You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, NIV)
In the lives of most Americans, we spend a great many holidays eating and creating merriment. New Year’s, Valentine’s, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fourth of July are all days that feature prominently food and/or food products. The value and worth of those days are often measured by the food you eat and how you consume it on what day, (Hot Dogs on July 4th, Boiled Eggs and Chocolate Bunnies on Easter, Turkey on Thanksgiving). While I can understand the origins of many of these feasts that occur (history often shows feasts as being communal ways to celebrate events), our contemporary celebrations carry the feast traditions without any real understanding our reflection on the significance of the holiday. Thankfully, not all holidays are lived in this way. Yesterday was Memorial Day…
Sure, Memorial Day is the day that prominently features cookouts and parties in the good ol’ American feast tradition, but it also has a prominent feature that, no matter how full you get, you cannot ignore. It is the one holiday that features solemnity and reflection while offering hope through celebration. It is a holiday that is built upon the oxymoron of the “good sacrifice”. The feasts of this past weekend cannot happen or continue in the future without the sacrifice of those who have gone before. In many respects, Memorial Day carries with it the same peculiar paradox that Good Friday carries in the Christian experience. We celebrate the memory and sacrifice of families and service persons who have fought and continue to fight for this nation, its freedoms and the promise of this Union of States to be a “more perfect union.”
The significance of this day cannot be devalued. In spite of capitalistic attempts at making a easy dollar with a “Memorial Day Sales”. The sacrifice of too many men, women and their families will not allow the marring of this Holiday. They serve as watchpersons and gatekeepers that protect the legacy of the past for the heritage of the future of this nation. The wreath laying, the sound of taps being played, the height of civil religion on display all provide forceful reminders to the contextual ‘spirit’ of any the celebrations (more appropriately, observations). In my area, the sound of 15-20,000 bikers fills their air on Sunday prior to Memorial Day. Rolling Thunder, as they are known, serves to disrupt the quiet peace of Sunday afternoon and force into your memory the real reason for why we observe this day. Like the sound of nails being driven into the cross at Calvary, these motors cry out for attention and respect. For those who have died, they are the voices to call attention to their sacrifice.
Like this passage of text, Paul reminds all believers of the irony of the sacrifice. We are often taught that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one). My Star Trek fans might recognize this! (Greek Philosophy also addresses this.) Paul turns that thinking on its head by recognizing the rarity of sacrifice for a greater good or ideal. He takes it a step further by proclaiming, Christ died for those who are imperfect and flawed. Rare is the one who dies for the just, but even rarer is the one who dies for the one who is wrong and unjust. It doesn’t happen! O, but it has, for the text says “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Every Sunday we proclaim Christ and Christ crucified for the sins of the world! This and every Memorial Day weekend, let us endeavor to say quite simply, “Thank You!”
Much of the world finds it hard to believe that such a man would do such a thing (let alone that it is even possible for such a thing to take place). Yet, we on this past weekend celebrate the many who have lived and died in service to this nation. Some of whom did so when this nation was unjust in their treatment of them.
The many women who served….
African-Americans who served prior to desegregation…
The Native Americans who served…..
The Japanese Americans who served in WWII….
The GLBT who have served silently….
Those who served in Vietnam….
The power of Christ resides in all those who answer the call to serve in spite of the world’s labeling of them to not be qualified. We give thanks to God for the sacrifice of Christ Jesus who died for all of us in our ‘lowly state’. But we also give thanks to God for those who answered the call to serve even when this nation treated them with ‘lowly stature’. This Memorial Day week, let us continually thank God for the visions of truth our service members fight for each and every day. Here’s to that day when we beat out swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks…