More Than Remembering
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Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” (John 11:25–26 NLT)
The origins of Memorial Day in the American South trace back to May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, when 10,000 formerly enslaved African American adults and children joined to honor 257 Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. After giving the fallen soldiers a proper burial, the recently freed multitude held a parade and placed flowers at the gravesite.
Today, Memorial Day is a federal holiday celebrated by the entire United States to honor our beloved forebears, whose self-sacrifice forged peace and solidarity for generations to come. People need memorial occasions to reflect on and pay tribute to those who have gone before us. Each time we honor those who have passed, we remember the values and purposes they stood for. We enshrine the legacies of lost loved ones through funeral services, commemorative stories and pictures, and somber reflections on the anniversary date of their passing. These healthy rituals allow us in our human frailty to mourn, process, and inspire meaning from the deaths of loved ones.
Fixed days on the Church’s calendar help us remember the legacy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas, Easter, and even the regular practice of the Lord’s Supper (Communion) help us call to mind and celebrate all Christ gave, even unto death on the cross, to cover our sins. Indeed, our solemn reflection on what Jesus accomplished is always accompanied by exceeding joy—because we know that His death is not the end of His story but only the beginning. Jesus lives on. Because He is the “resurrection and the life,” we celebrate not just the memory of what Jesus did but who He is for us for all time.
Jesus’ death allows you and me to have a personal relationship with Him. It also means that we can be hopeful we will one day reunite with loved ones who have passed on in the Lord. As Jesus demonstrated in the raising of Lazarus (John 11:38–44) and his victory over the cross, death is a conquerable foe. Moreover, the Resurrection encourages us to reach out to those who do not know Christ personally so that they may likewise embrace the hope of eternal life. In the Lord, looking back in memoriam is always coupled with the joy of victory and the assurance of heaven.
Lord, we give You thanks for those who gave their lives so that our lives could be better today. May Your favor be especially upon the loved ones of those who gave their lives to fight on our behalf in the U.S. armed forces. Most of all, thank You, Jesus, for Your model of self-sacrifice and the hope of eternal life.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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