Debbie and I returned from holiday last week in North Yorkshire, but we took the opportunity to visit Northumberland for a day during our stay. Travelling up the A1 towards Alnwick you pass a road sign for the small village of Swarland, but if you are interested in monuments then it is worth taking the approach road towards the village.
On that road, situated only about 50 yards from the A1, is an unusual monument, which cannot be seen from the dual carriageway because it is obscured by a line of trees. The monument is in actual fact a 30 foot obelisk, and it was erected by a certain Mr Alexander Davison, who was a member of a well-established family.
The obelisk is there to commemorate Lord Admiral Nelson, and although Nelson was a Norfolk man he had enjoyed a close personal link to Northumberland through Davison, who had been a loyal helper and confidante.
It was following the death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 that Davison had the structure erected and its purpose was to commemorate the close bond of friendship that existed between the two men. A plaque on the obelisk reads, ‘Not to commemorate the public virtues and heroic achievements of Nelson, which is the duty of England, but to the memory of private friendship this monument is dedicated by Alexander Davison, 1807.’
With the approach of Remembrance Sunday we are made mindful again of the words of Jesus, inscribed on War Memorials across the land. Greater love has no-one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. We will, of course, honour those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in two World Wars and in other conflicts since for the freedom that is ours today. We must never forget the price they paid.
It is also true that Christians can never forget that Jesus also paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sakes through his death on the cross. In so doing He showed us a better way, revealing for all time that love is stronger than hate; friendship is stronger than enmity, generosity is stronger than greed, and compassion is stronger than apathy. I think Christ would wish to build a friendship monument, not of stone but in all our hearts which can, when taken seriously, re-orientate the whole of life.
God’s peace and friendship be with you all.