At the end of last month as many of you will know I travelled to Bois Grenier cemetery near Lille in northern France. To lay to rest 15 men of the York and Lancaster regiment who were killed almost 100 years ago to the day during the start of the Great War in 1914.
This was a great honour for me to take part in and the preparation for it had taken months. During this time I reflected what I would say on the day. I did not find it easy to try and capture the whole essence of the event in just a few short moments. There was joy that these men who were lost had been found, there was pride in the fact that they had done their duty, there was sadness that their loved ones never learnt what had happened to them and finally there was the overwhelming sense of peace that they could finally be laid to rest alongside each other with their relatives and dignitaries gathered round them to say goodbye.
The one thing that seemed to strike me in all of this is the question “where is God in this whole story?” It is easy to say that he is in the parts of the story that brings joy and hope. The fact that these men were found and could be given a Christian burial. But what about the difficult times? The moments that the families learnt about their deaths, that fact that they never knew what had happened to them, the fact that they lay lost for nearly 100 years. Where was God in those moments?
I believe that our God is one who never leaves us and in that, never stops loving us. This is a story of both despair and hope, and one fact remains throughout it all and that is that these men and their families have never and will never be separated from the love of God is Christ Jesus. As St Paul states “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Romans 8:38
Their story is wrapped up in our story because we are the same, in as much as there is no place we can ever go to es- cape God and his love for us. The Psalmist writes “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”