By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
Most of us think of Memorial Day as the three-day celebration that unofficially kicks off summer and, if you’re from the Midwest like I am, it’s also called the “wedding weekend,” because it’s usually the first weekend with a shot at decent weather!
Of course, we all know the actual reason for Memorial Day is to commemorate those who have died in active military service. Living in an area with many military families, I think it’s also worthwhile to recognize the sacrifice the entire family makes when one or more of its members serves in the military. Richmond Hill is the second community where I’ve pastored with a military base nearby. The first was Montgomery, AL, where — much like here — military families were stationed for two or three years, then were off to the next duty station. What a challenge and sacrifice that must be, for parents and kids alike, to make a new life for themselves time and time again. Those of us who are non-military can never fully appreciate all the challenges and sacrifices military families learn to cope with but, certainly — as we just did on Mothers’ Day — the very least we can do is designate a special day on which to honor them.
Christians can try to connect with the sacrifices of military families by considering the ones Jesus made when — being fully God – He was born human, thereby limiting Himself to the perils of being flesh and blood.
Such a sacrifice is truly mind-boggling, one we can barely grasp. Actually, the whole notion of sacrifice can be hard for us to get our heads around. More often than not, we’re taught to gain as much as we can, and to gather as much money, power, prestige and titles as possible – to the point where the idea of giving something away seems almost counter-cultural.
I’m also always struck by the incredibly close relationships platoons develop, especially while serving side by side in times of conflict. There’s something in all of this, in terms of modeling a Christian life. When we give ourselves away for others — be it time, talent or treasure – our joy is increased, and our lives are actually fuller.
We have new military families at Spirit of Peace, who said they “sprinted” to church almost immediately. Because they knew their time here was limited, they wanted to invest in the community as quickly and completely as possible. What a great image of God, who constantly and fully invests in us too, no matter what. All of us can benefit from investing in ourselves fully in whatever situations we’re in, and from genuinely valuing our relationships. The truth is, we all have a limited amount of time here and no matter how long or short that time is, we can always make a difference.
Military personnel serve independent of politics and regardless of how they may feel about a particular conflict. They go where they’re told, do what they’re instructed to do, and trust it’s the right thing. While Memorial Day is a wonderful opportunity to show our appreciation for their service and sacrifices, it’s also a chance to thank them for being excellent role models. Should we choose to embrace a similar paradigm of servanthood and sacrifice, our lives will be greatly enriched as well!
God loves you, and so do I.