Memorial Day History:
The American tradition of Memorial Day began more than 100 years ago. It was at
the end of a brutal war, a war in
in which brother fought brother and the best of friends became
the worst of enemies. It was the Civil War, one of the worst wars ever fought by
the people of this nation, and it was fought on our own soil. At the end of this
war, family members of the many soldiers slain in battle would visit the grave
sites of their fallen relatives or friends and decorate their graves with
flowers. On May 5, 1868, General John Logan proclaimed this day a holiday
through his General Order no. 11. The day was entitled Decoration Day.
Decoration day was first observed on May 30, 1868
Memorial Day Prayer
Lord of the nations, on this day when we remember the struggles
through which our country has gone in its efforts to preserve our liberties, we thank Thee
for having made our country great and our people free. Above all do we thank Thee for the
blessings of religious liberty to preach Thy Word without hindrance and to worship Thee
according to the dictates of Thy holy and infallible Word.
We pray Thee to
hold Thy gracious protecting hand over us and over all the people of our country. Guide
those in authority and grant them wisdom so to rule that peace and prosperity may be ours
according, to Thy will.
Thou hast told as
that that nation is blessed whose God is the Lord and therefore we pray most of all that
Thy Gospel, which alone can make men truly free, may be preached in all its truth and
purity throughout our land. Thou hast granted us religious liberty.
Help us to use this
freedom to the fullest extent, so that through the length and breadth of our nation men
may hear from Thy people the good news of their salvation in Christ. Bring to us and to
them and to all men all over the world that peace which passes all understanding and which
is to be found in the knowledge that Jesus loves us and has redeemed us from all our sin.
We ask it in His name. Amen
Memorial Day Sermon:
Freedom and Bondage
based on Acts 16:16-34
by Rev. Randy Quinn
On the altar table, I have a Bible and my sword. I will take the sword into
my hands as I begin.
As a Veteran, I am frustrated by the way we celebrate Memorial Day. It seems
to have lost its meaning. Our celebrations have lost their connection with the
purpose of the holiday. And any attempts to have a serious celebration seem
trite. ? So in many places, there are no more parades. ? There are no more
special worship services. ? There are no special tributes made to the men and
women who gave their lives for our country.
As a pastor, on the other hand, I am even more frustrated by people who
insist that we should make this national holiday a focus of our Sunday morning
worship service on Memorial Day weekend. ? Our task as the church is not to
memorialize the dead, but to celebrate the resurrection. ? Our task is not to
look at what men and women have done to give us freedom but to look at what God
is doing to make us free. ? Our purpose in gathering here today is to offer
ourselves to God in response to what God has done for us, it is to look towards
God for direction and guidance.
As a Naval Reserve Chaplain, this tension gets lived out every time I put on
my uniform. ? Who do I represent? ? The country I serve? ? Or the God I serve? ?
To whom do I give my allegiance?
This is the sword I was given when I was first commissioned in the Navy. It
belonged to my father, who had also been a Naval Officer. While it still belongs
to me, it represents in a very real sense the tension I feel because as a Naval
Chaplain, I am no longer authorized to wear it with my uniform.
You see, the battles I am commissioned to fight do not involve the shedding
of blood. The battles I fight are more about life than about death; they are
about freedom in its truest sense (Eph 6:12).
I will lay the sword down and pick up the Bible now as I prepare to read from
Our text today speaks about that kind of freedom. As we listen to the story,
I'd invite you to pay particular attention to who is in bondage and who is free.
As the story unfolds, you may be surprised:
What did you notice?
Let's take them one at a time. What about the slave girl? Is she free? (Allow
time for people to actually verbally respond to the question -- some will say
yes, some will say no.)
As Americans, we cherish the right to "Freedom of Speech" which the slave
girl seems to capture. It appears that she is speaking the truth freely. But the
truth is she has no choice. Not only is she in bondage to the demon who forces
her to speak, she is also in bondage to the men who own her.
She is in many ways the ancient predecessor to the Psychic Network, except
she comes to you rather than waiting for your phone call. But the difference is
she has no choice. The demon inside her controls her words and her actions. This
is not a profession of faith she is making, it is a taunting intended to
trivialize what Paul and Silas are doing.
And what about the owners of the slave girl? Are they free? (Again, wait for
They seem to be free, until someone touches their source of income. Then it's
clear that they are in bondage to money. They are so callous that when the girl
is healed they object.
I suppose the same kind of thing happens today. You are doing a good job and
are very dependable, but the one who really benefits from your work is the
company. And when you get married or have children or begin to claim time for
family, you are punished -- or worse your family is punished.
I wouldn't want to work for a boss like that. But all too often, employees
are put in positions where they have to choose between work and family, between
love and money.
The slave is actually free by the end of our story while we can see that the
slave owners are enslaved to their own desires.
What about the Magistrates? You may be catching on to me by now. (Do not wait
for a response.)
