Memorial Day is next week (May 25), and I’ve been thinking about what that means. Memorial Day is traditionally the first long weekend of summer, so maybe for you it’s just another excuse to break out the grill and water toys. If you have to work that day, maybe it’s an inconvenience that that the Post Office and banks will be closed. Some people will simply sleep in that day and not care why. The American dream lives on.
The real reason for Memorial Day is so that we remember. In this case, we remember the men and women who died in miltary service to our country. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it began following the Civil War and was expanded to honor fallen soldiers of all wars during World War I.
So, Memorial Day is strictly American and has nothing to do with the Bible, right? Hold that thought. I try not to be one of those Christians that equate the U.S. flag with the cross and Bible. While I’m not advocating either thing, you could be a good Christian that hates America, or a good American that’s also an atheist. Keeping a memorial however, remembering those that came before you and made your way of life possible – very Biblical.
When the Hebrews crossed the Jordan River, each patriarchal leader was to take a stone from the river. They piled them up into twelve piles as they came out on the Canaan side, and were given instructions concerning the piles. When future generations asked what the stones meant, they were to recount what God had done for them, by bringing them out of Egypt and giving them this new land. The stones were a memorial, and the story would be repeated from generation to generation. When Jesus broke the bread and offered the cup to his disciples at the last supper, what did he say? “This do in remembrance of me.” Our communion tables often have those words inscribed into the wood. Taking communion is a way to remember, with visual aids and action, what Jesus did on the cross.
Why do we break the bread for communion, or lower the flag to half staff on Memorial Day? Because we so easily forget. The Hebrews quickly forgot much of what God had to say about being his people and keeping his laws, and soon lived just like the previous inhabitants of Canaan. I fear many of us pass the communion instruments around, remembering to do the service but not knowing what it means. What else could it be if we eat the wafer but don’t share the gospel? We as a people forget quickly, and that’s why we have memorials, and days to honor them. Remembering those who died so that we could live; you can’t get much more scriptural than that.