Summary: On Memorial Day we are invited to remember those who have died for our liberty, those who have touched our own lives in meaningful ways, and of course and most of all, the sacrificial and atoning blood of our Lord Jesus
I walked through a county courthouse square. On a park bench, an old man was sittin’ there. I said, Your old flag pole in leaned a little bit, and that’s a ragged old flag you got sittin’ on it.” “Well,” he said, “I don’t like to brag, but we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag. You see, we got a little hole in that flag there, when Washington took it across the Delaware, and it got powder burned the night Francis Scott Key sat watching it, writing ‘Say Can You See.’ It got a rip in New Orleans, with Packingham and Jackson tugging at its seams. She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville, and she got cut again at Shiloh Hill. There was Robert E Lee and Beauregard and Bragg, and the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag. On Flanders Field in World War 1, she got a big hole from a Bertha gun. She turned blood red in World War 2. She hung limp, and low, a time or two. She was in Korea and Viet Nam. She went where she was sent by her Uncle Same. She waved from our ships upon the briny foam, and now they’ve about quit wavin’ back here at home. In her own good land, she’s been abused. She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused. And she’s getting thread bare and she’s wearin’ thin, but she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in. So we raise her up every morning, and we bring her down slow every night. We don’t let her touch the ground, and we fold her up right. On 2nd thought, I do like to brag, cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag.”
Yes, it is Memorial Day, and at its core, Memorial Day is a day for us to pay tribute to those who have died in service to our country, and to our “ragged old flag” that Johnny Cash sang about. It is a day that invites, even urges, us to remember because there is honor and power in remembering. Friday, we held a graveside service at the Arsenal for William Holmberg, and I was struck again by the holiness of the place. We drove through the Veteran’s Cemetery, and as always, I was moved by the thousands of white crosses dotting the immaculate grounds. It was even more beautiful Friday because each resting place was decorated with an American flag and people were putting flower arrangements on their loved one’s grave. Bill had a military service and the honor guard joined us, and no matter how many times I see it, I’m always touched by the dignity with which they present the flag (in this case, to Barbara), and I experience deep gratitude when the honor guard fires their rifles.
As a student of history, I am well aware of the sins of our fathers, but their vision was great and God-centered and they did what they had to do- and more- to keep our freedoms alive. Countless numbers of them died for policies they might not have agreed with and they sacrificed for people who may not have been grateful, but the cause of freedom and justice is far greater than any political party or agenda. Jesus said that there is no greater love than giving up one’s life for another, and we must never forget that freedom is very costly. So today, on this day which is partly for Veterans, partly for remembering all of those who have touched our lives, and partly for celebrating the start of summer with a 3 day, and in some cases, a 4-day weekend, I will pause to recognize my father and two uncles who saw combat in World War 2, and all of you who put country before self as well. Would you please stand is you are a veteran?
The red in the American flag (as we just told the kids) symbolizes valor and sacrifice, white represents purity and innocence, and blue signifies perseverance and justice. I have already spoken in praise of this flag, but there is one flag in this sanctuary that is even greater. It waves in praise of our Lord, who gave up divinity to carry a cross for us. It waves in celebration of the Holy Spirit, who is the wind beneath our sails, and it invites us to worship our God, who created us and who is re-creating us even now. It is the freest flag on earth, owing allegiance to no man, or to any cause no matter how good. The first pledge to the Christian flag was written by a Methodist pastor, and I invite you to join me as we offer this pledge now. Repeat after me: I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Savior for whose kingdom it stands; one brotherhood uniting all mankind in service and love. Let’s do this once again, this time using a version that is often used in conservative churches. Repeat after me: I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands; one savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty for all who believe.” Remembering what God has done for us, remembering how God has blessed us, remembering the first time you trusted and surrendered to Him, remembering the times when the Holy Spirit has given you voice, or courage, or grace- friends, this is the source of your hope and your confidence. As I’m sure you know, the white on the Christian flag represents purity and grace; the blue square in the left corner stands for truth and faith; and the red symbolizes the atoning blood and love of Christ Jesus.