O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
from the Book of Common Prayer
For the Fallen
Excerpts from a poem by Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), published in The Times newspaper on 21 September 1914.
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
In the journey of faith, we need not so much to be instructed as to be reminded. That’s based on a quote from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), but it’s truth is older than the 18th century. The Hebrew scriptures are filled with reminders, as the people of Israel were told to remember their own journey, their father and mother, Abraham and Sarah, wandering Arameans. Children are to be told the story of Exodus. Don’t forget.
Fast forward to the last supper. Jesus institutes the meal we now call eucharist, with the call to do this in remembrance of him. In our own liturgy, there’s a portion of the eucharistic prayer that recounts the ways that God acted on our behalf, bringing wholeness, deliverance, salvation. It recounts the healing that came in the life and death of Jesus, grace at great cost. The part of that prayer (listen for it next time you’re in church) is called anamnesis, which literally means “not amnesia.” Don’t forget.
All of this is a way of saying that part of our own journey is remembering, taking a look in the spiritual rear-view mirror to recall the ways God has acted in your life, the blessings that have come, all as a way of moving forward into an uncertain future. Don’t forget.
Which brings us to Memorial Day. For many, the day ahead of us is a holiday, the start of summer, a time for relaxation and revelry. All good stuff. But take a few minutes on Memorial Day to remember grace at great cost. For all of the chaos that Fox and MSNBC outline for us 24/7, many of us gather with great blessings, in many ways unprecedented in world history. We are called to give thanks for those blessings.
We are also called on this Memorial Day to do some remembering. The internet will tell all kinds of stories about where this holiday came from. It seems to have found its origin in the midst or aftermath of the war between the states, when hundreds of thousands of people died, brother fighting brother. The holiday expanded to offer memory of those who gave their lives in other battles, to remember the great cost that came to those who died, the cost to those who loved those who died. If helpful, use the prayer for heroic service, included above, to remember them. Take a moment, or two today to commend those persons to God’s loving care.
And then add a moment or two to pray for those around the world who are now engaged in armed conflict, and for those who love them.
And then add a moment or two to pray that we can figure out some way to live on this fragile earth, our island home, without harming each other, how we can work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.
Amid all the relaxation and revelry, practice anamnesis. Don’t forget.
Rev. Jay Sidebotham
RenewalWorks is a ministry of Forward Movement.
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