Today is Memorial Day in the United States. While many people think it is just the beginning of the summer recreational season, it is much more than that. Memorial Day is of extreme patriotic significance, and the concept has biblical origins.
The Memorial Day tradition in this country began after the Civil War when people placed memorials and held services for the 20,000 soldiers killed in the war. It was originally held on May 30 and called “Decoration Day.” In 1967 Congress changed the official name to Memorial Day, and in 1971 changed it to the last Monday in May. Those of us who served in the military are always amazed to find how many people have already forgotten the wars that we were forced to participate in to preserve freedom. American ignorance of the 38th parallel, Bay of Pigs, Viet Nam, etc. is depressing. We too quickly forget the sacrifice people made to keep us free.
In the Christian faith, there is great emphasis on memorial activities. The communion service is a memorial. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24). REMEMBRANCE is the first of three things we see in the biblical instruction about the communion service, and our country’s Memorial Day carries the same ideal. It is essential for us to remember what Jesus did for us both in terms of how we live and our eternal existence with God.
The second purpose of communion and which should e applied to Memorial Day in America is PROCLAMATION. In 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “We proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes again.” The Christian communion is not just communing with God, but it is also a proclamation to each other and to the world that our spiritual identity is with Jesus Christ. We proclaim vertically to God and horizontally to each other.
The third purpose the Bible gives us for communion is SELF EXAMINATION. First Corinthians 11:28 tells us to examine ourselves. We need to do that regularly. Am I growing? Am I stronger? Am I learning? Throughout the Bible, we see God calling people to memorials. In Exodus 12:13-14 and 13:9-10, God tells ancient Israel to engage in a memorial of all they have been through and how God has blessed them.
On Memorial Day in the United States of America, we should thank God for the freedom we have and the people who have protected that freedom. In this time of national and international conflict and uncertainty, it is vital that we remember who we are and what we believe.
— John N. Clayton © 2019