414) Memorial Day Remembrance and Gratitude

For many years (until 1971) Memorial Day was observed on this day, May 30th.  Today’s meditation is on the theme of gratitude to God for our nation and the freedoms we have here, and for those who have served and died to protect and preserve that nation and freedom.  The reading is by Devin Foley, from:  www.intellectualtakeout.org  May 26, 2014

“The American people ought to be able to see their own boys as they fall in battle; to come directly and without words into the presence of their own dead.”

   That sentence was LIFE magazine’s justification for publishing this photo by George Strock that documents the carnage at the Battle of Buna-Gona in the South Pacific during World War II.  The publication occurred after many months of censorship and only after receiving President Roosevelt’s consent.  It is most likely the first photo of dead American soldiers published during World War II.

     As a boy I was mesmerized by the photo and even by its censorship, both of which I learned of in a book my grandfather gave me.  He was a World War II vet who was stationed in the South Pacific.

     The photo and its censorship, as well as Audie Murphy’s book To Hell and Back, helped me see that war is not the grand adventure that little boys often imagine it to be.  No, war is something awful.  Men die in faraway and lonely places in unimaginably cruel ways.  War may be necessary, but it should not be sought.

     Now that I am a father I also see that, behind those boys on the beach, there are mothers and fathers, probably sisters and brothers, and maybe even wives and children.  Those three bodies represent not just the loss of three American boys, but also an unknown number of wounded and grieving souls.  The sacrifice was great and it was shared by many.

     I have been blessed beyond measure to inherit a free country because others have fought and many have died.  I wonder if I live a life worthy of such an inheritance since it is so easy to take for granted.  It is easy too, to think back only to past wars and particularly to the “good war” on Memorial Day.

     But even now, young Americans are giving their lives.  While we have been shopping and going about our daily lives for the past decade, young Americans have been dying.

     Though we the living may have disagreements about the justice or wisdom of the current or past wars, let us not use them as excuses to forget the dead who gave their lives, hoping to do right by protecting their families, friends, brothers-in-arms, communities, and country.  Let us also not forget our wounded and those who still grieve.

**********************************

Isaiah 2:3-4  —  Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
    so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
    the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
    and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
    nor will they train for war anymore.”

**********************************

Gracious, Sovereign God, Lord of all nations,

On this Memorial Day, we pause to reflect upon our blessings as a nation and the high cost of those blessings.  We offer our prayers of thanks and intercession.

Thank you for the freedom we enjoy in this country, for opportunities to flourish, and for the security of our land.

Thank you for those who have served in the armed services of our country, risking their lives for our liberty.

Thank you for those who have given their lives in service to our country, sacrificing in such a costly way for the sake of others, including me.  Thank you for those who have given their lives so that those who live in other countries might experience freedom from tyranny.

Thank you for a day set apart, not just for celebration, but also for solemn remembrance as we consider the sacrifices of so many in our military.

O Lord, may we be more aware of just how blessed we are as a nation.  May we be more grateful for our blessings, more faithful in stewarding them well, more eager to share them with others.

We pray today for the families and friends of those who have given their lives in service to our nation.  May they be comforted in their sadness.  May they be reassured that the sacrifice of their loved ones contributes to a worthy cause.  May they be proud of those they have lost, entrusting their ultimate fate into your gracious hands.

Even as we remember those who have given their lives in the past, we also think of those whose lives are on the line today.  Protect them.  Encourage them.  Bring them home safely… and soon.

Give wisdom to the leaders of our armed services, that they might know how best to deploy the troops in the cause of freedom.  May their efforts be successful, so that peace with justice might be established in our world.

Guide those who lead our nation in international affairs.  Help them to pursue diplomatic paths that prevent needless conflict.  May they have your wisdom about when and how to use the military might you have entrusted to us.

God of peace, stir in the hearts of the leaders of all nations and in all who would use violence to further their cause.  Change their hearts and minds.  Give them a passion for peace.  Bring an end to the pain, suffering, injustice, and violence in our world.

We know, dear Lord, that ultimate peace will not come until your kingdom is here in all of its fullness.  Nevertheless, we pray for a foretaste of the future.  We ask for the growth of peace throughout our world today, so that fewer and fewer men and women will have to risk and even to sacrifice their lives.  We long for the day when people will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4).

May your kingdom come, Lord, and your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven!

All praise be to you, God of grace, God of mercy, God of justice, God of peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords!  Amen.

–Mark D. Roberts at http://www.highcalling.org  May 26, 2014