Memorial Day –– A Prayer
By Pastor Scott Osenbaugh,
The Healing Place (Nashville Assembly of God)
Father God, on this Memorial Day we gather to give thanks for those who served in the military and who made the ultimate sacrifice…
It really doesn’t matter whether the place is here in the United States or on foreign soil, such as in Luxembourg City — the rows upon rows of white tombstones, lined up with a particular military precision, bearing a silent testimony to those men and women who put on the uniform, did their duty, coming home not with the rest of their unit but in a flag-draped casket. Sobering — I can’t think of another word that works better here. It is sad to know we live in such a broken human civilization that it seems the only way to solve issues is to go to war. But when dictators and megalomaniacs think their way of rule is the only legitimate form of government, when people are made the fodder of a madman’s dream, when a free people find themselves enslaved for the politics of radicals — the time comes to meet force with force….who did their duty to the very end. We look to you for comfort to their families, who today grieve again the loss of that father, that mother, that husband or wife, that child or grandchild…
When I was in the Army, I served as a chaplain’s assistant in a command chapel, located in Germany. Three times soldiers from the units around us died while on duty, and three times the mournful wail of “Taps” echoed through the halls of that chapel facility. One of those three was a good friend of mine, the victim of a drunk driver who smashed her car beyond recognition. But it wasn’t the memorial service that rattled me. It was when I had to get on the telephone, call to her hometown to arrange for the transfer of her remains for burial in the United States. How much harder it is for those whose loved ones left this world having given their lives so that the others in their platoon or company might live. One of the things the Bible teaches is about the greatest of love is when someone gives their life for a friend. While this is meant to describe first Jesus, who laid down His life for friends and for enemies, it carries a principle too often missed in our generally narcissistic society. Self-absorption is easy; sacrifice is not, for it is one of the highest of all forms of what true love and concern for others is about. But for the families who stand at that white tombstone or gaze at the color picture of their loved one, looking so proud while in uniform, the strength to see beyond the personal pain is often just not there. Only God’s strength will be of help when those very human times of weakness invade life….whose presence is greatly missed and mourned. We are thankful for their sacrifice so that we might continue to live in this great nation and enjoy the privileges and opportunities which we have.
Joan Baez got it wrong. Freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose. Freedom means someone did lose so others might have. From the early colonial militias willing to stand up against the tyranny of Britain to the latest conflict fought against radical Islamic terrorism, the sacrifices of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines ought to be a stark and continual reminder that all of that which we often so glibly enjoy and call our “freedom” came with a heavy price of blood. It may seem a little paradoxical, but the very presence of voices so critical of this nation and of its freedoms have the right in this country to speak their umbrage, all because there were military folks whose sacrifice preserved the opportunity to enjoy free speech.
But, Lord, we need to recognize this nation has sinned against You, having chosen so many perverse and sinful ways.
Not everyone in this nation would agree over what is perverse and sinful. That I understand. The worldview from which I speak, though, is colored by the Bible, which I believe to be the Word of God. While those not keen on any Biblical insight think it has no voice in this modern society, it seems very much to me that the more lax morals became, the more perverse and godless society refashioned itself. We hardly blush any more at what happens in any segment of our society. People laud behaviors which thirty years ago would have been considered just plain “wrong”. How strange it seems that our sons and daughters, our fathers and mothers continue to pay the ultimate price so that the “right” to do whatever is preserved.
How we need to repent, to remember that You, God, are the true supreme commander over all the earth, and humble ourselves under Your hand again.
Repentance, even among some Christian traditions, is archaic. The word itself means a change of the mind. So many do not want to change their mind; they want what they want when they want it, and do not want God or anyone else to interfere in their pursuit of happiness. The further we drift from God, the worse it is going to get.
Today, on this Memorial Day, we pause again to remember and reflect on those who have gone before us, those who went to serve and did so with a willing heart. May we not forget their sacrifices, their gifts to us who enjoy the opportunities of what they paid for with their lives.
Memorial Day shouldn’t be about grilling burgers or going to the lake or making that huge Memorial Day sale at the big box store. The prime and immediate focus ought to be on why we even need a day like this. The ability to freely grill burgers or freely go to the lake or freely head for the big box store is because of all those who can’t do any of those things, whose earthly remains repose under one of those white tombstones dressed out in perfect company formation. Memorial Day — we remember those who fell in the heat of battle. We should also remember the God whose Son “fell” in the heat of a battle for the soul. For without God’s hand on this nation, all the armies and navies we could muster wouldn’t help us one bit.
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.