, signs up with his keen friends in 2017, he receives his new uniform only to find someone else’s name stitched into it. ‘I think I have someone else’s,’ he says, and the man behind his desk tells him it must have been returned because it didn’t fit. He then tears out the name label, and as Paul happily walks away, he drops it on the floor with a pile of names torn out from other uniforms. The names of those who have already sacrificed their lives in the mud and the squalor and the horror.
War goes on, and we are aware of so many places caught up in battle even now. Sudan, Ukraine, Port-au-Prince in Haiti. And so many ordinary people suffer as a result. And all around the world there will be Christians caught up on both sides of any conflict. No doubt praying for peace. Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, in Isaiah chapter 9 verse 6. When he is born the angels declare ‘peace on earth’. And yet the warring goes on. So for now this must be another kind of peace. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers,’ Jesus said when he had grown up and was leading his people into a new kind of Life. With a capital L. God is with those who, with Jesus’s strength and help, are intent on bringing his peace into their world. In all kinds of ways. Our hearts are restless until we finds our rest in God. So said Saint Augustine a long time back. And the restlessness surrounds us in life. In the news. In the stories which grip us. In the fractured reality around. And so we pray that we may be peacemakers. That we may, often in small ways, bring the peace of God in the things we do and say. Only God can help us do that.

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