As you remember the fallen, don’t forget about God

Published 9:54 am Friday, May 28, 2010

In April 1863, in Columbus, Miss., after decorating graves of her two sons who served during the Civil War as Confederate soldiers, an elderly woman also decorated two mounds at the corner of the cemetery.

An observer asked, “What are you doing? Those are the graves of two Union soldiers.” The reply, “I know. I also know that somewhere in the North, a mother or a young wife mourns for them as we do for ours.” That set in motion what became Memorial Day.

It’s difficult to prove conclusively the exact origins of the day, as it is more likely that it had many separate beginnings, like the above story. Whether planned or spontaneous, people began to honor the war dead in the 1860s during the Civil War by decorating the graves of soldiers. The growing movement culminated when Gen. Logan gave his official proclamation in 1868 to decorate with flowers the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It isn’t important who was first, but that it was established for a purpose. Memorial Day is not about division, it is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

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As Christians, we come together for a similar purpose — not to remember our division, but for reconciliation. The division we experience in this world comes in many forms — war, divorce, nationalities or races, political and social ideologies, religion and so on! But our ultimate division is with God. Those earthly divisions are just symptoms of a greater one, that of our sinful rebellion against God. Sin separates us from God, and from our fellow man. Rather than obeying and honoring God, we choose our own way, which is often tragic, and ultimately, deadly.

We gather in church or around God’s word, to receive reconciliation, to have our relationship with God restored. After the Civil War, the “North and the South” needed to find ways to forgive, to come back together. Even today, some of the remnants of that war are evident in the lives and stories of peoples and communities that bore the brunt of that war. Reconciliation does not come easily, but it is always needed. Wrongs ought to be righted, families be reunited, sins be forgiven, and nations be at peace. That is our hope, our dream, and that is what God promises in the end through the life and death and resurrection of his only son, Jesus Christ.

Christians gather weekly to remember God, what he has done through Jesus. We gather so that we do not forget how God has reconciled himself to us through the cross and the empty tomb at Easter. He paid the ultimate price, gave us his all, his own life, to give us freedom from sin and death. He calls us to believe, to put our trust in him. As we confess our sins to him, he promises to forgive and forget them. In Christ, we receive reconciliation.

As you take time this Memorial Day weekend to remember our fallen soldiers, don’t forget about God! Come to church! Remember the price he paid for us and what he wants to do for you and me for eternity in heaven.

The Rev. Dan Baker is with the First Lutheran Church, Albert Lea