Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.
“Lest we forget! Lest we forget!” With these words a famous poet of a generation past prayed that Britain would ever remember the source of its strength and the reason for its greatness. That same prayer is needed in America of today.
We observe Memorial Day, not by celebrating the many victories our Armed Forces have gained over the years, but by remembering our losses—especially the loss of lives. It is a sobering holiday.
This year, the thoughts of many quickly fly to the deserts and mountains of the Middle East. Older memories click back to pictures of rice paddies in Vietnam. A few others still recall a Sunday morning in Pearl Harbor. Such recollections often contain scenes of flag-draped caskets. For those, it is a painful holiday.
But, Memorial Day is not just for Veterans, or for households that hung a gold star in their window. It is a day to pass the memories down to the next generation—a generation pre-occupied with video games and cell phones, a generation that gives little thought to the past. Young people can easily assume that the blessings of freedom they enjoy are theirs by right. They did not pay the price, so they do not treasure the gift they have inherited.
Those who have survived the ravage of war and live with the bitter taste still in their mouth, they are the ones who know how easily life and victory can be lost. They point to the many grave markers, and to the names on a Wall, and say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I!”
Sometimes guilt accompanies that thought. “Why was my life spared, when so many others lost theirs?” But the Christian warrior remembers that his life is in his Lord’s hands. It was not luck or skill that saved him. It was not weapons or strategy that saved his nation. It was, and always will be, the grace of God. The One who died that he might live forever had still more for this warrior to do before he would be called home.
Memorial Day shows signs of pomp and glory. Troops in review and marching bands stir emotions of confidence, even superiority. But, the impact of the three-shot volley; the final salute; and the playing of Taps overtake those emotions. Many walk away from a Memorial Day ceremony in silence. Some are learning. Most are remembering.
This is a time for Americans to consider generations long past. It is a time to ask fathers and elders to tell their stories, and explain our history. Some of those stories are told with hesitant voices, from trembling throats. Some are told only with words chiseled in stone.
They need to speak, and we need to listen. When this is done, the guidance and blessings of the Lord God will become more apparent. History shouts out to America: “God shed his grace on thee!”
We need to hear that again, and again. We need to be remembering.
Saturday evening worship: 6:00 pm
Sunday morning worship: 10:00 am
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military.