Summary: Memorial Day jogs our memories of our nation, our families and our faith. God taught Israel the importance of memorials and memories.
Day of Remembrance (Memorial Day)
Joshua 4:1-9, 20-24
Remembering is an important part of our lives. All of us suffer from things not remembered, especially as we get older. My memory is filled with mental videos, both good and ugly. On this day my memories return to the loss of two uncles, killed in World War II. My mother had four brothers to serve in the war. Two of them, one in the Navy and one in the Air Force, were killed in action. I remember when the news of each of these came to my mother, working in the fields. I vividly remember seeing her come from the fields to our backyard, washing her feet and crying. All of us have memories that are sad.
God made us to have memories. The nation Israel had several occasions that would help their country remember their journey. As the Israelites left their slave places in Egypt, they were commanded to begin with the Passover meal. The blood of the sacrificial lamb was to be sprinkled on the Jewish doorsteps, so their first born son would be saved from slaughter. They stopped at the mountain to receive the ten basic commandments that would guide these former slaves to form a nation. They built an elaborate worship tent, called the Tabernacle, to develop for them the practice of worship. At the edge of their promised land, they discovered they would have to fight to occupy the land and voted not to attempt it. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years, until all those that voted no would die and the younger generation was ready to fight for their Promise Land.
As their new leader Joshua led them into the Promise Land, they build a significant memory place. They built a memorial containing twelve stones on the riverside where they exited and in the riverbed before the waters were allowed to flow again. (Joshua 4:1-9, 20-24)
We as a nation have our memory places; places that help us remember our heritage and the price that others have paid for our freedom. Civil war battlegrounds like Gettysburg and Shiloh speak of the cost of war among ourselves. In fact, Memorial Day was established after the Civil War ended. We visit such places as Plymouth Rock and Valley Forge. Our latest memorials are the Vietnam Memorial and the 9/11 site. These memory places help us keep balanced in the ups and downs of democracy.
Our faith has important memory places to mentally visit. Our experience of accepting Christ as our Savior and our baptism is an essential memory place to revisit. Our steps of growth toward maturity, our memory of times of rich blessings and painful mistakes remain important in our life. There is the old song, written as a folksong in the early nineteenth century, which expresses our longing for personal memory places.
“Precious memories, how they often flood my soul, in the stillness of the midnight, precious sacred scenes unfold.
As I travel on life’s pathway, know not what the years may hold. As I ponder, hope grows fonder, precious memories flood my soul.”
This Memorial Day allows us to reflect on our own memory places. Memory places, to me, contain the things we value, the parts of our lives that really matter.
We have valuable “people memories,” reflections of the persons who have invested in our lives. My boyhood pastor was one of those. An aging single teacher is there because she kept telling me “you can do it” when no one else dared to guess. An associational missionary, (director of missions) in the area where I served my first church, helped me guide a church through a building destroyed by fire, the controversy of relocating the church and rebuilding on a new site. There are numerous special persons who supported and invested in me in every place of ministry I served. You have your own “people memories,” filled with special persons who loved and helped you. They include family, employers, personal friends and even critics.
And there are personal memory places. Some of these are extremely painful. Some are secrets to all but you. The cost of carrying and not disclosing them has been a costly burden for us. Some of our painful memories have been shared and others have benefited from the witness of our dark side. Some of our “memory places” have been significant to ourselves and others. They are about hard steps we have taken, wounds we have endured, lessons we have learned and changes we have made to keep moving in God’s direction. These are also memories of our marriage, children, career, responsibilities and visions we have embraced.
We are thankful for our memory places. They are essential to our Christian life. They give us our directions in life, as we line up are present life in keeping with the direction we chose in the past. They also bring to us a perspective in our lives. We gain a sense of importance from our past and we recognize that some things have no lasting value. They bring to us a sense of purpose today in keeping with our yesteryears. They also prompt us to keep moving to a destination of live that has ultimate value to us.