I am one of those people who is interested in symbols and the meaning behind them. This interest of mine can embrace both the religious and the secular. It can even be seen in the significance of a particular lapel badge someone may be wearing; so don’t be surprised if I enquire about one you may display on your coat or jacket as you leave church on a Sunday morning. Some symbols, of course, link the past to the present. One such symbol, which is fixed in our corporate memory, is the poppy, with its unique connection to the act of Remembrance. The red poppy came into prominence because it adorned the fields of Flanders during the raging battles that took place there during the First World War. This “Flower of Remembrance” carries with it, not only poignant memories for people the world over, but it bears an enduring legacy, which must never be forgotten.
We know the little red poppy emblem signifies our remembrance of all who have given their lives in fighting for the freedom which we enjoy today, a freedom that has come at great cost. It is, therefore, vitally important that we don’t allow the lessons of history to die on us. The world we live in today is in many ways a very unstable place. There are many areas of conflict and repression, and we know the repercussions of this turmoil can impact on us all. You only have to turn the TV, or pick up the newspaper, to realise how much we see and read about in our day to day world is focused on war and killing, intolerance and strife. And the answers to some of these enormous problems are often far more complex than we may understand. In all of these struggles and challenges, it is easy to get despondent and wonder where it will all end.
My response is simply that all of this takes us back to the symbolism of the poppy. For those who have lost loved ones, Remembrance is deeply personal, but for all of us, Remembrance should lead us to look forward with hope and resolve for the future. Bad news stories may abound, but never let us lose sight of all the good that goes on in the world, much of which will never grab the headlines. The poppy is a symbol too of peace, caring and compassion. It is these life-affirming values that we are called to promote in our world. Jesus showed that evil will not have the last word, and that through His death and sacrifice it is overcome by good. So then, let us remember with reverence and gratitude the fallen of two world wars, and other conflicts since in the most fitting way, by offering ourselves in the working for better world right where we are. Wear your poppy with pride, and wear it in remembrance of the kind of world God wants, and how we can all play some part to help shape that world.
Peace and blessing to you all.