Summary: The Centurion’s life became a memorial before God and brought about the salvation of his household. This sermon also has a Communion Service on the end.

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Build Your Own Memorial

Sunday, May 25, 2008 – AM

By Pastor Jim May

Tomorrow is a Memorial Day across the United States. The observance of Memorial Day for those killed in the line of duty, defending our country, began after the Civil War. The Grand Army of the Republic began honoring the soldiers who had died for the Union on May 30, 1868. It wasn’t called Memorial Day then. It was called Decoration Day.

Of course there was still a lot of hatred between the North and the South in those days so the former Confederate soldiers refused to use the same date to honor their fallen comrades because it was too close to the date of the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox. So the south used various dates each year to have its own version of Decoration Day.

It wasn’t until after World War I that the American Legion became the guiding hand to create a nationally observed Decoration Day in honor all American soldiers killed in the line of duty, and it began to be called Memorial Day. Finally, they established the last Monday in May as the day of observance nationwide, though there are still a few southern states that have their own Memorial Day separate from everyone else.

The wounds of that great conflict nearly 150 years ago still fester in the minds and hearts of a few diehard people who refuse to let go of the past and move on. Somehow they still believe that the South is going to rise again. It’s just a small nail in the structure of divisions that are a part of our culture, and it’s mostly fueled by nostalgia.

Maybe some of you have seen old veterans standing at the cross roads, or at the entrance to stores and malls, and they are taking donations for wounded veterans and handing out red paper poppies in return. Have you ever wondered why they give red poppies?

These little red flowers are given out because in all of the military cemeteries established in France after the great world wars, real red poppies bloomed over every grave. It became a symbol of the sacrifice in blood of all veterans and the VFW began their “poppy sales” in 1922 to raise money for the disabled and destitute veterans. In those days there was no Department of Veterans Affairs and soldier were left pretty much on their own with only a small disability pension to survive on. Though limited benefits were available to many veterans from the time of the American Revolution, and they did increase somewhat over the years, the VA as we know it was not fully operational until 1930.

On Memorial Day, a wreath of flowers is laid upon the grave of the Unknown Soldiers at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia; small American Flags are placed on all the graves in National Cemeteries, and in many of the private cemeteries as well. There are speeches, parades and patriotic programs. In our own community there is usually a Memorial Day Program at the park on Irma Street.

It’s a good thing to remember the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in service to our country. Some of us here this morning are veterans of various conflicts. Wherever you served, and in whatever capacity you served, we honor you this morning.

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