Memorial Day Preview

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(I am preparing to give a Memorial Day talk and would love your thoughts, comments, and feedback on my  rough draft.)

Each year Beloit College comes out with a list of major events which current high school graduates have never lived through or been directly impacted. These events which range from WWII, to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, or more recently to the terrors of September 11th highlight how each passing year events go from firsthand experiences to facts simply read about in a history book. With the passing of time, it can be easy to forget and as we age, it gets harder to remember, but today on Memorial Day, we honor the brave men and women who have sacrificed it all, in order that the horrors of history might fade from the frontlines into the background.

Although we may forget the battles or bloodshed, what is striking is a *Faith Impossible to Forget*-A faith like Abraham’s when he received the call from God, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” It was a commission, to embrace obedience to God, in the midst of the unknown unfolding around him. In many ways it was and is the soldier’s call—to go when called—leaving behind the family farm or big city lifestyle, putting certainty and security on hold in order to meet a need much larger than one person, but impacting the fortunes of all people. They went at a moment’s notice, to unknown danger and uncertain destinations; by air, land or sea “From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.”

As Abraham left the land of his forefathers, he went with the promise of God ringing in his ears- ““I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing…”Yet there was more than one occasion where the promise seemed more like wishful thinking than solid footing, when the man who was supposed to make a great nation was without a single heir.  As God faithfully worked he revealed that fulfillment of promises sometimes don’t happen in a lifetime, but through a legacy. It is through Abraham’s faithfulness to the promise that preceding generations were able to know its fulfillment. As our soldiers go off to war, they do so with the promise of peace ringing in their ear. That each time a soldier fights for justice, seeks to set free the oppressed, or rescue the persecuted they have contributed to a *Legacy Worth Remembering.* That although a war may rage, while widows receives the news, and the path is left littered with wreckage, the ultimate sacrifice is a contribution to a fulfillment of an ideal that although not experienced in their lifetime is passed along as a legacy to the living! As we gather here today in freedom, we do so as a testament to those who freely gave it all!  

As President Lincoln so succinctly added, “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Although Lincoln looked for a government that would not perish, Christ revealed as he prepared to die, “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” Just like the soldiers whose names are marked on the monument in this very park or soldiers whose names our marked only in our hearts and minds humbled themselves by laying down their lives in service, Jesus similarly highlights that when our words our forgotten all that is left is a *Humility worth Honoring.* A humility which Jesus Christ went beyond describing and instead lived out by dying on the cross in order that the ultimate promise of eternal peace for each of us might be realized.

Three years after WWI, six soldiers were sent back to France for a special assignment. Outside the chapel at Chalons-sur-Marne the soldiers were told that inside were four caskets with the bodies of four nameless American soldiers. Their special assignment was to bring home the nameless soldiers, picking one casket to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to represent all those brave men who died so our country could remain free. While the world will most assuredly not hear what is said here today, it is when we the living, take the time not only to remember those who have perished, but go farther by nobly advancing the humility they displayed—in good times or bad, in prosperity or under persecution, that we bring the nameless or forgotten soldier home ensuring their legacy will be one the world will never forget.

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