Summary: This is a topical sermon for Memorial Day. It is alliterated. PowerPoint is available too, just e-mail me.
If this sermon is helpful to you look for my latest book, “The Greatest Commands: Learning To Love Like Jesus.” Each chapter is sermon length, alliterated, and focuses on the life and love of Jesus. You can find it here:
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Well tomorrow is Memorial Day, as I’m sure you all know. To some, Memorial Day is just another holiday, just another day off from work, or just another day that we can go to the lake or have an outdoor barbeque. But to those who have lost someone they love because of war or military action, it’s more than that. It’s Memorial Day—a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives for the freedom we as Americans all share.
No one is really sure when or where Memorial Day had its beginning. In fact, there are more that two dozen cities and towns that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. What we do know is that it started with the tradition of decorating the graves of soldiers following the Civil War. It was officially recognized by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and formally observed when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. After World War I, the observance expanded to include not only those who died in the Civil War but those who gave their lives fighting in any war. Tomorrow, all across America people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and faiths will join together to remember the sacrifice that our service men and women have made in wars past and present so that we can enjoy our freedom—those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I could be here today.
You know, the Bible is full of memorials. The words remember, remembrance, and memorial are found more than 230 times within the leather-bound pages of your Bible. God reminded his children in the Old Testament to remember that they were once salves in Egypt. He commanded them to observe the Passover, as well as other holidays, as a “day of remembrance.” In the New Testament Jesus said that every time we approach the His Table we are to do it in remembrance of Him.
This and every Memorial Day is important to us as Americans and as Christians. It’s important for three reasons. First, Memorial Day is a day for remembering.
As Americans, Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember those brave soldiers who sacrifices their lives defending our country. Jesus once said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). Our service men and women have been willing to do that very thing since the founding of our nation. In the Civil War, 498,000 Northern soldiers were killed, and 133,000 soldiers from the South died. In World War One, 116,000 American soldiers died. In World War Two, 407,000 American soldiers died. 54,000 American soldiers died in Korea, 58,000 died in Vietnam, and 148 died during Desert Storm. As of May 21, 2009 there were 4,299 American Soldiers that have died in Iraq. Of course there were other conflicts and causalities as well. More than a million Americans have died in wars around the world fighting for the freedom that we enjoy in this country.
Many of you here today have probably had friends or relatives who served our country with distinction—who never came home. Keith and Carolyn Maupin know that agony. They raised their son, Matthew, in the suburbs of Cincinnati. He saw the images of 9-11 on the television just as you and I did. But for Matthew it ignited his sense of patriotism and compelled him to enlist in the Army Reserve in 2002. At 6’2”, 220 pounds, with a boot size 15, Matthew was something of a gentle giant among his fellow soldiers. He served in the 724th Transportation Company out of Bartonville, IL. On April 9, 2004, Matthew was reported Missing in Action.
For almost four years his parents, Keith and Carolyn, worked tirelessly to ensure that the search for Matthew and four other missing soldiers remained in the public eye. They founded the Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Cincinnati. They sent care packages to deployed service members. They provided moral support and encouragement to deployed troops and families.
Then on March 29, 2008, Matthew was finally found, but not the way that anyone had hoped. They found what remained of his body and he was brought home. They couldn’t find a church building big enough to hold the crowd for his funeral. So they held the funeral in the Cincinnati Red’s baseball stadium. It was filled to capacity with people who came to honor a soldier that gave his life fighting for the freedom that you and have today. On this Memorial Day, Matthew’s family pauses to remember. We remember too.