Title: In Remembrance
Theme: Remembering their Cost, For our Freedom
Topic: Memorial Day Reflections
Introduction: As I prepared this message there came to me the remembrance of that very special motor-cycle ride into the wonderful city of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The very place of the Battle of Gettysburg. As we rode into the city, I could sense the great cost, the loss of sons, fathers and husbands, lives spent for the freedom's we enjoy today.
"Wikipedia tells us, "at Gettysburg the largest number of causalities were lost." The Battle of Gettysburg has often been 'described as the war's turning point.' Bruce Catton wrote, 'Little over 50,000 [men] had been killed... (Time Subscribe, Time Gettysburg, Turning Point of the Civil War) The battle fought on July 1-3, 1863, in hot summer time meant the men had to be buried quickly. The task of burying the thousands upon thousands fell upon Union forces and the citizens. One soldier recalled, "soldiers walking on the dead, [because there was no place to set a foot on the ground." (Time Subscribe, Time Gettysburg, Turning Point of the Civil War)
Today, the Gettysburg National Cemetery and Gettysburg National Military Park are maintained by the U.S. National Park Service as two of the nation's most revered historical landmarks. (Wikipedia, Battle of Gettysburg; Time Subscribe, Time Gettysburg, Turning Point of the Civil War)
President Lincoln in giving the Gettysburg Address said, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that a nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this..."
Proposition: I would propose to you that it is fitting and proper that we should remember those who gave their lives serving in the Armed forces!
Interrogative Sentence: Just how do we remember the fallen? Is it Biblical? Is it proper?
Transitional Sentence: Written documents on wars go all the way back to Biblical times. In the Word of God and in writings of historians. In the Bible, Numbers 21:14 tells us about a "Book of wars of the Lord." A text no-longer extant. (Merrill, E. H. (1985). Numbers. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 240). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.) An ancient collection, probably about the days of the settlement in Canaan. Wars sacred and called for special consecration of the people of God. (Riggans, W. (1983). Numbers (pp. 160–161). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.) Not a lot is known about it, could have been a collection of poems and songs that would have been inspired by the excitement and triumph of the final march. (Thomas, W. (1910). Introductory Essay on the Authenticity and Authorship of the Book of Numbers. In H. D. M. Spence, Exell Joseph S. (Eds.), Numbers (p. 280). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company. (Easton, M. G. (1893). In Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers; Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 1119). San Francisco: Harper & Row;) The song written in Numbers 21:14 came out of the Book of Wars of the Lord. It is very likely, verses 17 and 18 were from the same book. (Cole, R. D. (2000). Numbers (Vol. 3B, p. 353). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.). 1 and 2 Samuel, tell the accounts of battles in the rising of king David (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary), who is in the direct birth lineage of Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings. (Acts 13:22-23)
Historically: There are the Books of the Maccabees, written in the period of about, 175 B.C to 135 B.C. Those books "give a special importance for the understanding the history of wars in that time period." (Drane, J. W. (2000). Introducing the Old Testament (Completely rev. and updated., p. 226). Oxford: Lion Publishing plc.) "The Maccabees wrote about major battles, like The Battle of Emmas (Northwest of Jerusalem) in 165 B.C. (Vos, H. F. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible manners & customs: how the people of the Bible really lived (pp. 376–377). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson)
Wikipedia has a long list of battle historians who wrote on wars. For example, Julius Caesar, The Gallic and Civil Wars. Their is the famous Ernest Hemingway, 20th century writer about war. Mr. Hemingway wrote:
"When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. . . . Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time - until I figured out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. Whatever I had to do, men had always done. If they had done it, then I could do it too. The best thing, was not to worry about it." (Thomas Putnam; Hemingway on War and Its Aftermath, Spring 2006, Val. 38, No 1)
Thomas Putnam wrote,"...At war's end, [Earnest Hemingway] returned home to Oak Park, Illinois, a different man. His experience of travel, combat, and love had broaden his outlook. Yet while his war experience had changed him dramatically, the town he returned to remained very much the same."
With Biblical and modern day times historically keeping records of war, we can conclude that we need to remember and honor those who have died in battle.
Transitional Sentence: There is a Biblical account which shows the importance of remembering and horning those who have died in battle. This Biblical account is found in 1 Samuel. It should be noted. 1 and 2 Samuel were "originally one book. ...holding a unique place in the history of Israel. Quite possibly written by "Abiathar, a priest who would be accustomed to keeping close records, compiled the book. He was closely associated with David’s career and even spent time in exile with him." (MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 295). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)
1 Samuel holds the account of two kings, one chosen by man, King Saul (1 Samuel 8-9) and one chosen by God, King David. (1 Samuel 16:12) There is a battle for the kingship for Israel. Saul is a king that confesses his sin (1 Samuel 15:24; 1 Samuel 15;30; 1 Samuel 26:21), but is unable to produce the heart that pleases God. Always sorry for his circumstances, never broken over his actions which breaks the heart of God. The story of one who was to become king, David, of which God said, "I have found in David... a man after my heart." (Acts 13:22)
This kingship conflict interrupts the flow of a close friendship between David and Jonathan, Kings Saul's son, but does not prevent a covenant. The Bible says "...Jonathan was one in spirit with David... (1 Samuel 18:1) "...Jonathan made a covenant with David..." (1 Samuel 18:3) This covenant extends to the descendants of Jonathan. In 1 Samuel 20:15 we read that covenant, "Do not ever cut off your kindness from my family - not even when the Lord has cut off everyone of David's enemies from the face of the earth."
