Originally Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day, meant to honor the Union and the Confederate soldiers who died during the American Civil War. By the 1900s it had become a day to celebrate all American soldiers who died while serving in the military. It wasn’t until 1967 that it was legally named Memorial Day.
Speaking about Decoration Day, Abraham Lincoln said, “it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” It is fitting and proper for us to observe Memorial Day not only as Americans but also as Christians. There should be no conflict between our loyalty to our God and our loyalty to our country. These loyalties reinforce each other. Even in this time of sheltering in place, when many people feel isolated, we must remember that by divine appointment we are members of a family, of a community, and of a nation — just as to be a Christian is to be a member of the church of Christ.
To live as God intended us to live we must fulfill our obligations to both God and Country. In Lincoln’s words, we must “highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, so that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”
As Lincoln was assassinated for the freedom of our nation, so too did Christ die for the freedom of another sort. Christ died that we are free to enjoy eternal life. We hear that in John’s Gospel, chapter 14, verse 19 where Christ says to us, “Because I live, you also will live.”
I have a challenge for each of you – consider taking a few minutes at the end of every day to ask yourself “Where did I see the glory of eternity guaranteed by Christ today?” I heard that eternity at 4:00 am Saturday morning when a sleepy voice said “I love you Nana” when he woke up from a bad dream. I see eternity each morning watching the sun come up. I feel eternity as I consider that because Christ lived, when we will all be gathered on that day appointed by God, I can personally thank those who gave their lives to guarantee us the freedom to worship God and proclaim Jesus Christ as my Savior.
Today it seems fitting to suggest that Abraham Lincoln’s charge to the crowd at his 2nd inaugural address would be an appropriate way of obeying Christ, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in: to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for those who shall have borne the battle, and for those they leave behind – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.