Summary: Memorial Day Message
Memorial Day 2006: Remembering How We Got Here
Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (organization of Union soldiers) established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30th. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. After the end of World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.
Memorial Day has been expanded by many as a time to remember their loved ones whom have died. Many people go to cemeteries to place flowers on graves and/or spend quiet time reflecting on their loved ones. They may remember lessons they learned from the individual or the good times that they may have shared with that person. Memorial Day, although focused on celebrating the ultimate sacrifice of our war heroes, has become a day for many to remember the deaths of their own personal heroes, family members and close friends. This morning I want to take some time and remember some of my heroes and maybe through my reflections, you will remember some of yours. You see, as a Christian, we have had many individuals sacrifice their lives so that we might be able to freely worship the way we choose. For example:
I. Those Who Sacrificed All
Jesus Christ. Last month we celebrated Easter, the day we set aside to remember Christ death and resurrection. You know the story. He suffered a lot and having been beaten to the point of death, He was taken to Golgotha to be nailed to a cross and die a horrible death of suffocation. But Jesus did this willfully for He knew what the goal was and what this would mean to others. He said in Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." He died for His love of us.
Stephen. Stephen might not be one that you would normally think about, but His death was recorded in the book of Acts for a reason. Stephen was one for the seven men who were chosen to assist the Apostles with the care of the Church body so that the Apostles could continue their focus on ministering the word. In his role, it could be said that he was one of the first deacons. Acts 6:8-10 records "And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilica and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking." Stephen was a man walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was so full of faith that those who opposed Him could not win an argument with Him as He spoke under the power of the Holy Spirit. He was stoned to death for his beliefs and his confession. As they were stoning him, he asked Jesus not to hold it to their account. Stephen was the first martyr of the Christian faith.
The Apostles. Several of Christ twelve disciples did not die of natural causes. They died under the hands of those who were very opposed to the spread of Christianity. Although their deaths are not recorded in Scripture, history records that Peter was crucified upside down for he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same position as Christ. Andrew was reported as being crucified on an X-shaped cross. Phillip was crucified on a tall cross in the country now known as Turkey. Bartholomew was flayed alive in what is now known as India. Matthew is reported as dying a martyr. Thomas was killed with a spear and was buried in India. James, son of Alphaeus, was thrown off the temple by the Jews and beaten to death with a club. These all died for their faith and belief in Jesus Christ.
But these are not the ones I want to remind you of this morning. This morning I want to take just a few moments to remind you of some individuals who died in faith not experiencing fully what we take for granted today. I want to tell you about some old people and the songs they sung. Many of you know that I grew up in a small country Church. When I was a child I thought it took forever to get to Church because it was out in the country. The Church had two primary rooms, a sanctuary and the fellowship hall. There were two walk through from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. One served as the Pastor’s study and the other served as the choir room and pre-school Sunday school class. All of our Sunday school teachers were the older people who for the most part did not have a High School education or the experience and opportunities that we have today. But what they did have was an unwavering faith and confession that came through in their songs. For example, one person that I remember fondly was my uncle.