Next Monday is Memorial Day , the official start of summer! Families will load up and head parks, lakes and camp grounds. Spring is here summer is near. Kids will soon be out for summer and new graduates will launch out on new adventures in search of their destiny. But the celebration, fresh air and freedom has a deeper meaning. It is a time for remembering those who laid down their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.
My grandfather fought in France during WWI. My uncle entered Nuremberg in a tank at the end of WWII and remained there 2 months to recover from wounds. Both of my brothers served in the Air Force during Viet Nam and my son served in the U.S. Marine Corps. All of us have relatives who have served in the armed services. Some have loved ones who left to defend our country and never returned. On this Memorial Day, we pause to remember and honor those who gave the “ultimate sacrifice.”
What we know as Memorial Day originated at the end of the Civil War that claimed more lives than any other war in our history. Officially, Memorial Day began May 5, 1866 in Waterloo, New York. In 1968 Congress designated the last Monday of May as a national Memorial Day to remember those who died in active service. As time passed, the memorial aspects of the weekend have faded and for many it has become the first weekend for summer vacation.
The Bible recognizes the importance of memorials. We need tangible dates and places to remember significant events and the values that give meaning to life. The first memorial mentioned in the Bible is in reference to the living God. When Moses met God in the wilderness and was commissioned to deliver Israel, he asked God to reveal His name. God responded, “You shall say to the sons of Israel, I AM has sent me … the Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial-name to all generations” (Exodus 3:14-15).
Our forefathers were not perfect. They had many flaws and made many mistakes, but history is clear that most were people of faith in the living God. A young publisher named Benjamin Franklin printed the sermons of George Whitfield that moved the colonies to Christ prior to the American Revolution. Harriet Beecher Stowe penned a Christian novel to which Lincoln attributed the Civil War. And Julia Ward Howe gave us the Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1862, based on Isaiah 63 and Revelation 19. Later, it was faith in God and His son Jesus Christ that sustained us through two world wars.
On this Memorial weekend, while we enjoy the laughter of our children and the love of our friends, let us remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, those who prayed and sacrificed and believed that we could “overcome.” Let us trust the One who laid His life down that we might know God’s forgiveness and love for one another.