“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
Today is one of those liturgical and national days that pulls us in several different directions. We are in the final days of Eastertide. American readers of this blog will be observing Memorial Day today. And then the daily office readings give us this, in the Gospel reading, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). That’s a pretty harsh saying on any day, but especially today, a day set aside to remember those who have died serving in their nation’s armed forces. How do we square all these different angles?
In this hard saying, Jesus is telling people not to slow down, because there was urgency. He had clarity of purpose, and that purpose was pushing him toward Jerusalem. Anything that was not in line with Jesus’ mission was to be cast aside. So often, when Jesus says hard things, it is because he leaves little room for “nice” or “convenience.” Our theme this week — that stark Woe condemning people of whom others speak well — is right on point. We can’t spend our time worrying about pleasing others for the sake of pleasing others.
So where does that leave Memorial Day? It seems to me that this day very much has an honored place in our national and even our religious life, so long as we remember its purpose. Today is not about a day off from work or a sale at the mall. Today is not a day to stir up patriotic fervor for its own sake. No, today is to remember and to give thanks for those who have died in service to their country. We Christians might also pray for peace, yearning for a day when war is a distant memory, for a day when we no longer have to mourn the loss of God’s precious people in the cause of war.
How might our Christian life change if we had Jesus’ clarity of purpose?
Scott Gunn is an Episcopal priest and executive director of Forward Movement, a ministry that seeks to inspire disciples and empower evangelists. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with his spouse, Sherilyn Pearce, who is also priest, and their social media canine, George T. Dog. Scott blogs at www.sevenwholedays.org.