May 27, 2014
“A day to honor our ancestors.”
There’s a church a mile away from my home that has a monument sign out-front that challenges my spiritual maturity, constantly. The message changes every week; each time I go by, I’m reminded that the designation “church” is very fluid and flexible.
The pastor is very politically active; his interests – and, hence, the positions elevated by his congregation – reside in a part of the spectrum of beliefs where I’m least likely to utter “amen.”
Their staunch peace posture disavows any affirmation of military action; apparently, figuring out what to do with “Memorial Day” is no small quandary. Their solution: honor ancestors, not fallen soldiers.
The national holiday traces back to the days following the War Between the States, and the establishment of a day honoring those who fell in battle, by understanding citizens in Waterloo, New York. From then to now, the date of observance has shifted a bit – from May 30th to the last Monday of May – but the clarity of the commemoration has not: it’s about the men and women whose service to our country resulted in the sacrifice of their life, in the ultimate demonstration of patriotic service.
Some of my ancestors may warrant remembrance; many probably do not. All of the Americans who died in defense of our country deserve my honor, and that’s worthy of a day for all of us – taken away from our otherwise pursuits – to be reminded of things larger than daily life.
That was the mindset of the writer of the book of Hebrews when he came to Chapter 11: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for…” (vs 1). In the view of the writer – giving human agency to the Holy Spirit’s insight – the lives of some who have come before us warrant special reconsideration.
The remainder of the chapter is devoted to retelling stories of men and women who lived on the frontlines of the War of Faith, fought against those who live in a world that is all about here, and all about now.
What does it take to be on God’s shortlist of heroism? He – the Holy Spirit – does not leave that question unanswered: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (vs 6).
Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel all qualify for honorable mention, based on their commitment to obey the orders given to them by the Commander in Chief. Faithfulness – in the face of conflict and hardship – never went unnoticed, though it would have been easy for any/all of them to believe that they had been forgotten by headquarters and left to fend for themselves.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” (vs 13). There are warriors who march into their home in a parade, greeted by cheers and declaring victory; the fighters God highlights are the ones who left without any confirmation – humanly – that their outcomes qualified for medals and honor.
As an American, I want to give applause to the men and women whose service to my country was performed with selfless commitment, whether they are now dead or alive. Memorial Day is wholesome and appropriate.
God has His own Memorial Day; read Hebrews 11 to understand the Divine Proclamation. May we be among those He honors, on that day…