Monthly Archives: May 2010

Memorializing Sacrifice, not Inconvenience

Sacrifice and inconvenience are not synonyms. The words admittedly
share some similar connotations. Both note a sense of loss, although
sacrifice involves willingly and totally relinquishing a cherished entity,
while inconvenience bristles at momentary disruptions in the use of
something. Sacrifice is motivated by deeply held ideals, while
inconvenience fumes over thwarted desires. Unfortunately, many people seem
to elevate inconveniences they have suffered to pretentious claims to have
made great sacrifices. But other observers can still recognize the
difference. Most know intuitively that inconvenience should be given a
quick note of attention then be overlooked. Genuine sacrifice, however,
deserves honor, reflection and reverent, repeated memorial observance. The
tragedy comes with reversing the responses by trivializing sacrifice and
exalting inconvenience.

Memorial Day is an imminent case in point. For most people, the day
will be treated as though it celebrated an inconvenient episode in the life
of the nation and the men and women who did not come back from war. Special
sales will tempt shoppers on their day off from work. Summer activities
will be “officially” in season. Barbecues and picnics will be widespread.
Little thought will be given to the true meaning of Memorial Day, a time to
remember the lives sacrificially given for the cause of freedom and the
highest ideals of America. The observance of Memorial Day will be mostly
out of kilter, failing to remember true sacrifices of men and women in
service to our country with the reverence that is due.

Perhaps if we were more personally affected by the sacrifices we
would be more inclined to offer more meaningful memorials on the day. The
Sunday before Memorial Day is observed in the U.S. the citizens of a small
city in the Netherlands honor the sacrifices of Americans in WW-II with
profound respect. Just outside the village of Margraten lies the World War
II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. 8,302 Americans killed in
airborne and ground operations in World War II to free the Dutch people from
Nazi tyranny are buried there. In thanks for their sacrifices to liberate
Holland, the people have adopted every grave in the cemetery, with a waiting
list to assume responsibility for honoring the deceased servicemen and women
as needed. Many Dutch citizens have researched the birthdays,
anniversaries, and families of their honorees so that they can bring flowers
to the graves on special days. They gratefully preserve the memory of the
men and women who died in order that they could live in freedom. You may
want to visit the cemetery online via:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvkKnKCwTHE&feature=related

Note the Dutch citizens at the close of the 2-minute video laying flowers on
an American’s grave as part of their annual Memorial Day remembrance. What
will you be doing this Memorial Day?

Another case of observance gone awry is followers of Jesus
trivializing his supreme sacrifice on our behalf. Like most Americans’
cavalier inattention to the significance of Memorial Day, many professing
Christians discount each week’s opportunity to memorialize Jesus’
sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection. Sunday is too often just
another day, perhaps a day off from work, an extra day for shopping, a nice
day for entertainment. But is this a fitting memorial for the genuine
sacrifice God made for us? Jesus’ earthly ministry and subsequent
crucifixion were more than a momentary inconvenience. God became a man,
lived a demonstration of his grace for all, and was killed for it. As John
reminded the early community of Jesus’ followers: “”God showed how much he
loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have
eternal life through him. {10} This is real love. It is not that we loved
God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our
sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 NLT) When we are touched deeply enough by genuine
sacrifice, our memorials should be frequent, heartfelt, and reverent.

Christians have a special opportunity for reflective memorial of
Jesus’ sacrifice. Some worshipping communities include the memorial as an
integral element in all worship services. Others schedule the memorial less
frequently, but all invoke the same call to remember the depth of the
sacrifice and the committed faith with which we should respond. A modern
Bible translation renders the significance of the memorial – the Lord’s
Supper – very well:

Let me go over with you again exactly what goes on in the Lord’s Supper and
why it is so centrally important. I received my instructions from the Master
himself and passed them on to you. The Master, Jesus, on the night of his
betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my
body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper, he did the same
thing with the cup: “This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each
time you drink this cup, remember me.”
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and
every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the
death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again
until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. (1
Corinthians 11:23-26, The Message)

Memorials fulfill their purpose when participants actively remember genuine
sacrifices made that give them life, freedom, and grace and when the story
of those sacrifices are retold to extend the promise of life to still
others.

So, what are you doing this Memorial Day? Flying the American flag
at half-staff until noon, then raising it to full staff is a good start.
Remembering the real life story of a person who gave sacrificially for your
freedom is another. (I will think of the nose-gunner killed when my
father’s B-24 was shot down, or my high school friend who was killed in Viet
Nam.) Then celebrate gladly the life their sacrifices secured.

What will you do this Sunday – the Lord’s memorial day? Gathering
with other believers to remember the story of God’s love and grace,
participating in proclaiming the good news of Jesus, and renewing commitment
to the life his sacrifice secured is a good start.

In both cases, the sacrifices behind the memorials are profound. Be
careful not to treat them as though they were mere inconveniences.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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