Moving forward in history. Saul, Jonathan, and his brothers are in a battle with the Philistines. (1 Samuel 31) "Saul and his three sons... died together..." in that battle. (1 Samuel 31:6) Moving on, David defeats the Philistines, the Moabites, the king of Zobah, the Arameans and a host of other enemies. 1 Samuel 9, we read of David saying, "Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness to for Jonathan's sake?" (2 Samuel 9:1) A search was made, Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth was brought to David. King David said, "I will surely show kindness to you, because your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather, Saul. You will always eat at my table." (2 Samuel 9:7) David appointed Saul's steward and the steward sons and their servants to farm the land that was given to Mephibosheth. The precedes from that farm were brought to Jonathan's son. The Bible says he was provided for and ate at King David's table in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 9:)
Recap of what just said. "King Saul became jealous of David and wanted to kill him. Jonathan, King Saul's son loves David, who is God's chosen king for Israel. David loves Jonathan. All three served in the armed forces. Jonathan and David entered into a covenant agreement. After Jonathan fell in battle, David honor's the covenant by making sure Jonathan's son is taken care of."
Transitional Sentence: Those who have fallen in battle are to be remembered. This is why God, working through our government (Romans 13:1,6) has established Memorial Day: "A Federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May. A remembrance of our veterans, commemorating the men and women who died while in military service.
A political cartoon in 1900 showed a little boy all dressed up setting by a tombstone, talking to a little girl, who is setting on ground in a nice dress, wearing a hat with flowers on it. On the tombstone was written, "killed at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863." The caption under the cartoon picture, "You bet, I'm goin' to be a soldier too, like my uncle David, when I grow up." (Wikipedia, Memorial Day; Picture drawn by John T. McCutcheon , Decoration Day)
There are some interesting data that can be found about "Memorial Day:
"The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from 'Decoration Day' to 'Memorial Day,' which was first used in 1882." (Henry Perkins Goddard; Calvin Goddard Zon (2008) The Good Fight That Did Not End, University of South Carolina Press. p. 285 ISBN 978-1-57003-772-6
"It did not become common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967." (Alan Axelrod, 1 June 2007 - Miracle at Belleau Wood: The Birth of the Modern U.S. Marine Corps, Globe Pequot. p. 233)
"On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971." (Public Law 90-363)
"On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon." (Peggy Post; Anna Post; Lizzie Post; Daniel Post Senning - 15 November 2011 - Emily Post's Etiquette, 18 - HarperCollins. p. 165) "It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their steady and continue fight for liberty and justice for all." (Wikipedia, Memorial Day)
"In 1915, following the Second Battle of Ypers, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote the poem, In Flanders Fields, It's opening lines refer to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldier's graves in Flanders." "In 1920, the National American Legion adopted poppies as their official symbol of remembrance." (Where did the idea of come from? BBC News. 10 November 2006. Retrieved 2009-02-18) "The red poppies McCrae referred to had grew over the graves of soldiers. [You see] the damage done to the landscape in Flanders during the battle greatly increased the lime content in the surface soil, leaving the poppy as one of the few plants able to grow in the region. (Where did the idea of come from? BBC News. 10 November 2006. Retrieved 2009-02-18)
The poem, "In Flanders Fields" was inspired to be written on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier, Alexis Helmer, who died in the 'Second Battle of Yepers.' Fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. 'In Flanders Fields' was first published on December 8, 1915, in the London-based magazine, Punch. It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. (Wikipedia, Memorial Day) It is written from the point of view of the dead. It speaks of their sacrifice and serves as their command to the living to press on. (In Flanders Fields, New York Times, 1921-12-18, retrieved 2012-02-07)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In Closing: Memorial Day is for remembering the fallen in battle. Focus on the Family Newsletter, March, 1994 ran the a story that helps understand, the soldier's Commitment to the Cause.
"We have all seen John Wayne movies that made combat look like a romantic romp in the park. Men who have been through it tell a different story. The most graphic descriptions of battle come from Bruce Catton’s excellent books on the American Civil War... They provide a striking understanding of the toughness of both Yankee and Rebel soldiers. ...They believed in their cause, whether Union or Confederate, and they committed their lives to it. Most believed that they would not survive the war, but that was of little consequence.
There is, perhaps, no better illustration of this commitment to principle and honor than is seen in a letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou of the Union Army. He penned it to his wife, Sarah, a week before the battle of Bull Run, July 14, 1861. They had been married only six years.
'My Very Dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more ... I know how strongly American civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing, perfectly willing, to lay down all my joys in this life to help maintain this Government and to pay that debt... Sarah, my love for you is deathless: The memories of all the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most deeply grateful to God, and you, that I have enjoyed them so long. If I do not (return), my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle-field, it will whisper your name.'
Major Ballou was killed one week later in the first battle of Bull Run." (Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press)
Many a spouse knows the pain of losing a warrior, the same with a son, daughter, mother, father, countless family members, friends and co-workers. The Lord has given us Memorial Day as remembrances. Let us honor God by taking time to remember the fallen with thanksgiving, living a life worthy of the cost they paid for freedom. Let us pray!