This is the first year since it was dedicated in 1930 that we haven’t been able to gather physically round the Liverpool Cenotaph for Remembrance. But we can bring it to mind now. A great block of stone, with bronze relief sculptures of marching soldiers and mourners. And verses from the Bible, on each of the long sides.
And on the side facing St George’s Hall there are two verses, above and below the sculptures. One is from the prophecy of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible: “Out of the North parts a great company and a mighty army”. It speaks to the pride we Northerners have in the contribution we made in the wars, our pride in the men and women who marched, and fought, and died. The North is an essential part of this nation, and we are proud of what our fathers and grandfathers have given. We will remember them.
And today as the Coronavirus makes everything different, we are proud again; proud of those from the North, key workers, NHS workers, care home workers, our own friends and neighbours who care for the sick and the elderly, and who put their own lives at risk so that others might live. We will remember them, too.
And on that same side of the Cenotaph, above the sculpture, we read these words, from the New Testament: “As unknown and yet well known, as dying and behold we live”. Words that speak of God’s care for everyone – for the unknown soldiers, for those forgotten, for those on the edge of things, for those whose heroism is invisible. Words that underline the hope we have in life beyond death – “dying, and behold we live”.
Death comes to us all, but for those who died in the wars it came too soon, just as it comes too soon for so many today – and yet the hope is the same, that everything beautiful and good and selfless is held in God’s love forever.
We can’t gather round the Cenotaph today. But we can gather round these words, and we can remember. And we can commit ourselves to live in the spirit of that great company out of the North, with courage and in the hope of eternal life.