Today it rained. All day it rained.
This afternoon my wife called from the Hermitage in Nashville where she had traveled to celebrate the wedding of a special family member. It wasn’t raining there. In fact, she was sitting under a tree to keep from getting a sun burn.
I talked with some parents of two young children yesterday at the church I serve on the East Coast. Their children were disappointed because they had beach plans. And it was raining. It is still raining. Did I mention it has rained all day?
Actually, I don’t mind rainy days when I can cocoon and work on a variety of writing projects (such as this devotion). I have also had an opportunity to catch some scenes from my favorite war movies. In fact, as I write, some young men are in the process of landing the badly damaged Memphis Belle “on a wing and a prayer.”
Is it wrong to enjoy a day dedicated to those who have died to preserve our freedom? No. But we must take time to remember, and to remember well. A peaceful day in the neighborhood with birds chirping and children laughing (or raindrops falling lightly on the skylights), stands in sharp contrast to the horror awaiting the brave men who were to land on the beaches of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Whether we offer a special prayer of thanksgiving before eating our Memorial Day meal, visit a National Cemetery, or attend a community service of remembrance, the sacrifice of so many is worthy of our deepest devotion.
There is a good parallel in the Bible that helps us understand the balance between a memorial and a celebration. Before Jesus sacrificed His life on the cross of Calvary He instituted the supper we call “The Lord’s Supper” or “communion.” This supper commemorated the future event of Jesus’ death on the cross and defined bread and a cup as symbols of Jesus body and blood. When we take communion we remember what Jesus did on the cross and we thank Him for His sacrifice. We also reflect on our sin, the root cause of Christ’s suffering.
However, even though Jesus left this supper behind, He didn’t want our gatherings as believers to be solemn. Here is how the Bible describes the tone of the first church services in Jerusalem: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47) Did you catch that? Early Christians met to remember Jesus’ death and they “ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” They had such a good time in the Lord the news got around and other people wanted to join them!
But as time passed, an unfortunately thing happened at the church in Corinth. Evidently, some believers there were coming early to their gatherings and gorging themselves on food and wine. When the others arrived and it was time to honor Jesus with communion, there was nothing left to use for the Lord’s Supper and the early arrivals were drunk! (1 Corinthians 11:21) This is why the Apostle Paul harshly rebuked the church and warned the Corinthians not to take the Lord’s Supper in an “unworthy manner.” The problem wasn’t that the church was having fun, or even that they were having “too much” fun (depending on how one defines “fun”). The issue was focus, or the lack thereof. The focus of worship for Christians should be Jesus, and when it is time to remember what He did on the cross, we should be prepared to give His sacrifice our full attention.
In a similar fashion, the focus of Memorial Day is on those who have died for freedom’s sake. Have fun on Memorial Day! Enjoy your family, your barbecue ribs, and any other traditions you deem important. But when it is time to remember, make it a point to truly remember. Imagine what our country would be like had the villains of the past been allowed to succeed. Most of us have never known anything but freedom, and it serves us well to read about the experiences of others in our world who have watched it slip away.
Enjoy the day, but honor the remembrance.
It continues to rain. But you will never catch me complaining.