The world is full of memorials, memorials for those who are dead. The Hispanic culture has a holiday dedicated to remembering dead loved ones. They call it Day of the Dead, Dia de Muertos. The idea is not only to honor dead loved ones, but to actually commune with them, to communicate with their spirits.
Many of the world’s religions revere and worship dead ancestors, believing that their spirits are still with us and can interact in our lives. This is more than just memorializing. This is now a form of worship and a form of spiritual divination, which is forbidden by the Word of God.
We need to be careful about our memorials, about who we are memorializing and why. We need to be careful that our memorials not become idolatry.
Satan would have our memorials become idolatry. He is always working to turn our worship away from God and towards something else... anything else.
But we like to remember loved ones, what they meant to us, what they did for us, how much we loved them, how thankful we are for their lives and what they meant to us, and this is good and appropriate. We mark the graves of loved ones with headstones, markers with all sorts of sentiments written on them. We plant flowers and tend gardens at the graves of our loved ones past. Some of us visit them regularly. There’s nothing wrong with that.
We have a national holiday dedicated to remembering our fallen heroes who died in wars. We call it Memorial Day. It’s Memorial Day Weekend. For those who are working or going to school it means a three day break. For many it will be spent on picnics, eating hot dogs… they’re always on sale on Memorial Day! Time spent with friends and family, maybe getting out of town for a camping trip.
Will we take time to remember our fallen heroes, I wonder? We’ll get back to that idea in a minute. First, let me give you a little history on the holiday that we call Memorial Day and now observe on the last Monday in May.
Our Memorial Day started after the civil war to honor those who fell in battle. There are varying accounts as to who originated the observance and where it was first observed. I did a little research on the origins of the national holiday that we now call Memorial Day. Here is what I found:
On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic - the organization for Union Civil War veterans - General John A. Logan issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" should be observed nationwide and annually. It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year; according to folklore, the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle. According to the White House, the May 30 date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.[18
Events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states in 1868, and 336 in 1869. The northern states quickly adopted the holiday; Michigan made "Decoration Day" an official state holiday in 1871 and by 1890, every northern state followed suit. The ceremonies were sponsored by the Women's Relief Corps, which had 100,000 members. By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been re-buried in 73 national cemeteries, located near the battlefields and therefore mostly in the South. The most famous are Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania and Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington.
There is some evidence that General Logan adopted his Decoration Day from the pre-existing annual Confederate Memorial Day custom that had already been in place in the South since 1866.
The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from "Decoration Day" to "Memorial Day", which was first used in 1882. It did not become common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress's change of date within a few years. - Wikipedia
So there you go, probably more than you wanted to know about the history of this holiday. Hopefully we will attend a parade or ceremony remembering those who have died defending freedom this weekend, or at least spend a few moments in thankful reflection remembering them… because that’s the point. That’s what it’s really about, isn’t it? Remembering those whom we loved, remembering those who died for us?
I visited France in June 2012. Among the places that we visited was the beautiful region of Normandy. The people of Normandy still remember the sacrifice of blood and of lives that was given by our young men in liberating them from the yoke of Nazi slavery.
Everywhere you go, in every little square in every village there are markers, plaques, memorials to those who fought and many who died there. Many of these local memorials are dedicated to a single soldier or platoon that died there in that particular village.
We visited Omaha Beach, where so many American and allied soldiers died on D-Day. We also visited the American cemetery at Colville Saint Laurent. The cemetery sits on the heights above the Normandy beaches. It is a beautiful place, a beautiful memorial garden where lie the remains of American soldiers that died liberating France. I wrote a piece about my experience there. You can read it here:
It is altogether fitting to observe memorials of loved ones. It is more important, ever so more important, to observe memorials dedicated to God. The Word of God is full of memorials. God commands his people to remembrance… to remember him… to remember who he is and what he has done for us.
In Deuteronomy Moses prepares the children of Israel to enter the promised land that God would give to them. He delivers to them God’s commandments, among them are these words.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. - Deuteronomy 6:4-12
Lest we forget.
God instituted other memorial observances thru Moses so that the children of Israel would not forget what he had done for them… so they would not forget the wonders and miracles that he had accomplished in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt.
The feast of Passover called them to remember how they were passed over by the death angel. They marked their doorposts with the blood of a lamb and so were passed over by the death angel, which killed the first born of every Egyptian.
The feast of Weeks, or Pentecost reminded God’s people of their liberation from Egypt and of thanksgiving for receiving the bounty of harvest in the Promised Land.
The feast of Rosh Hashanah or the festival of blowing trumpets celebrates the day of creation and points to the coming of the Lord’s Day when trumpets will sound at His return.
Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is a memorial to God’s forgiveness of sin and a day of repentance.
The festival of booths or tabernacles is a remembrance of the time spent wandering in the desert by the children of Israel where they sojourned under God’s wing.
God made and commanded all of these observances, all of these Memorial Days for his people in OT times. As with all of the Old Testament, these memorials not only demonstrate God’s faithfulness and love for his people, they also point forwards in time to the coming of Christ.
The blood of the lamb in Passover.
The first fruits of Jesus resurrection on Pentecost.
Jesus Christ’s coming on the Lord’s Day, when the trumpets sound on Rosh Hashanah.
Christ’s death on the cross was the real Day of Atonement foreshadowed by Yom Kippur.
All of these were memorial days for the children of God in OT times and are memorial days for Christians today in Christ.
Today is Sunday. Today is a memorial day for the body of Christ. Every Sunday is Memorial Day for Christians… is it not? Because Jesus commanded us to remember him. Remember what he did for us. Remember how he loved us. Remember that he died for us.
How can we forget? But we do. Sometimes we do, when we get caught up in the wonders of the world, in the worries of the world. We forget. We forget that God is there, waiting… waiting for us to remember him.
God forgive us for forgetting Him. God forgive us for not remembering Him every day. God forgive us for not taking a part of Him with us wherever we go. God forgive us for not living our lives for Him, and in honor of Him. God forgive us for taking for granted our liberty, our freedom which we have because of Him. God forgive us.
Jesus said “remember me”. Don’t forget me. I’m going to go and die for you. I’m going to lay down my life for you.
I love you that much. Now you love one another, just like that.
Love one another, little children. In so doing, we are loving Christ! That’s a mystery, but it is true! The word of God proves this.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi… “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” That’s a pretty nice thing to say, isn’t it?
I thank God every time that I think of you. That’s love. That’s loving like Christ. The Apostle John wrote to the church, “We know love by this that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Then he said, “This is his commandment that we believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ, and love one another just as He commanded us.” 1 John 3
Remember to love. Remember him by loving one another. That’s our Memorial Day observance. That’s the Memorial Day custom of the church of Christ, to love one another. They will know we are Christians by our love. It’s supposed to show, isn’t it? It’s supposed to show when we are in Christ, when we are loving like Christ!
Let’s remember him today, by loving one another. Let’s obey Christ’s commandment… “Remember Me”. Remember me every day, in everything you that you do. Love me with all of your heart and all of your mind and all of your soul.
This is our memorial day, as Christians, as the body of Christ. Go and be a part of His church today, and remember him, because our Memorial Day is not just a day to remember someone who is dead. It’s a memorial to One who lives!
It is the only Memorial Day that remembers one who has died, and now lives again. It is a memorial day to remember the promise for us to live again after death. Jesus died for us. Then he defeated death for us. And he lives and reigns at the right hand of God!
Let’s remember, lest we forget.
Lest I forget Gethsemane.
Lest I forget thine agony.
Lest I forget Thy Love for me.
Lead me to Calvary.
Lead me to Calvary.