Memorial Day 2021 and What It Means

Memorial Day 2021 and What It Means

When I was a young man, Memorial Day was a big deal. There were parades, speeches, special services at many churches, and a town memorial. We were constantly reminded of the men and women who died to make it possible for us to live in freedom in the United States. In those days, in Bloomington, Indiana, where I grew up, many military veteran’s groups marched in the parade, and all the high school bands participated. After serving in the military, I found that Memorial Day had changed. It had become “the first weekend of summer.” There were no parades, and only a few veteran groups paid attention to the original purpose. What will Memorial Day 2021 be like?

Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in 1868, three years after the civil war ended.
At Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were put on all graves, and 5,000 people attended the ceremony. General Logan, who directed the ceremony, said, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Since that time, over 1.2 million Americans have died in our nation’s wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by Congress. In 2000, Congress enacted The National Moment of Remembrance Act (P.L.106-579). Its charter says, “To encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country … by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.”

The National Moment of Remembrance Act suggests that at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day, “Everyone is to pause for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation … It is a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.” We are in no way minimalizing the struggles for freedom and racial equity in America today, but even with our problems, how can we look at other nations and not be thankful for what we have?

On Memorial Day 2021, not understanding the sacrifices of the past has made us a selfish and self-serving people. Our ecological problems are because we want what is ours without thinking about the future. Our moral problems are because we have forgotten the teachings of Jesus Christ, which call us to live to serve others with integrity. In Luke 22:19-20, we read about Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper as a way of helping us remember Him, what He taught, and the example He set. First Corinthians 11:28-30 warns Christians not to participate in communion without thought and understanding since “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you.”

What is true of the Church is true of America. We need a memorial to remind us of the important things. On Memorial Day 2021, let us not be so focused on our own agendas that we forget the past and what our predecessors have done to allow us to have what we enjoy today.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Memorial Day in the United States

Memorial Day in the United StatesToday 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