Sermon Illustrations

History and Purpose of Memorial Day

We set aside time in America each year to remember some of the important dates of our history. Tomorrow is one of those days: Memorial Day. On May 30, 1868, our country observed the first day memorializing those who had fallen in battle during the Civil War. It was called “Decoration Day” at that time. In the few short years following the Civil War dozens of local observances honoring fallen Civil War soldiers had sprung up in communities across the country. Most were done by decorating gravesites with flowers.

Although many cities claim the honor, the official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York. On May 5, 1868, General, John A. Logan, in his role as commander-in-chief of a veteran’s organization called The Grand Army of the Republic, introduced a proclamation that “Decoration Day” be observed nationally. On May 30 of the same year it was observed and the date was chosen specifically because it was not the anniversary of a battle. The term “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882 and the observances were expanded to include all who had been lost in the time of war. The day became more widely observed following World War II and was declared a national holiday in 1967. The National Holiday Act of 1971 moved the official observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May.

So, this weekend and tomorrow in particular, thousands of Americans will make pilgrimages to cemeteries to remember loved ones lost and decorate graves with flowers. There are those who say that remembering should be a common spiritual exercise in the Christian life and in looking to the Word of God I would have to agree. Time and again the people of God are exhorted and commanded to remember. Over 100 times remembering or remembrances are mentioned in scripture. More than once God has instituted memorials so His people would remember: the rainbow (Genesis 9), the Passover (Numbers 9), the stones from the Jordan River (Joshua 4), numerous rituals and sacrifices, all given with the element of remembrance.

Memorial Day is a day that we set aside to remember the price that was paid for our Freedom here in the United States. It has been set aside for those men and women who have given their lives for this country. It’s a day for us to remember the price that these men and women paid for our freedom. They died for our country so that we can have the freedom to live, freedom to make our own decisions, and freedom to worship. But tomorrow as we celebrate Memorial Day I want us to remember more than just those soldiers I want tomorrow to also be a reminder of what Jesus did for us. I want it tomorrow to be a reminder to us of the cost of freedom for our Christian life. If you are free from sin today it’s because a Man named Jesus became one of us and gave His life so we could have ours spared. If you are saved today you owe it to your Lord to give Him glory and praise for what He did for you. Don’t take for granted the great salvation that we have today!

If you were to look up the word Memorial we would see that it means, an object being placed to serve as a memory of something, usually a person or an event. And church this morning I want us to leave here understanding today that when God sent His son Jesus to the earth Jesus became that Memorial for us. Read I Corinthians 11:23-26. Jesus’ life here on this earth serves as a memory to us of how much God loved us and that memory of the life of Jesus does 3 things.

From a sermon by Travis Markes, The Cost of Freedom, 5/24/2010

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