It is important to remember, commemorate and celebrate. On Monday, we as a nation pause for Memorial Day. Sadly, this holiday weekend has become for many, if not most Americans, a mini-vacation to start the summer, rather than a time to commemorate, celebrate and remember the sacrifices of brave men and women. Recalling the words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address, it is in this remembering that we the living are dedicated to the cause for which those before us so nobly struggled " ... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ..." Of course, that new birth of freedom was the struggle to extend liberty and equality to the African American slaves. As we now know the birth pains of this freedom have been long.
For any who might not have planned to take the time to commemorate the sacrifice of those and many other generations of soldiers, it is not too late. About a thousand World War II veterans die each day. Before the opportunity passes from us, let us take every opportunity to remember and thank them. Vacations will wait; the opportunities before us are fleeting.
This idea of commemoration has been an important part of the Judeo-Christian experience and thinking. When Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan River, he took a collection of stones and built a monument so that when later generations would ask, "why are these stones here?" the story of God's faithfulness should be retold.
After defeating the Philistines, Samuel set up a large stone and called it "Ebenezer" which means, "the stone of help." Chafin in his commentary on I Samuel reminds us, "Creating occasions for remembering is important in life. Often we receive stability in our present and hope for our future as we are reminded how God has dealt with us in the past."
This idea is carried into the New Testament when in Hebrews 12:1 we read, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." The writer is encouraging us to live the life set before us encouraged by the witnesses who have gone before us - those whom we recall and commemorate.
I think one of the reasons the words of Lincoln still ring true is that because it relies upon this great truth of God, that our lives are a reflection of what we commemorate. Lincoln challenged us to dedicate our lives to the cause of freedom; Samuel challenged Israel to be dedicated to the faithfulness of God; and in the book of Hebrews, the Christian is challenged to live out the mission of Jesus and His church.
It's never too late to commemorate or to memorialize, even if one doesn't get the day off. But Lincoln, Samuel and the writer of Hebrews all agree it is best to do so every day by being dedicated to living Godly lives. To what will your life commemorate and be dedicated - today, tomorrow and for eternity?
Robert Robinson put this thought to song when in "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" he penned, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer: Hither by Thy help I'm come; And I hope by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home."
It is up to us, the living!
The Rev. Albert Gillin is senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, 325 S. First Ave.. Contact him by telephone at 509-525-1093 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.