Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"Memorial Day"

Next Monday, May 30, 2016, hundreds of people will flock to cemeteries to remember and honor their deceased relatives and friends. Memorial Day was established first and foremost to remember those who died serving this country during all wars. However, it is also a time when people take a moment to visit the graves of those whom they knew and loved who have passed away. If the individual was in the military, many times an American flag will be placed at the gravesite. Some people will place stuffed animals or small tokens that remind them about something that was special or unique about the deceased individual. Following this officially recognized "day of mourning," people will return to their routine activities. Memorial Day weekend has also been recognized as the "official" start of summer vacations and travel. Subsequently, gas prices begin to rise, the internet is flooded with people furiously looking for cheap flights, and hotel reservations are quickly booked up. Memorial Day fades into the background until it comes around again next May and people move forward with their mindsets focused on fun in the sun. However, there is another time of "remembrance" that is not easily forgotten. It is repeated day in and day out in some churches and celebrated less frequently in other church communities. It is referred to by many names, the Eucharist, the Lord's Supper, and Holy Communion but it is a pivotal experience for believers in Jesus Christ. Jesus on the night He was betrayed transformed the traditional Passover meal, giving it a new meaning that was to be carried on through the rest of time. Paul, shares with the Corinthian believers, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper He took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) What Jesus established that night was not something to be easily dismissed or only acknowledged once a year. It was to remind us in a very tangible and symbolic way of His great sacrifice for the sins of the world. Those who lost their lives in combat are often said to have "sacrificed" their lives. Yet, despite their sacrifice, wars continue to rage on all over the world and the shedding of a soldier's blood does not redeem or stop wars from ever happening again. On Memorial Day we honor the dead but Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, we remember a living Lord when we celebrate communion. Jesus told us to remember Him until He comes again. His sacrifice on the cross does guarantee that one day wars and strife will cease because when He comes again there will be a new heaven and new earth. (Revelation 21:1-4) The psalmist declares, "Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest." (Psalm 126:3,5-6 NLT) This will be the first Memorial Day since my mother's death in September 2015 and there most likely will be tears shed and little rejoicing. However, every time I celebrate the Lord's Supper I am filled with joy, expectation, and a living hope rooted in the promise of our Savior to His disciples, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:1-3) One day we will all join our loved ones in death but the ending will be different for those who are followers of Jesus Christ as the writer of the book of Hebrews states, "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him." (Hebrews 9:27-28) I encourage you this Memorial Day in the midst of bittersweet memories of deceased loved ones to remember with joy the One who is coming again to make all things new. "He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." (Revelation 22:20)
May God's peace be with you,
Pastor Sheree