A Memorial Day Homily (That Every American Christian Should Read)
Memorial Day in America is an awkward holiday. Especially in 2018.
It's one that should be recognized. It's important. Others have died in wars past and present - and their sacrifice should never be forgotten. Their families who have sacrificed so much should be honored. Those who put their lives on the line because it is a part of their job should be shown gratitude. Appreciation is in order, for sure. My Dad and my Grandpa both served in the military at a time when our nation was also divided.
But today we may be more divided than ever. There is increased dehumanization. Isolationism. Wars are the daily routine. Violence and hate are ubiquitous. And it shouldn't be this way.
I started thinking about what to post today at the beginning of the weekend. What both honors those who sacrificed - and who continue to sacrifice - and acknowledges our current state of brokenness? I wasn't sure.
On Sunday my pastor reads what's posted below. The decision is made.
I'm posting this with his permission. He wrote it. But his words express my thoughts today better than anything I can come up with on my own.
Before the BBQ today (if you're American and living somewhere in the country without rain), take a few minutes to read this. I think it worth the reflection.
We live in a world that is profoundly beautiful and remarkably broken.
We live in a country that is profoundly wonderful and remarkably divided.
There’s rarely a conversation or comment that isn’t immediately interpreted through a political filter of some kind, and the perceived “enemy” (despite what Scripture says) seems to be increasingly defined by political opinion, skin color, financial ability/inability, sexuality, and a long list of other dehumanizing characterizations. However, the Bible tells us of a far greater Enemy than fellow flesh or blood...one who roams around like a lion seeking to kill the soul, steal the joy that only the gospel offers, and devour love for God and neighbor. Though we long for the day when wars and injustices cease...today we are rightly and necessarily forced to recognize that we are still a people groaning, a people waiting and clinging to the hope that though God is patient for the purposes of redeeming love...He is indeed coming again to put a final end to this dreadful enemy and his appalling companion.
Therefore, even in our remembering, even in this tragic memorial where we honor those soldiers who did not count their own lives too high a price to pay for this temporary home; these fellow image- bearers who willingly sacrificed everything for our attempts (even our often broken and insufficient attempts) to build a unified nation where all who yearn to breathe free might find solace and earthly freedom — we remember with hope.
We hope not in systems, policies, governments, leaders, or perceived victories or losses between the nations that rage, but we hope with great certainty that a day is coming when the memorial of these brave fighters will give way to a future home these fallen loved ones could have only imagined for themselves and for others (whether they knew it or not). We long for the day when the eternal city of God sets itself upon this earth and its eternal King claims His throne forever. And when He does...all the world’s warring will be forgotten, all it’s injustices will be undone, all its evil will be dealt a just judgement, and all its death will be swallowed up in victory.
Truthfully, it’s days like today that remind us that this greater enemy (Satan) and his companion (death) and the disease he spreads (sin) has corrupted our world so tragically that war (a practice that will one day cease forever in God’s renewed, eternal city) must be acknowledged and those whose lives were sacrificed must be honored. And that roaring devil and every lie he has ever breathed will be destroyed.
Despite all the things we have a natural tendency to disagree on and despite all the things we might want to see change or stay the same (depending upon our personal beliefs and preferences) there is a kind of freedom they’ve tried to preserve where we can honor them by laying aside perceived personal rights for the good of our neighbor, our city, our country, and our world. We don’t always do that well (actually rarely do we do so), but the lives we honor on Memorial Day call us to continue to pursue a better way — one of self sacrifice for the good of others. In doing so, we don’t negate the depth of their sacrifice or the greater truth their sacrifice points us toward, but we embrace a life of sacrifice that pursues the foundation of this kind of profound love for others. We embrace the willing love of Jesus to lay down His life in our place that we might experience a freedom beyond the scope of politics and national identities that is anchored in a blood-bought redemption and an eternal home in the city of God as a son or daughter adopted into His heavenly family forever. With that anchor of hope we remember those who have sacrificed so greatly on our behalf.