by Jim Brenneman, BST President
On this Memorial Day weekend, we remember all those who sacrificed their lives, those who, in the words of America the Beautiful, “more than self their country loved.” We remember, also, loved ones who served this country in countless other sacrificial ways, unknown, unseen, and unheralded in death without a special day set aside to honor them. We remember, too, so many others in graveyards all across the world who paid the ultimate price for service to their own beloved homelands. Jesus spoke of this kind of self-sacrifice as the greatest love of all: “Greater love has no one than this, that he or she lay down their lives for another.”
Several years ago, I walked along the black granite wall of the Vietnam War memorial in Washington D.C. with its list of 55,000 names of war dead. As I descended beneath the surface of the ground, a reverent silence fell over me as if I walked on sacred soil. I walked past name after etched name of young men and women who died in that war, one of which could’ve been mine. I silently wept as others standing nearby cried openly. My deep sadness was less about patriotism than the fact that a land so great as ours had not yet grasped what makes for lasting peace. In that moment, I felt something akin to what I imagined Jesus may have felt when he wept over the capital city of his own cherished homeland, “O, Jerusalem, if only you knew what would bring you peace.”
On this Memorial Weekend, in between barbeques and get-togethers, let us take a moment or two to thank God for all those who paid the ultimate price on our behalf. Let us respond to St. Paul’s injunction to “pray, intercede, and give thanks for everyone – especially, for magistrates and all those in authority.” In so doing, we participate in what Henri Nouwen, the priest of prayer, describes as “the most radical and most revolutionary of all acts, the act by which everything is turned around and made new.”
Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem and Gaza, of Myanmar and Pakistan, of Somalia and Syria. And let us pray in soulful song:
O beautiful for patriot dream
that sees beyond the years
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control,
thy liberty in law.