How are you observing Memorial Day?

Memorial Day Flags
Image by eddiecoyote via Flickr

So, how are you observing Memorial Day?  Will it just be some time with family and barbecue?  Will you attend a parade or, perhaps, visit a veteran’s memorial?

Our plans are still coming together (rather late, I know), but I do think that we will visit a local memorial.  Also, I stumbled upon a British documentary DVD in a “bargain bin” video section of a local grocery store that discusses what might have happened in Britain had Hitler been successful in taking over the country, based on documents from the era and depicted with reenactments.  I’ve been wanting to watch it for some time and I think I will sit down with the family and do so tomorrow, as a reminder of how important it is that things turned out as they did and of the the role played by those of that generation.

In the meantime, I am reprinting something I wrote up in preparing for a sermonette some time ago (which I have recently worked into a larger sermon, which some of my congregations heard last Sabbath) that I have printed before (here and here).  I hope it may be worthwhile to some of you.  Also, please read our current commentary on the LCG and Tomorrow’s World websites: “Memorial Day” by Richard Franz.

And whatever you and your family do, I hope it is a day well spent.  The “rerun” is below.
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Thoughts for God’s Church on Memorial Day

This Monday most of us will be off work, perhaps manning our barbecues, or perhaps sitting in front of the TV. Very few of us will actually be doing anything in relation to the actual reason we are being given this Monday off.

We will, of course, be observing Memorial Day (though Memorial Day is officially on May 30). This morning, I want to give you some thoughts to meditate on for Memorial Day.

On our way to Church this morning, we did not have to show our papers to an armed guard at the door… We don’t have to wear jackets with a yellow “7” on the breast to indicate that we are Sabbath-keepers… We don’t have to live in daily fear of being hauled from our homes without explanation by soldiers without mercy… We can pretty much go where we want, when we want, doing what we want. We are free.

Very few peoples on this earth can say that: “We are free.” Yet by the mercy of God we are free — free to raise our families and pursue our dreams and to worship our God. But until this nation fully recognizes the need for spiritual freedom and the blood of Jesus Christ, it will pay for its physical freedom with the blood of its sons and daughters.

Remembering those who have paid that price, those fallen heroes who have died in America’s wars, is what Memorial Day is all about. It is not so much a day of national mourning but one of remembering — preserving the memory, service, and sacrifice of our war dead.

To me, it makes sense that this American observance occurs so frequently near Pentecost, for it is Pentecost that marks the beginning — or at least the escalation — of another war, a war concerning true freedom. 1 John 3:8 says, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” For nearly 2000 years, the Son of God has been manifested to the world through His church — His Body — and it is in His church that the war against the devil is now raging. If you have been called by God (John 6:44), then it is a war to which you have been drafted. If you have been baptized, then it is a war in which you have been fighting.

Some have characterized the war as a desperate struggle to save the entire world — a cosmic contest between God and Satan. But this is incorrect. There is no “contest,” and the end of the conflict has been predetermined. Our side wins! Yet, this does not negate the imagery called up by the apostle Paul of true Christians as soldiers for Jesus Christ, fighting against the devil for not only our own lives, but the lives of those we love, and to spread the news of His glorious, literal Kingdom, soon to come to this earth. It is a message that Satan the devil, the ruler of this age, would rather have us keep to ourselves. And so we fight.

It is a war that has its share of fallen heroes… Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, Simeon, Andrew, the two Jameses, Stephen, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Jude, Matthias, Paul, Barnabas… All these were killed by the enemy in this war. If the tales surrounding their deaths have any truth to them, some were hanged, some were stoned, some were beheaded, and some were crucified. One was dragged through the streets to his death while tied to horses, one was shot with arrows, one was flayed alive, and one was thrown from the top of the temple and beaten to death where he landed.

And although this war began in its current configuration and scale on Pentecost, it didn’t really begin there, but has been raging for some time. In Hebrews 11 we read —

And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy.

Hebrews 11:32-38

Tacitus, the ancient Roman historian, writing within only 10 to 20 years after John wrote the book of Revelation, tells us that “[m]ockery of every sort was added to [Christians’] deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

Brethren, we have our war dead to remember on Memorial Day.

I would like you to take some time to think of them this Monday. Considering those who have blazed the trail before us is a Biblical thing to do — hence Hebrews 11.

In Hebrews 12:1-2, we read,

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

With their example before us, what will we do, now that we carry the banner? The message Peter preached, Paul preached, Barnabas preached, Matthew preached, Jesus preached — it is now OUR message to preach. The banner they carried into the fight is now OUR banner to carry.

