Memorial Day, our annual day of remembering people who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. It originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868.
However, it was officially designated a federal holiday to be celebrated the last Monday of May in 1971. I was in high school in 1971, and I can still remember the emphasis given to this celebration of the lives of our fallen heroes, those who had given their lives for our country. Just recently I had the opportunity to be amongst some young people on several different occasions, during which I asked them what the significance of Memorial Day was.
Overwhelmingly, the majority of these young people, ranging from ages 4 through 14, responded that Memoria Day was when we had lots of sales to celebrate the beginning of summer and summer vacation. I’m not sure if this lack of understanding should make me sad, or mad, or maybe a little of both. Perhaps I am sad, because the true meaning of this tremendous day of remembrance has become distorted. Perhaps mad, because we as a nation have not done a good job in correctly teaching our young ones how to properly remember.
Remembering is very important. The word remember itself comes up at least 167 times in the Bible. Usually it has to do with remembering events in order to remember that God was at work in the midst of those events. Such is not always easy when we are going through, or dealing with the aftermath of such events.
I find it interesting that we are celebrating Memorial Day after the Feast of the Ascension, and before the feast of Pentecost. It was not easy for the disciples of Jesus to see him leave this world physically. (As it was, and is, not easy for the relatives of those who have suffered the loss of their loved ones.) We actually find the disciples huddled together in a room for nine days, as the await the promised gift of The Advocate, The Holy Spirit.
When that day finally comes, they are filled with the Spirit and are able to boldly go forward preaching the word of God. (Although I am sure they still had their moments of struggle, doubt and grief.) Little by little, they formed more and more as a cohesive group of believers. And, what did they do? They remembered.
More so, recalled the great commission of Jesus to act boldly “In Remembrance of Him.” At the heart of that remembrance was the commission to love as Jesus had loved. Jesus’ suffering and death upon that cross, ultimately led to victory and transformation of death to new life, and his followers were called to remember and pass on the story.
While Memorial Day may mark the beginning of summer, and even summer vacation, I ask you to teach your children well, the true meaning of the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and offered their lives, so that others could experience freedom.
However, I would also challenge each and every one of us to allow this Memorial Day to be a rallying call to work harder and harder for peace to reign in our hearts and radiate throughout our world. “What a world it would be…” if our precious brothers and sisters would no longer have to sacrifice their lives in war, and countless civilians would never again be ravaged by the horrible effects of war.
However, for such to happen we MUST REMEMBER, and pass on the memory. I would ask that you join us at St. James the Fisherman Episcopal Church on Wednesday, June 28 at 6 p.m. for a very special Remembrance of the Holocaust. Rabbi Agler and Dr. Bernie Ginsberg will be offering a presentation on a recent pilgrimage that they conducted with young people.
They traveled through various sites in Europe to help the young understand and remember the travesty of the Holocaust. They have put together a presentation with images to help us all remember. As Soren Kierkegaard (Philosopher\Theologian) reminds us, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”
In our REMEMBERINNG, let us truly understand, so that we can be instruments of peace, as we move forward.