Pulpit message: The Way to Eternity
In his report dated 1st of July 1916, at the Battle of the Somme, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Crozier records: “Again I look southward from a different angle and perceive heaped-up masses of British corpses suspended on the German wire in front of the Thiepval stronghold, while live men rush forward in orderly procession to swell the weight of numbers in the spider’s web…” This way to eternity!” shouts a wag behind.
For many hundreds of those gallant young men and boys there that day it was indeed ‘The Way to Eternity.’
‘Eternity’ What does it mean? To the philosopher it poses the question – Is ‘time’ a slot in ‘eternity’ or is it something wholly apart? To the theologian it reminds us of the ‘incommunicable attributes’ of God, the other two being ‘infinite’ and unchangeable.’ But what does it mean to the soldier on the battlefield? What does it mean to you and me? In the Hebrew bible the word we translate ‘eternity’ occurs only once – in Isaiah 57:15. “the lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy.” In simple terms this means that when, sooner or later, we leave this world, and arrive there we will find ourselves standing before God.
What motivated that young soldier to cry out “The Way to Eternity”? Was it, as Crozier suggests, a soldier’s ‘black humour?’ A euphemism for the stark reality of death not unlike the comment we heard too often during the Troubles - ‘there’s another man that won’t die of cancer’.
Or could it be that, here in the face of almost certain death, a young Christian lad was pleading with his comrades to trust in the Saviour?
Whichever way it was intended, it was, and still is, a prophetic word. For God can use the voice of anyone, even his enemies, to declare his Truth.
We read of Balaam’s ass, of Nebuchadnezzar, of Pilate and of Herod speaking God’s Truth.
Could it be that God used the cry that day to lead some dying soul to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ? I have known men who were converted in the trenches.
Could it be that God will use that phrase, cried out in the heat of battle over 100 years ago, to remind some soul today that we are all on ‘The Way to Eternity,’ and, in the words of the prophet Amos “prepare to meet your God?”
By Wor. Bro. Rev. Ian McClean, Grand Chaplain