What are we going to do with it?

It has not been my purpose to be morbid this morning, but, brethren, we need to KNOW — and to KNOW THAT WE KNOW — WHAT we are DOING here! WHAT we are in the MIDDLE OF! WHAT is TRULY AT STAKE!

Do we know? Do we understand?

We are not here to play church.
We are not here to play social club and who’s in/who’s out.
We are not here to play coffee pot wars or pot luck wars.
We are not here to play debate club.

We are in a struggle against Satan the devil and the ultimate powers of evil in the world, and our lives — temporal & fleshly, as well as eternal & spiritual — and the lives of those we hold most dear are at stake.

This Memorial Day, consider spending a few moments thinking about our war dead…

— about the commission with which they were entrusted
— about the devotion, loyalty, passion, and commitment they gave to it
— and about the prices they paid to serve their God and to do His will

…and on this Memorial Day, consider reflecting on the fact that you are now entrusted with that same commission. Consider reflecting on what levels of devotion, loyalty, passion, and commitment you are giving to it. Consider reflecting on the price you would be willing to pay for your service.

The official U.S. Code for Memorial Day states the following (emphasis mine):

“The President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe each May 30, Memorial Day, by praying, each in accordance with his religious faith, for permanent peace; designating a period during such day in which all the people of the United States may unite in prayer for a permanent peace.”

Brethren, the message that God has given us is the only hope that this nation, this world, has for that “permanent peace.” Let’s reflect on the sacrifices that have been made to pass that hope of permanent peace and true freedom on to us, and in doing so let’s gird ourselves for the sacrifices we must make in order to pass that hope on to others.

15 thoughts on “How are you observing Memorial Day?

  1. texasborn

    Mr. Smith, I couldn’t help but think of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Lest We Forget” upon reading your thoughtful post today. Several lines are very apropos to your commentary, in some respects. He realized that God is the One who fights our battles, and, ultimately, not we ourselves; that it takes a humble and contrite heart to make the ultimate sacrifice, and not the sacrifice of death upon a human “killing field”; that human boasting of militaristic achievement is futile–since all will turn to dust!

    From the Wikipedia article about the poem: “The poem expresses the underlying sadness that the [British] empire might go the way of all empires. Kipling recognizes that boasting and jingoism–faults of which he was often accused–were inappropriate and vain in light of God’s dominion over the world.” Subject line: Recessional (poem)

    Here are the lyrics to the poem “Lest We Forget!”:

    God of our fathers, known of old—
    Lord of our far-flung battle line—
    Beneath whose awful hand we hold
    Dominion over palm and pine—
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    The tumult and the shouting dies—
    The Captains and the Kings depart—
    Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
    An humble and a contrite heart.
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    Far-called our navies melt away—
    On dune and headland sinks the fire—
    Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
    Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
    Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
    Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
    Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
    Or lesser breeds without the Law—
    Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
    Lest we forget—lest we forget!

    For heathen heart that puts her trust
    In reeking tube and iron shard—
    All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    And guarding calls not Thee to guard.
    For frantic boast and foolish word,
    Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
    Amen.

  2. Linda Patterson

    The one true sacrifice was our Lord. He gave His all, the ultimate, His life and now He lives, He is at the right hand of our Father and He interceeds for us daily. Thank God our Father for all that has been and for all that is coming so we can be spiritual members of the Holy Family Of God for all eternity.
    Thank you Mr. Smith for the post and the two commentors for their comments.

  3. I meant to say, creating the video of Psalms 24 is how I began Memorial Day. Interestingly, its subject matter in part fits (as the LORD is a man of war).

    Here is how I’m ending Memorial Day: by creating this video of Psalms 8. Talk about permanent peace…

  4. Steve

    I spent time on the website of my old unit. I wanted to check on the guys deployed in combat right now. Even though it’s been 37 years, I still regard them as my buddies.

    Our nation – God’s promise to Abraham – was built on the blood and sacrifice of our youth. Those graves deserve a little respect.

    Members of the church have a different, more spiritual calling. The responsibility and consequences are just as real. The Bible is filled with military analogies about spiritual warfare.

    For example, if you’re in a forward outpost, or walking point, then your job is to spot the enemy and warn your buddies of imminent contact. It’s not a game. If you fail your job, then you might get the whole platoon wiped out.

    And that’s exactly what the Bible talks about in the duty of the watchman and the Eziekial warning. Isn’t it?

