Micah speaks of a time when there will be peace and security for all, when swords and spears are made into farming implements and people can sit in peace, on their own land and no one will make them afraid. It is a beautiful vision of how the world should be.

Mark records Jesus speaking about the future – that the wonderful Temple building put up by Herod as a symbol of Jewish success would become a heap of stones. Some have tried to date the particular events as if they are a code to be deciphered; rather they are simply a reminder to the disciples that just because Jesus has come, even though he will be raised from the dead, the world will continue to be a place where there is fighting and suffering. Natural disasters also will continue to happen. Jesus speaks of how the world is.

We could take this as a fatalistic – “God does not make any difference then”, or we might see it as a reminder that Christian faith is no shortcut to prosperity, success or a life free of trouble.

God has given humanity freedoms which we can enjoy or exploit. We can do wrong ourselves and we can find ourselves on the receiving end of the wrongdoing of others. When we think ethically we sometimes think as if in a pure world. Christians have disagreed on the ethics of war, as well as on the ethics of particular wars and the ethics of how those wars have been waged. There are no easy and sensible answers.

Jesus lived in a time of Occupation, occupying soldiers on the streets often making demands on ordinary people, a time when some joined resistance movements. Paul and Peter wrote their letters in a similar context except that they wrote to people living in more cosmopolitan areas, Roman Provinces where the majority accepted Roman Rule, but who may have found aspects of it harsh or arbitrary. Caesar’s rule was just how things were.

We have been “blessed” with nearly 80 years of peace in this country, though not without fear and not without terrorism. Today we remember those who fought against Oppression, whose lives were cut short, who died often in terrifying circumstances. We must work for peace, be peace-makers; we must wrestle with the reality, not theorise from an arm-chair. We can and must pray for peace, and the end to aggression. ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’ is at the heart of our prayers, along with ‘Deliver us from evil’, where us is both you and me, but also our brothers and sisters in other places where evil is so close and real.

Rev’d Peter Reiss