Wednesday 18th May: Midweek Thought: Rev Jo Sweeney

Plans are currently under way for a large parade in Omagh next Sunday 22 May to commemorate the Battle of the Somme during the First World War. Orangemen from many parts of Co Tyrone will parade to three local churches including our own. Readings and prayers have already been selected and an order of service printed. Someone will read from John’s Gospel chapter 15. Verse 13 will be the focal point of this commemoration. ‘Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.

I have it in mind to retell the story of Robert Quigg VC. It is well documented in many accounts of WW1 and can be found on the following website.

For me there are clear links between the story of Quigg’s heroic exploits during which he rescued seven fallen comrades under enemy fire and having to go very close to enemy lines.

One link of course is that Quigg did all this out of love. His platoon officer, Lieutenant Harry Macnaughten was reported missing. Macnaughten was from Quigg’s home town of Bushmills Co Antrim (the same place the whiskey comes from) and no doubt there was strong bond between the officer and his men. On his first sortie Quigg found no sign of Macnaughten but there was one poor soldier whom he could save and that he did. In all he made seven attempts to find his fellow townsman but without success. However, on each occasion he rescued other fallen soldiers. Sadly, Macnaughten was never found but because of his bravery Quigg received the Victoria Cross from King George V1. Why did he do it? He did it all out of love; a love that was selfless; a love that pointed to the love that Jesus has for us all which took him to a cruel death on Calvary.

Another link is found in verse 17. Jesus says ‘This is my command. Love one another’. My command! Soldiers obey commands and Quigg was good soldier. The story is told that as the Bushmills brigade finalised their preparations for war, Macnaughten’s mother told Quigg to make every effort to preserve her son’s safety. To Quigg this might have been as good as a command; a command to be obeyed.

Jesus’s command leaves Christians no option but to make every effort to overcome the obstacles that cause division amongst Christian fellowships. Quigg’s bravery in rescuing the lost is a huge lesson for Christians to take the message of the love of Jesus to dangerous parts of the world in an attempt to win back souls for the Kingdom of God.