In this sermon from the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, Pastor Leanne asks us to think about how we understand the way we corporately mourn, and how we see and understand God working in our lives through and in that.
Rev. Leanne Masters
Southern Heights Presbyterian Church
May 25, 2014
Friends, this weekend, we celebrate a particular holiday.
It started out during the time of the Civil War as “Decoration Day”; not so much of a holiday as a day of solemn remembrance of the men who had died as a result of the war through the adorning of graves with flowers and other decorations. Throughout the past 140 years or so, it has grown in scope and in variety of practice.
Today, as we mark what has become known as Memorial Day, we remember those who served and died in numerous wars, conflicts, and battles: The ones that we collectively remember:The Civil War. World Wars One and Two. Korea. Vietnam. The Gulf War. Iraq. Afghanistan. And the ones that we don’t, such as: Somolia. Bosnia. Iran.
Particularly in the years following 9/11, we have begun to also remember on Memorial Day not just military, but many other forms of service...particularly also police, firefighters, and other emergency personnel...those who lost their lives in the line of duty...those who rushed in as others are rushing out, even at the cost of their own lives.
And, in recent years, we have begun to also remember honor all the sacrifices of those whom have served...all their, and our losses, and the impact that those losses have on lives, on families and on communities. The hours, days, months, and years living and working apart from their families, never knowing when, or if, they will see them again. The lost arms, legs, eyes, to bombs, mines, bullets, and torture. The youth and innocence, destroyed forever by the horrors of war. The very real reality of ongoing scars and wounds, physical and emotional, seen and unseen, of the trauma incurred in service.
We remember the families and the loved ones that are left behind. Spouses, parents, siblings and children...all who wait for the moment when they are reunited with their loved one...in this world or in the next.
In many places and communities, too, as we gather in cemeteries and places of worship, individually and communally, to honor the dead, we not only decorate the graves of those who died in service, but all those whom we have lost...our parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and friends.
In a way, Memorial Day has become, a memorial day, when we communally take a day out of the year to remember, to mourn, all of our losses...And so, this morning, I ask you to take a moment to reflect on who, what, it is that you recognize, remember, and mourn this day.
Now, this is a holiday that is very clearly rooted and grounded in the secular world, but since we live and move within the rhythms of the secular world, it is interwoven within our lives...and since it is a part of our lives, it is important for us to stop and think theologically about this day, and how we recognize and mark it. It is important to stop and take a moment in the midst of the speeches and the parades and the trips to the cemetery to ask ourselves where and how we understand God to be working in and through us as we recognize and remember what and whom we have lost.
The very nature of what this day has become helps us to begin to do just that. If we see memorial day as a day of collective remembrance and mourning, we can naturally see God working in the midst of that communal grieving...giving comfort and care to all those who mourn, much as we do as a part of our funeral services.
But it doesn’t stop there. When we collectively and communally recognize all of our losses and our griefs, as people of faith, in communally and collectively acknowledging that we are all dealing with loss in many different ways, with pain that is fresh and old pain that is lingering, we we have a wonderful opportunity to communally seek God’s presence and working in the midst of our losses, our griefs, our suffering, and our pain...
We can seek out and then speak to that hope that we know in God and in Jesus Christ...the hope that the end of this life is not the end, but the beginning of the life that is to come. And that while we grieve the loss of people in this world, we can celebrate that we will be reunited with them with God in Heaven.
We can seek out and speak to the hope that God is present with us in all of our losses, that we are not alone in our pain, because God is with us and will carry us through even the darkest and most difficult of times...I’m reminded of that poem, Footprints, that speaks to us a truth that is attested to, time and again in scripture, truth that God carries us when we do not have the strength to continue on our own...
We can seek out and speak to the hope that God is present with us, and that we are not alone in our pain, because God has given us each other to walk with us through those deep dark valleys that we travel through...that each of us are given the opportunity to be the hands of Christ and the face of God to and for another who is in need of seeing God’s love and glory.
We can seek out and speak to that hope that we have in the promise of the Kingdom of God that God is creating...a new heaven and a new earth where God’s Peace and Justice will prevail...where wars will cease, pain and suffering will have ended, and we will live and work side by side without fear.
We can seek out and speak to the hope that, until the kingdom of God comes and God’s peace and justice will prevail, in God we are called to work for his kingdom for all people...by doing God’s work, sharing God’s word, showing God’s love.
Sisters and brothers, in the midst of the memorials of Memorial Day, let us stop and take a moment to seek out God, what God is doing in us and among us, what God is calling us to do and to be in this world, and the hope that all of that gives us for this life and the life that is to come.