On this important national holiday, Memorial Day, we reverently remember those who served our country in times of war and paid the ultimate price for that service – they paid with their very lives. It is heartbreaking to think about the sacrifice of those individuals as well as the unending sacrifice of their families. I believe it is our call as Christians to remember those who have died in military service to America, keep their families in prayer, and serve our veterans with compassion.
To my knowledge, I have five family members who served in the military and only one of them died in the line of duty. One of my ancestors served as far back as the Revolutionary War, two (father and son!) fought for the North in the Civil War, my maternal grandfather served in World War II, and finally - sadly, my father’s cousin died in Vietnam. (My family still feels the pain of his loss, of course.) Looking at the conflicts named here, many people have very different reactions to each one. There are varying perceptions of the rightness (in terms of the moral claims) of each one. Ultimately, as Christians, we must be willing to thoughtfully hold those perceptions in tandem with our compassion for those who have served and died for our country and their loved ones. All the while, we must be tirelessly pursuing the reign of God, as did the Apostles in our reading from the book of Acts today. All of the scriptures point to the characteristics of this reign… It is the fullness of time when swords are beaten into ploughshares and former enemies greet one another with a sign of peace. Days like today emphasize for us that God’s reign is not yet complete and that we have much work to do.
Our gospel reading today from the book of John is a very good illustration of how Jesus held the pain of the current moment and yet instilled courage and hope in his disciples. On the one hand, Jesus foreshadows his own crucifixion and yet says, “But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” In our own darkest hour – both as individuals and as a global community – how do we recognize the presence of God With Us? Particularly on solemn days like this one, we must search to find and indeed, we must be God’s peace, love, and compassion in this world that aches with conflict and division. It is my prayer that Jesus’s words reassure us today as they must have reassured his disciples. “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” We know that Jesus conquers the world with love so, to that end, we carry out his commandment to love one another – all others – and bring the reign of God to greater fullness.
On this day and every day may the souls of all of our departed soldiers rest in peace and may their families experience the peace of God, the love of their communities, and the support of all Americans.