As I drove into Washington DC this afternoon for a few days of meetings I noticed once again as I exited off the George Washington Parkway and headed onto I-395 North toward Capitol Hill… I noticed the flag draped hillside of Arlington Nation Cemetery and I proudly thought once again of just how much Memorial Day plays sweetly at the heartstrings of our nations memory! It is much more than just a day off from work, it’s a day to honor the soldiers who have died in battle defending their homeland. In The Los Angeles Times a few years ago I remember reading of a father celebrating his first Memorial Day since losing his son in Afghanistan. “I want to remind people that when they see a veteran, they should go shake his hand or buy him a cup of coffee,” He said. “And when the national anthem is played at the ballgame, stand up and put your hand on your heart: Never forget that people have died for you and for that flag. For me personally I have long since cherished the remarks made by President Ronald Reagan at the U.S. Ranger Monument in Pointe du Hoc, France June 6, 1984, “Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life … and left the vivid air signed with your honor… Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love…You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.” Memorable words, you should watch both of President Reagan’s speeches that day with your children, especially this time of year!
We celebrate and we remember. The scriptures admonish us to do so. Once a year we observe Memorial Day. But for the Christ Follower, every week is a celebration of Christ’s finished work. Jesus fought the armies of Hell so that we can be set free. For the Christian, every Sunday is a Memorial Day. On Memorial Day, We Remember Lives lived. Part of emotional healing in the process of grief is to remember the life of the loved one who has passed. The Lord shared with His disciples, “This is my body, which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.” What do we remember about Jesus? We remember his life and teachings. But more than that, we remember His sacrificial death. We also remember his Victory over Death. We remember His resurrection. We have fellowship with a living Savior as our hearts reach out by faith. Also, on Memorial Day We Give Thanks for the Sacrifice. All the heroic acts on battlefields throughout history have made our country what it is today. We enjoy freedom and wealth that are un-equaled. But our freedom and our luxuries have come at a great price. In a similar way, Jesus gave his life to set us free from slavery of sin and death. For this we must be eternally thankful. Jesus said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
The definition of Memorial is, “Serving to preserve remembrance”. What will you be remembered by? John Wesley said: Do all the good you can, with all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” May we not only remember well, but may we live so that those who follow in our footsteps have something honorable to remember as well!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.ReachReach