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On This Page:

  • Memorial Day History

  • Memorial Day Prayer

  • Sermon:  Freedom and Bondage, Randy Quinn, Spokane, Acts 16:16-34 (See below)

  • Children's Sermon: In Times of War


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 it.

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:

Read Text

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 a response.)

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 8:32).

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 understand.

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. Luke 6:27

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.