Each day our Pastor will post a message to keep us connected while the Church is closed.
Day 73, May 25, 2020
• The muffled drums with their steady beat sending a chill down your spine, causing you to lean in with reverential anticipation for the first words of the stirring hymn, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…”
• The sight of a flag with the stars and stripes rippling like waves in the wind.
• Flowers being laid at the tomb of one who served so faithfully.
• The awesome feeling that engulfs you during a flyover, jets cutting a crisp and clear path through the bright blue of the sky.
• A lone bugler signaling the end of a service that honors a veteran who is now laid to rest.
Memorial Day is a special day every year. In the early 80s our youth choir would sing on Memorial Day at a local cemetery. It was a very moving experience to sing The Battle Hymn of the Republic and O Beautiful for Spacious Skies, surrounded by flags, surrounded by flowers, surrounded by a crowd that came together to honor and remember loved ones, and surrounded by the humbling reality that these were, as the hymn captures so beautifully, “the heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.”
On this Memorial Day, a Memorial Day celebrated in the midst of the Coronavirus Crisis, I am thinking of some of the lessons these brave heroes might teach us as we face our own battle.
• When the U.S. Army was fighting to defeat the Nazis a soldier’s parachute carried him off course. He landed behind enemy lines. Desperately seeking some sign from his comrades of their location, he searched the mountains behind him. At one moment a light shined, signaling where he could find his fellow troops. He would remember lifting his eyes to the hills, wondering where his help would come from…and he claimed Psalm 121 as his guiding verse for the more than 70 years he lived after that day in battle. “I lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord…
• On an LST in the Pacific, a young man stood on board his ship, watching as battles raged, as gunfire was exchanged, and as many ships went down and lives were lost. Searching for some way to calm himself he began singing the hymns he had learned as a child. He sang over the roar of the battle. He sang at the top of his lungs. He sang with all of his heart and with all of his soul. And he promised the Lord if he ever made it home, he would be at church every Sunday, and he would sing at the top of his lungs, every Sunday. I can verify he attended church every Sunday. I can also verify he sang at the top of his lungs…every Sunday. His son said it was a little embarrassing as a teenager to stand next to his dad blaring out all his favorite Fanny Crosby hymns. Years later, when his dad was widowed and had to come to worship alone, that son returned and stood by his father as his father kept right on singing at the top of his lungs. A promise made in the Pacific turned out to bring a lot of calm and peace as we all so dearly loved our good friend Addison.
• At a Veteran’s Cemetery I did a graveside service for a man who had served in the Navy. Along with his service to his country, something this man did upon his return from his military days stood out as being extremely important. War is brutal and it exacts a great toll from the ones who serve. Coping with what has been experienced in war is not easy. This man discovered he had allowed alcohol to become his coping mechanism. He joined AA and found a new beginning. For the rest of his life he not only attended AA, he sponsored a meeting at our church, and he sponsored countless individuals who faced their own battle with drinking.
• Then there is this faithful soldier who is buried in Arlington Cemetery. I have not served in our Armed Forces, but I have heard a phrase used many times. “Leave no man behind.” Soldiers look out for one another. Soldiers have each other’s back. Billy took that seriously. Billy came home from war and married his beautiful bride. They had a long and loving marriage. Then his wife got sick. She had a progressive illness. Billy had learned a valuable lesson in the military. That valuable lesson is one Billy had first learned through his faith in God. Billy loved the verse that is given twice at the end of Deuteronomy and once at the beginning of the Book of Joshua, and then repeated yet again in the New Testament letter of Hebrews. The verse expresses God’s undying commitment to us, to us who belong to God. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Billy had experienced that steadfast love of God, he had lived it out with his fellow soldiers, and now as his wife was slowly losing her battle with a progressive illness, Billy had above her bed, on a sticky note these words of Scripture, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He never did. Billy was right by his beloved wife’s side until the day she died, until she took her last breath, until she made it safely home. Muffled drums…waving flags…flowers at a graveside…soaring jets…and a lone bugler playing taps. Memorial Day is an important day. We have so many who have modeled how to serve honorably in times of battle. May their lessons not be lost on us as we engage in our own battle with the Coronavirus.
With the love of Christ,
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