Monday, May 30, 2011

How Do We Offer A Worthy Memorial?

I awaked from a deep peaceful slumber in a beautiful bed in my oldest daughter’s home this morning and it felt so good! It was warm, comfortable and safe. I rolled over to see my lovely bride soundly asleep and smiling. I could hear the activity of 3 of my 4 children enjoying themselves with no sense of fear, danger or intimidation. As I casually rolled over and contemplated what had I done to deserve such a life of comfort and luxury, the answer was powerful and undeniable – NOTHING!

I don’t present this thought as a guilt-ridden exercise in self-pity but as a statement of fact. The good and beautiful life I enjoy was purchased at the highest price possible by others who devoted themselves to a call of duty that was fulfilled at the highest level of performance and the most extravagant cost imaginable. I am in a very good disposition because others have willingly flung themselves into places and situations of unbelievable horror, often to the point of their own physical, and emotional undoing “that [this] nation might live”.

In another writing, I quoted other words from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, that stand as a perpetual reminder of the duty the living have towards those who have died for their sake. Lincoln asserted that our duty was not just to make dedications or memorials – the work of the fallen in performing their sober duty has preserved freedom in a way that stands as an incomparable memorial rendering our efforts to honor them a mere token of gratitude. Instead, our most important and fitting response is to live out the spirit of their example by serving others and insuring by our service that freedom is proclaimed and enjoyed broadly, continually and abundantly for all humanity.

As a Christian, this call to service is especially appropriate. In a classic hymn by Isaac Watts, the composer asks, “Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head for sinners such as I? In other words, “What an astounding thought - to consider that my sinless Lord would willingly pour himself out to the death for the benefit of someone like me!” How do I respond? Similarly, how do I honor the men and women have sacrificed everything for me to enjoy anything my heart desires? What gift appropriately honors that level of sacrifice? Watts has a compelling answer: “But drops of tears can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe. Here Lord, I give myself away, ‘tis all that I can do.” Watts charges that “Our tears are not enough”.

Though our hearts are cut in the deepest places with the enormity of the loss of our finest citizens, our best response is to sacrificially give ourselves away in service to God and others. To this point in my life, my “sacrifices” are merely inconveniences in comparison to the depth of the gifts of our most valiant heroes. Nevertheless, my willingness to be continually inconvenienced up to and including the point of self sacrifice, will ultimately determine whether this nation, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” will endure and whether the Good News I assert is of the greatest importance to human kind will propogate for the benefit of all people. Am I up to the task? Are you? The message penned with the blood of those who have preceded us demands nothing less. Give thanks for those who paid the ultimate price, and show your gratitude by serving others to the utmost of your ability until your tour of duty in this life ends. Enjoy your freedom but as you enjoy it, never forget the prices paid for your liberty in the here and now and for the hereafter. How will you respond? I'm attempting to respond with a life of loving service and ask you to hold me accountable to my pledge. Have a blessed Memorial Day! Until next time…


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