Memorial Day: We Mourn and Rejoice

Today we remember with mourning and glorious gladness

In the United States of America, the last Sunday in the month of May is Memorial Day.  Specifically, Memorial Day is for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The honoring and mourning is represented by the decoration of our loved one’s graves.  Actually, from the early beginnings in 1868 until 1967, May 30th of each year was titled, “Decoration Day.”

Canadian doctor and surgeon, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, wrote the poem, “In Flanders Fields” in 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
  That mark our place; and in the sky
  The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
  Loved and were loved, and now we lie
      In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
  The torch; be yours to hold it high.
  If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
      In Flanders fields.

In 1918 the National American Legion adopted the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance.

Just over a year ago Bill Welch, David Kuiper and I visited Normandy.  Spending most of the day at Omaha beach, we experienced some of the sights and sounds of the bloodiest D-day beach.

I shall remember all my life the 172.5-acre cemetery.  9,388 pure white gravestones are forever carved into my memory.

Members of MCA church have friends, relatives, associates and neighbors who have died in service of our country. 

Years ago, one of our members, Jerry, was recounting his day of service as an anti-aircraft gunner on the back of a ship at Pearl Harbor.  When his recollection arrived at the point where his weapon overheated, and he was now helpless to fight for the lives of his countrymen, he broke into tears and wept.

His tears moved me deeply.

Deuteronomy, the fifth book in the Old Testament, could be called the Book of Remembrance.

Toward the end of the book, we are told to remember, consider and ask about the days of old.

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.  Deuteronomy 32:7

We are to remember, consider and ask about life as a slave before the Lord brought us out with His mighty hand and outstretched arm.

You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. Deuteronomy 5:15

Our memory of God’s strong action prevents us from living in fear.

you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.  Deuteronomy 7:18

We are to remember, consider and ask about the whole way that the Lord God has led us in the past.

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. Deuteronomy 8:2

Looking back through memory, we are reminded of God’s confirmation of His covenant promises made to our fathers.

You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18

We are to remember, consider and ask with the bread of affliction, unleavened bread.

You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 16:3

How could we remember the days of old without a roadside stop with Jesus on memory lane?

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 

I remember you, Jesus.  Your excruciating night of praying with tears, sweat and blood. 

Your tears move me deeply.

I remember you, Jesus. 

The day your feet, by which you walked into our world with the mercy and grace of God, were rendered motionless by nails and hammer into a wooden beam.

The moment your loving, healing, gracious hands were stymied and spiked to the Roman plank.

I remember the Divine back upon which you carry the sins of the world being shredded and torn.

I remember your head crowned with torture.  There held the greatest mind – the most understanding and insightful eyes – the treasured mouth which spoke the words of God – the ears which give hearing to the very voice of creation.

I remember your perfect, sacred, loving heart motionless without a beat. 

On this great day of memory, we sense again, with freshness, our mourning and sorrow over your mistreatment, abuse and death.

Our memory, however, doesn’t end there.

We recall and recollect your glorious resurrection from the dead and proclaim with the Psalmist David:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

We remember your post-resurrection appearances filled with life and joy and hope.

We remember your ascension and your promise to be with us always in the Person of the Holy Spirit and to return in victory.

Our mourning is turned into gladness.

Normandy’s battles have become a world free of Hitler’s anti-God passion and I’m glad.

Jesus’ wounds have released us from our transgressions.

His bruises have removed our iniquities and I’m glad.

The chastisement of His body produced our peace.

The stripes he bore secured our healing and I’m glad.

We remember with mourning and glorious gladness.