Thursday, May 24, 2012

Need Ideas for Celebrating Memorial Day? Here is one great one!

Though instituted primarily as a way of honoring military veterans who lost their lives in battle, Memorial Day is now more quickly associated with a day off from work, barbeque, beer, swimming pool openings, and the beginning of a season in which its appropriate to wear white.  As a result, many Americans will spend this weekend more thankful for an extra day off than they are for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice which allows us to enjoy that day in freedom.

I never served in the U.S. military, but God has allowed me nonetheless to be in close proximity to soldiers.  My first pastorate was a church that sat less than 2 miles from the military entrance to Fort Knox Kentucky.  As such, I often prayed with soldiers before they were deployed, ministered to families left behind, and sadly, preached the funerals of some who never came home.  God has given me a special appreciation for those who put their lives on the line and preserve our freedom.

Sometimes churches have a hard time striking the right balance when questioning how to observe this holiday.  Out of a sincere desire to honor our military, some have gone too far, and in the process gave the appearance that the church bears equal allegiance to two, separate kingdoms.  As a preacher of the Gospel, I've witnessed too many church services during this time of year that could just as easily have been held among any group of pagan patriots at a baseball field.  To be sure, there is a place for that display of patriotism, but that place is not among a gathering of Jesus' people whose primary aim should be the worship of the one true God.

At the same time, the church has a responsibility for showing honor to those to whom it is due.  My calling is to spread the message of Jesus Christ, regardless of what it costs me.  But I'm well aware that in America, it costs me virtually nothing, and this is so primarily because others have died so that I might enjoy such freedom.  This coming Memorial Day Sunday I will proclaim God's Word to God's people, then get in our family's minivan and go to dinner, then go home and enjoy the rest of the day and not worry about being shot at or persecuted in any way--precisely because men and women in uniform have faithfully guarded my freedom to do such for over two centuries now.

So if you are looking for a way to honor our active duty and veteran military, here is one idea I would highly encourage:  Go to a restaurant sometime this weekend and look around for someone in uniform.  Find their waiter or waitress and ask that their bill be brought to you, pay it anonymously, write a brief thank-you note for what they do, and leave.  If they have family with them, pay for their meal as well, and thank the family for the sacrifices they have made at home.  Declaring your appreciation publicly via a colorguard presentation or simply asking veterans to stand in a worship service is fine.  But tangibly expressing your appreciation is in no danger of crossing the line in a worship service meant for Jesus, and will mean much more to those who protect us because, among other things, it actually costs you something to do it!  Its a simple way to show honor and appreciation.  And compared to what these people are giving up to serve you and me, its also a VERY CHEAP way to say "thank you."  It will mean the world to a soldier, airman, sailor, or marine.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying a day off, but this is one day we shouldn't enjoy to the neglect of  those it was intended to honor.  So while you are picking up picnic supplies for yourself, think of a tangible way to bless our military personnel this weekend.  They deserve our thanks.

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