An empty tomb whose occupant is not dead

Last weekend we had our very interesting bible study days with the Newbury ecclesia. On Saturday and Sunday we spoke about the body and the unknown.

That weekend in Belgium and all over Europe attention was given to the many thousands of people who found their death in a horrible war. Lots of people got buried in a grave “for the unknown soldier”.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London

The ten thousand people who gathered around the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall on November 11 were joined not only by Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus as in previous years, but also this year by UK Humanists, Mormons, Spiritualists and many others besides. This should not be surprising as the Cenotaph has never been formally dedicated as a ‘Christian’ monument: it is simply 200 tons of Portland stone cleverly designed by Sir Edward Lutyens in 1920 to represent an empty tomb dedicated to the millions of men whose bodies still lie in the battlefields of Europe and elsewhere. That is what Cenotaph means, an empty tomb, translated from the Greek kenos (‘empty’) and taphos (‘tomb’).

Queen laying wreath at Cenotaph

Starting at 11am, the service commemorated the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women involved in the two World Wars and later conflicts. On the 11/11/2018 – exactly 100 years after the end of World War 1 on the 11/11/1918, at the exact minute the guns were silenced on the Western Front in 1918, i.e. 11 am, after five decades a group of South African veterans stood to attention in London.

Veterans, existing service members and the Royal family led the UK’s tributes as the country fell silent at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month 100 years on.

Prince Charles laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in central London while the Queen and other royals looked on. Portraits of soldiers were etched into beaches and hundreds of flames illuminated the moat at Tower of London.

Tributes were held at war cemeteries in Belgium and France, and around the world.

On the same day, however, the Beckenham ecclesia in Kent focused their minds on another empty tomb whose occupant is not dead, far away, but was present with them and with us in spirit wherever they and we met together to remember the great sacrifice he made on our behalf. Although there are many other Cenotaphs around the world there were also many people who met in parts of Africa and the East around simple, but meaningless, rocks or blocks of stone. How appropriate then, that we also remembered, as David reminds us in Psalm 18 and 2 Samuel 2, that the Lord is our Rock, our fortress and deliverer, the God in whom we trust.

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