Remembering to Remember
As I write this, it’s Memorial Day. The one day each year when we are to take a breather
and remember those valiant men and women who gave their lives for our country in the armed
services. As I prepared the message for the Sunday before Memorial Day, I was captured by one
verse in the Gospel text:
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus spoke these words to his disciples on that fateful Thursday evening as they gathered at the
table we now call the Lord’s Supper. Jesus sat there sensing the crisis about to unfold, the
closeness of peril, the reality of the end and realized it was time to sum it all up. Biblical
scholars have termed the portion of John's Gospel between the 13th and 17th chapters the
“Farewell Discourse.” In it he speaks of the centrality of love. It was then as it is now a
completely new way of thinking about religion, God, and our relationship to Him. Fifty years
later, John would write, “God is love.” It is the very essence of God to act out of love. Love for
God, love for neighbor. Those who live out this type of love also live with God. Those who
express God's love in their lives live as close to God as is possible in this world. And then the
most profound definition of love - “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life
for his friends.” And then he left that upper room and did just that, the unthinkable. He died for
them. He laid down his life not only for his friends but also for you and me.
Each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we remember. We remember the sacrifice
Jesus made on that Friday on the cross. What else can we say about the one who went
obediently to the cross than his own suffering was for our salvation. With his stripes we are
healed. He laid his life down for his friends. God continues to use that event to make us more
human, to make us more loving, to heal us and make us whole, to redeem our very souls.
That's what happens when we remember. Somehow the horrific events of something like
the holocaust, when we confront it, and see it and remember, when we stare at the pictures of the
piles of shoes, when we walk through the museums - somehow remembering the horror not only
incites outrage, anger and resolve, but it also stimulates a certain gratitude for God's love.
And so I encourage each of you to remember. Remember those men and women who
paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Remember that freedom is in no way free. But also
remember with thanksgiving another sacrifice made on a hill outside of Jerusalem some two
thousand years ago. Remember with gratitude the love and grace it represents.