the only thing we have to fear is...

yesterday was memorial day, a day of remembrance for those killed while serving their country in the military (veterans day is a different holiday).  we often talk about our military preserving our freedoms-- what is the best way to observe memorial day with the solemnity and respect it deserves?  i read lots of "hug a veteran" posts on facebook.  parades and flag waiving are great traditions.  major league baseball games observed a moment of silence.  our sanctuary has a window where a WWI era soldier is greeted by Jesus, coming on a cloud.  how can we best participate in this holiday?

(i don't know the answer to that question, but i would certainly love to hear your thoughts.)

i would think the worst way to remember the sacrifice of others for their country is to persist in living in fear about the present or the future.  we are a fearful people.  deep down, and often not so far down, we are afraid of all kinds of things: terrorism, war, the economy, our job, our mortgage, our kids' future being better than our present, the list goes on and on.  and sometimes the fearmongers on tv and radio drape themselves in the flag.  and that really messes us up.
dr. michael hawn, my former professor at perkins, wrote a history of the navy hymn, below, in a recent edition of the united methodist reporter.

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

"Thus evermore shall rise to Thee, Glad hymns of praise from land and sea."  our response: praise.  not fear.  fear certainly has its place-- we're all afraid of something-- you should have seen me after a few bumps in the air above nashville a couple of weeks ago.  but we cannot stay there.  sooner or later, we find ourselves safely on land again, and we look at the future with faith and hope.  the first thing Jesus said to john when he saw him face-to-face: "do not be afraid" (revelation 1:17).

read president lincoln's gettysburg address, itself a memorial tribute at the final resting place for so many killed in battle:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

"it is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated her to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us..." words dedicated to the future-- not in fear, but in hope.

the best way we can honor those who gave their lives in service to their country is to live our lives with the same sense of devotion as they did, wherever we are, and whatever we do.  instead of being fearful of our country's present and future, let's fix it in reasonable, peaceful ways that honor those who served it.  vote.  serve others.  appeal to your leaders.  pray for them.  pray for the country.  be active in your local community.  be a steward of your country-- take care of it on behalf of someone else.

whatever else that we are afraid of: let's ask ourselves: why are we afraid  may that action be a fitting memorial to all who gave their "last full measure of devotion" to make it possible.


Unknown said…
I am an editor for which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I'm sure our Methodist audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

Robert Wright
Anonymous said…
very insightful...thanks!