  5. Pingback: How we celebrated Memorial Day « Training Up My Boys

  6. Norbert

    Steve,

    I believe God does pay more than just attention to those who are in service to their country and their family.

    Acts 10:1-2,44 “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always… While Peter yet spoke these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them who heard the word.

  7. Indeed, honor to whom honor is due. Though what stood out about the centurion was his faith in God, not his service to Rome, it is still true that those who selflessly give of themselves for the sake of others — as do many in our military — deserve our respect. All the more, they deserve our increased efforts to inform the world that an age is coming when the wars of this world which seem so endless will, indeed, come to an end. And, they should inspire those of us who, unlike them, have our minds open to the truth of God, to give of ourselves just as completely to the coming nation to which our ultimate allegiance is due.

    Thanks, Norbert and Steve!

  8. Norbert: It’s worth pointing out that Cornelius and his household didn’t become part of apostolic Christianity because he was “part of the military”. He became so because 1) he was a “God-fearer” among the Gentiles, brought by his contact with the Jews, their Bible and their God out of his pagan past; and 2) because God called him (John 6:44, 65), just as He called people out of all walks of life.

    I submit that Cornelius, as a member of the Roman occupying army, had previously learned a lesson that all this world’s soldiers, Israelite or Gentile, need to learn. (Wait until I put this Psalm in Hebrew up on video! The Jewish concept of “God-fearers” called from the Gentiles came from this Psalm and one other, Psalm 135, in the first place, and the apostles refer to the distinction too.)

    (Psa 115:1 NKJV) Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth.
    (Psa 115:2 NKJV) Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?”
    (Psa 115:3 NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
    (Psa 115:4 NKJV) Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands.
    (Psa 115:5 NKJV) They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see;
    (Psa 115:6 NKJV) They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell;
    (Psa 115:7 NKJV) They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat.
    (Psa 115:8 NKJV) Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.
    (Psa 115:9 NKJV) O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.
    (Psa 115:10 NKJV) O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.
    (Psa 115:11 NKJV) You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.
    (Psa 115:12 NKJV) The LORD has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house of Israel; He will bless the house of Aaron.
    (Psa 115:13 NKJV) He will bless those who fear the LORD, Both small and great.
    (Psa 115:14 NKJV) May the LORD give you increase more and more, You and your children.
    (Psa 115:15 NKJV) May you be blessed by the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
    (Psa 115:16 NKJV) The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s; But the earth He has given to the children of men.
    (Psa 115:17 NKJV) The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor any who go down into silence.
    (Psa 115:18 NKJV) But we will bless the LORD From this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD!

  9. @Mr. Smith: This is not to detract from the respect due to those who themselves fulfill straightforward prophecies about how God would defend our people through our people. Without our soldiers’ efforts we would be subjugated or dead, and I never forget that. But knowing that this is a matter of prophecy is what keeps the subject in perspective for me – and makes me fearful for our country when I see the foundations required for God’s aid and protection being undermined so heedleesly. I know many veterans, from their own perspectives, think so too, both in and out of God’s Church.

  10. Norbert

    Indeed Mr. Wallace. One thing that has stood out, God works in places where those who are called cannot. How many ex RCC, ex Protestants or ex Atheists now attend the congregation? Perhaps I should of mentioned Methodists? 🙂

    Not that we should be counting but the evidence is there.

  11. He certainly does, Mr. Norbert! All of us who were not born into this faith are such examples.

    Cyrus is a good biblical example of someone God used but whom he (apparently) did not call. His purposes will be fulfilled, one way or another. Stories of God’s intervention on behalf of the Allied soldiers in WWII are numerous. It does not justify our involvement in the military (He would much rather fight our battles for us), but it does point to the fact that those who are too quick to attack others who are in the military need to slow down and rethink.

  12. @Mr. Smith: Can how God deals with the world be accounted for in the light of Jesus Christ’s rhetorical and proverbial question, “You knew that I was a hard man, reaping where I have not sown and gathering where I have not winnowed?” He never actually denies that charge by His wicked servant.

    Perhaps the wicked servant was saying in effect, “I knew that You’d have a reckoning from those outside the household that You use despite themselves, if necessary, to fulfill Your will – how much more me?” A fearful thought, to be sure, and yet one that deserved a better reponse on his part. But the underlying idea – that Jesus Christ is absolutely sovereign over everybody whether anybody is called at this time or not – explains a very great deal for me.

  13. I think that is an interesting way of putting it, Rakkav, and defaulting towards a greater view of God’s sovereignty is, in my opinion, always the safer bet.

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