I Was Just Thinking About – MEMORIAL DAYS.
As we approach another Memorial Day weekend, what does “Memorial” and “Remembrance” mean to you? Is it just a national observance or does it find its origin in Biblical settings? What purpose is there in the observance of Memorials whether it is a national (secular) observance or a Biblical instructional one? The observance nationally is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.
In May 1986, Ronald Reagan spoke at Arlington National Cemetery and said: “Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.”
A hundred years earlier, Oliver Wendall Holmes, while in Keene, New Hampshire (May 1884), before John Sedgwick Post No. 4, Grand Army of the Republic, said: “So to the indifferent inquirer who asks why Memorial Day is still kept up we may answer, It celebrates and solemnly reaffirms from year to year a national act of enthusiasm and faith. It embodies in the most impressive form our belief that to act with enthusiasm and faith is the condition of acting greatly…So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out…One may fall at the beginning of the charge…but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory.”
The Biblical instruction of Memorials and Remembrance is significantly different. One Memorial and Remembrance is the observance of the Passover. One instructional purpose is stated in Exodus 12:24-27, “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you, your children and your descendants. When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you: 'What does this ceremony mean to you?' then tell them: It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.”
Another special time for Memorials and instructional purposes is recorded in Joshua 4:4-7, ”Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them: Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you: What do these stones mean?, tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
The higher purpose of a Memorial and Remembrance is recorded while Jesus was observing the Passover with His disciples, in Matthew 26:26-28, “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” Luke records the important phrase spoken by Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In First Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul specifies the true meaning of the Passover as it relates to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed…”
What does a Memorial Day mean to you? Will it be the Indianapolis 500 Race? Will it be a weekend at the beach? Will it be a time for travel or some other festive activity? What are the things you remember and memorialize in your life or with your children? Give it serious thought – and then – prayerfully – consider these things with me.