May 31, 2014
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Monday was Memorial Day. I don’t really like Memorial Day, aside from the day off part of it. There’s too much conflicting stuff going on. The parades and the sales and the patriotism and the jingoism and the memories and the grief, all competing for our attention. But I do try to honor the intention of the day, remembering those who have died while serving their country, with all the mixed emotions that raises: sorrow and anger and confusion and frustration and outrage.
One of the best ways I’ve found to observe Memorial Day is to visit my local National Cemetery and just walk around to let the range of feelings wash over me. I don’t know the people there, aside from the little information on their headstones. However, I try to remember them.
Remembering is not easy. Too often, we act as if remembering is recalling the selected highlight reel. Honest remembering also invites us to live through pain as well as happiness.
Here’s what I’ve learned about remembering: it helps to be safe. Safe, but not necessarily comfortable. Comfort can sometimes allow us to gloss over painful memories, padding them with picnics and parades. But when we’re safe, when we know that whatever we remember, we are loved and secure, then we can abide with the memories. Even so, remembering takes courage.
We’ve been celebrating the Resurrection and will continue to do so. But each week in the breaking of the bread, we also remember that the Resurrection didn’t happen until our Lord went through death. We remember that he was betrayed, abandoned by his friends, falsely accused, unjustly sentenced, tortured, executed, dead and buried. Does that sound too harsh? That’s what we’re remembering.
Paul writes that we proclaim the Lord’s death. To fully embrace the Resurrection in all its glory, we need to remember Jesus’ death as well. Is this something we are able to remember? Are our church communities safe places for us to remember both death and resurrection?
If it’s feasible, visit the National Cemetery nearest you. You can find out more about the National Cemetery system at their website: http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp Who or what are you remembering today? What makes you feel safe to do so?
Just want to share a Civil War song that I especially think about and sing, always on Memorial Day. I shared it with our sons’ scout troop at a trip to Gettysburg about 25 years ago. I learned it when I was in sixth grade and we did a Civil War Remembrance pageant:
After listening to the Civil War song suggested by Helen Miller, a torrent of memories flooded my mind. I looked at YouTube clips of JFK’s procession to National Cemetery and then flashed back to the announcement of his assassination that came over the PA system of the school where I was teaching and remembered our initial shock and refusal to believe this could have really happened. This led to supposedly long-buried memories of Pearl Harbor and what I was told since I was a child then, especially about the treatment of Japanese-Americans and then at the end of WWII, the treatment of black American veterans. At the age of 77, about to celebrate the 25th anniversary of my ordination to the diaconate, I can feel a sense of peace realizing that their sacrifices were not in vain as Christ died in atonement for their lives and deaths just as He did and will do for us all. Thanks be to God.