1874) Memorial Day: Dying; Living; For What? (part two of two)

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General Roger A. Brady, USAF  (1946- )

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Memorial Day: For What Shall We Live?

Whether we wear a uniform or not, we all have sacrificial service to offer.

By Roger Brady, retired United States Air Force general.  Brady speaks and writes on principled leadership and serves as minister of adult education in his local congregation.  This article was posted at http://www.christianitytoday.com on May 25, 2018.

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     (…continued)  Does this mean that God favors America?  I often hear people express that belief, but what I read in his Word is that he favors people who rely on him, who place their trust in him, and who proclaim him as their God, regardless of their earthly citizenship.  Does that ensure their health and wealth and a life of ease?  No, it ensures us of the opportunity to be his sons and daughters, to tell others of the salvation that was freely given to us, to share in his suffering, and to live with him eternally.

     The American writer Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, once said we should give loyalty to our country always and to the government when it deserves it.  I believe he meant that our only true loyalty is to those eternal principles to which governments aspire but do not always demonstrate.  There may well come times when our government takes a path we cannot in good conscience follow, and we must stand where God stands.  But it is right that we devote time to remember and honor those fellow citizens who gave their all for us—we are forever in their debt.

Living a Life of Service

     Most Americans will never serve in the military—actually less than one percent of our population do so.  And even among those of us who do, very, very few of us are asked to give that last full measure of devotion.  So what is the question for us on this day as we remember those Americans who died on our behalf?  I believe that question is —for what shall we live?

     Whether or not we wear the uniform of our country, we all have a service to offer, a service to those ideals that reflect God’s universal truths and that our American ancestors captured in the formation of this country.  When Jesus left this earth to take his place at the right hand of the Father, he left us, the church, to carry on his work.  So when evil strikes in the form of a school shooting or when nature unleashes its fury and devastates property and lives, when children suffer, when people are hungry or homeless and ask “Where is God?!” we must be there and have them see him in us.

     We must bring his comfort and his healing to this world.  When we live lives of service to those around us, we honor the God who saved us and we honor all those who gave that last full measure to secure for us all the things we enjoy in this nation.

     Someday we will find ourselves at the end of our lives looking back, and we will ask ourselves what it was all for.  At that moment, we will all want to recall a life of service to something larger than ourselves, to children who needed our teaching and our example of service, to people whom we gave a hand up in time of need, to friends and colleagues whom we comforted in times of sorrow, lives with whom we shared the many physical and spiritual blessings that have been bestowed on us.  If we live that life of service, we will have fulfilled the challenge of the Savior when he said, “Whatever you did for one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).

     So on Memorial Day, and every day, we need to ask ourselves, for what shall we live?  How are we doing at fulfilling not just the ideals of our American forefathers but those universal values set in place by the one who made us in his image, who sent his only begotten son to secure our salvation, the one who “created us in him to do good works?”

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Romans 5:6-8  —  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

John 15:12-14  —  (Jesus said), “My command is this:  Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.

Ephesians 2:8-10  —  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Deuteronomy 8:10-11a  —  When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.  Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands.

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Lord God of Hosts, in whom our fathers trusted, we give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country.  Unite all the people of this nation to defend the freedom for which they lived and died.  Grant, we beseech thee, that the liberty they bequeathed unto us may be continued to our children and our children’s children, and that the power of the gospel may here abound, to the blessing of all the nations of the earth, and the thine eternal glory; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church U. S. A., Westminster, 1946, page 317.