They certainly seem to be free. They sit in judgment on the affairs of the
city, and make decisions based on fairness and honesty and decency. But the
local businessmen must have financed the last election campaigns. What the
businessmen say isn't questioned because the Magistrates really aren't free to
make their own choices.
Like many of us, they have lived in the same small town all of their lives
and must continue to live there. So they choose the side of protecting their
community from outside influence. They are in bondage to their own sense of
nationalism and tradition. They really aren't free. There is no choice other
than to imprison the guilty parties.
Then there is the prison guard.
In all likelihood, he is a retired Roman soldier. No more travelling the
Roman Highways to enforce the laws of the land, he is settled into a home and a
community where he gets the enviable position of keeping guard over the jail.
Enviable because he is free from the demands of day to day military discipline,
free from the responsibility involved in leading troops into battle, free to
have a family.
But when it appears that the prisoners have escaped, we see that he is in
bondage to the image of an honorable and faithful servant of the crown. Rather
than face punishment for freeing the convicts, he makes it look like he was
killed in the escape.
It's rather ironic that had he been successful, he would have literally
fulfilled Jesus' prophecy that "those who live by the sword will die by the
sword" (Mt 26:52). (I don't believe Jesus meant it in a literal way. I think
Jesus was talking to communities. And his voice seems to be echoing throughout
our land as young people are taking the lives of other young people with guns.)
Pick up sword again for a moment.
Who is free and who is enslaved? ? The children who carry guns to school? ?
The children whose parents keep them home from school? ? Or the families who
lift up their heads and say, we're not going to let fear control my lives?
Jesus says that he came to give us the truth and the truth will set us free (Jn
Set the sword down again.
Paul and Silas understand that. They are in prison stocks. Of all the
characters in this passage, they seem to be the ones most clearly in bondage.
Yet they act the most free! _ They sing. _ They celebrate. _ They pray. _ They
recognize who God is in the midst of their crisis, and they allow God to be God.
Not many of us have been in jail, but most of us have experienced bondage. ?
We have been slaves to our clocks. ? We have been slaves to our calendars. (I
was appalled the first time I saw a High School student with a Day Timer, until
I realized our culture has taught us to live in bondage to our schedules.) ?
Many of us are -- or have been -- enslaved by our children and their desires and
wishes. ? We are in bondage to our jobs. ? We are slaves of security -- both
financial and emotional.
While we claim to be free, the truth is most of us have traded our freedom
for bondage. Meanwhile God has been calling us to true freedom. The freedom of
choice, the freedom of love, the freedom of grace.
As a Veteran, I want to encourage you to celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow. I
want you to stop and remember those who laid down their lives for our country to
protect your freedom.
As your pastor, I want to encourage you to celebrate the ONE who laid down
his life so you might be free to live.
I've told you before that the song written by a black man named James Weldon
Johnson. It has been referred to as the Black National Anthem. I believe it
captures the sense of freedom that God has given us:
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and heaven ring, ring with the
harmonies of liberty; let our rejoicing rise high as the listening skies, let it
resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us; sing a song
full of the hope that the present has brought us; facing the rising sun of our
new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who hast brought us
thus far on the way; thou who hast by thy might led us into the light, keep us
forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee; lest our
hearts drunk from the wine of the world we forget thee; shadowed beneath thy
hand, may we forever stand, true to our God, true to our native land.
Join with me and set aside the things that hold us captive, that we might
continue to live free.
In Times of War
a children's sermon for Memorial Day
props: A daily newspaper with pictures and articles
about the war.
The newspapers are filled with articles and pictures of war. Every time
you turn on the television the news broadcasts are filled with stories
about war. When you hear people talking, it isn't long before you hear
the subject of the war brought into their conversation. It seems that
everywhere we turn, all we hear is talk about the war.
Many of us have friends or family members who have had to leave their
jobs and families to enter the military because of the war. These are
difficult and confusing days. If these are difficult and confusing days
for adults, I know that these times must be difficult for children to
Why do wars happen? I think that wars happen for the very same reasons
that children get into fights on the playground:
- Someone has something and someone else wants it.
- Someone said something and someone else didn't like it.
- Someone is different and someone else doesn't like them.
- Someone is hurting others and someone needs to stop them.
That isn't the way God meant for it to be, but that's the way it is and
that's the way it will always be until Jesus
comes again to take us to heaven to be with him. (Matthew
24:6 and Mark 13:7) So, what can we do,
and what should we do when there is war? I think there is really one
answer -- PRAY!
PRAY for those who have served and who are serving in the military
to protect our country and try to make the world a safer place.
PRAY for God's protection! God is our refuge and strength, an
ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
PRAY for God's for guidance! In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he
shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:6
PRAY for world leaders! [Pray] for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved
and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2: 2-4
PRAY for our enemies! Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
Heavenly Father, we don't understand all that is going on in the world
today, so we turn to you in prayer. We put our trust in you to guide us
through these difficult days. Amen.