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“This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations . . .” (Exodus 12:14)

The word sacrifice can be defined in many ways. When a major league baseball player gets called out but is able to advance a base runner from his own team, the play is called a sacrifice.  Parents who give up their own individual desires in order that their children receive what they need in life are sacrificing as well. And, yes – men and women who join the armed services do so with the knowledge that someday they might be placed in danger and the ultimate sacrifice of their life may become a reality.  Those who do so deserve to be remembered, and that is the essence of the Memorial Day celebration. For far too many of us, the annual holiday is merely the beginning of summer and perhaps the first outdoor swim, picnic, or camping retreat. However, to the war veteran and the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries a significance so deep that words cannot express their emotions.

Part of our struggle to understand the fallen soldier comes with our difficulty in accepting sacrifice, especially when those sacrifices seem so final and appear to hold no obvious reward. In this land of opportunity, we spend so much of our time trying to acquire or win. Contemplating that someone might personally give their life for something greater than themselves can be confusing if not unfathomable for many who have grown to become self-centered. It would not be surprising if the spirit of Memorial Day could soon be forgotten. These days, attempts to erase the significance of historical events has become too easy, as we deem the sacrifices and the manner in which they were attained to be no longer politically correct. Perhaps Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sentiment was insightful when he stated: “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”

Through the years, Memorial Day has held a tradition for decorating the graves of our veterans with flags or taking flowers to be placed near the tombstones of family members as an act of remembrance.  If you have spent any time visiting a cemetery, you may have found it curious to look there for the oldest markers or to pause and read the epitaphs inscribed on them.  In the Book of Acts, these words have come to be regarded as an epitaph to David: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep . . .” (Acts 13:36).  The essence of a servant is that they do the will of another, and David was one of the most devout servants ever. His life-long choice to be within the will of God was why God rewarded him so highly. We can almost hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) when we think of David.

Throughout history, memorials have been important to every nation. They not only help us remember the past, but they also encourage us to look with hope toward the future. In the Old Testament after Israel crossed the Jordan River, Almighty God told Joshua to take 12 stones from the riverbed and set up a memorial so no one would ever forget God’s miraculous deliverance. Joshua said, ” We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ . . . “These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:6-7). As followers of Jesus, we look to Christ’s death on the cross to recall the terrible price He paid in full for our sins. Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we personalize Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation. His very words remind us that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). The Apostle Paul wanted us to appreciate the love of Christ and the meaning of His ultimate sacrifice when he stated, ‘May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully” (Ephesians 3:19). Though it might be difficult at times to grasp, we should allow the Memorial Day remembrance and the sacrament of Holy Communion to profoundly demonstrate the ultimate sacrifices made for you and me. They should be received by each of us with great appreciation and deep humility.

REFLECTION: When people reminisce about your life in years to come, what would you like them to remember? How would you summarize your earthly journey in a few words for an epitaph on your tombstone? If God sent down an order to write out an inscription to the monument company—what would He say? Would His words include anything about your being a faithful servant or living a life of sacrifice?


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