Memorial Day – to some it’s merely the beginning of summer and to others it’s a solemn day to remember those who have passed from this life. However, to the war veteran and to the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries significance so deep that words cannot express their hearts.
When we look into the eyes of those who still mourn these once vibrant men and women, we often sense their loneliness and pain. We hear them choke back tears as they simply say the ranks and names of their military brothers and sisters at a Memorial Day service. White gloves, dress uniforms, rigid posture, and perfectly precisioned salutes represent the reverence and respect flowing from within. Those who have been personally affected by war understand and appreciate this day of remembrance.
What should we say to those who sincerely honor this day? “Happy Memorial Day” doesn’t seem fitting. “I’m sorry for your loss” may be closer to appropriate. What would the fallen soldier want from their comrades and the rest of the country on this day?
In an often quoted Memorial Day speech given in 1884 by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the speaker ended his address with these words, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”
The American soldier who gave his or her life for U.S. citizens to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness won’t be telling us how to observe the holiday. But I believe that Holmes’ proposition to “think of life, not death” would honor the fallen soldier. Their sacrifice follows the example of Jesus Christ laying down His life for our freedom. It’s selfless love for others – not so others can mourn forever, but live!
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16
Notice that in scripture and in military service, the willingness to give up one’s life is not dependent on the worthiness of the people who benefit from the honorable act. In a perfect world, all who receive freedom and grace would be worthy of such a sacrifice and full of gratitude. But that’s not the way it is anywhere on Earth or in Heaven.
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8
We are blessed to be living in a free society. May we honor our American soldiers for the liberty we have in this country. May we also give thanks to Almighty God for the freedom we have to spend eternity with Him because of His gift of forgiveness through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A Memorial Meal
By: Dianne Neal Matthews
Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, was instituted to honor Civil War dead. Local observances were held as early as 1866, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried. The first official and large observance took place on May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, which held the remains of twenty thousand Union soldiers and several Confederate dead. Five thousand people attended the ceremony.
New York was the first state to declare the holiday, in 1873; other states quickly followed. After World War I, citizens expanded the observances to honor those who died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday and changed the date to the last Monday in May. In recent years, many use the occasion to decorate the graves of loved ones.
Under God’s direction, the Israelites had “Memorial Day” celebrations to help them remember major events in their history. They celebrated Passover each year to commemorate their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt. When Jesus ate his last Passover meal, he instituted a new memorial to commemorate the deliverance from slavery to sin that he would accomplish for all believers through his death. As he shared the bread and wine with his disciples, he instructed them to eat and drink in remembrance of him.
The speaker at the first official Memorial Day service urged the audience to tend the graves of the dead soldiers to testify that our country had not forgotten the cost of a free, undivided republic. When we take part in the Lord’s Supper we are testifying that we remember the cost of our salvation. We are celebrating a “Memorial Meal” in honor of the One who won the war against death and sin.
[Jesus told his disciples,] “Do this to remember me.” (Luke 22:19)
As soon as you begin to live the life of faith in God, fascinating and physically gratifying possibilities will open up before you. These things are yours by right, but if you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God make your choice for you. God sometimes allows you to get into a place of testing where your own welfare would be the appropriate thing to consider, if you were not living the life of faith. But if you are, you will joyfully waive your right and allow God to make your choice for you. This is the discipline God uses to transform the natural into the spiritual through obedience to His voice.
Whenever our right becomes the guiding factor of our lives, it dulls our spiritual insight. The greatest enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but good choices which are not quite good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best. In this passage, it would seem that the wisest thing in the world for Abram to do would be to choose. It was his right, and the people around him would consider him to be a fool for not choosing.
Many of us do not continue to grow spiritually because we prefer to choose on the basis of our rights, instead of relying on God to make the choice for us. We have to learn to walk according to the standard which has its eyes focused on God. And God says to us, as He did to Abram, “…walk before Me…” (Genesis 17:1).