In Memoriam by Rev. Rich Hasselbach, PhD, JD
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13
Memorial Day is traditionally the day America begins its summer; the nation celebrates with picnics, barbecues, and long weekend trips to the shore. It is a happy day when people kick back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful summer-like weather with friends and family. That's not how the day began, though, nor should hotdogs, beer, and burgers be what is foremost on our minds as we celebrate what started as a somber and sacred day of remembrance.
Originally on "Decoration Day," families went to the nation's cemeteries to plant flowers on the graves of those who gave their lives in the service of their country. Today, Memorial Day is an opportunity for us all to remember with gratitude those who sacrificed all so that we might experience the blessings of liberty.
Since 1775, almost a million and a half Americans have lost their lives on the battlefield. In the Civil War alone, more than three hundred and sixty-five thousand soldiers died to preserve the nation's unity and end the heinous institution of slavery. In these days of racial polarization, it is worth remembering these primarily white men who died in the cause of freeing the slaves. More than 405,399 men and women died in America's great struggle against Hitler's deadly and hateful National Socialism. Their sacrifices ended the death camps, at least the death camps in Nazi Germany, and saved countless lives.
Today our nation is again under attack by enemies, both foreign and domestic. We must do our part to defend it, lest we squander the legacy bequeathed to us by those who went before.
On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln spoke at the dedication of the Soldier's National Cemetery for fallen Union soldiers in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Lincoln ended his remarks with a challenge to the living; that challenge echoes down the corridors of time to us. Lincoln said:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Prayer for Memorial Day
Father of all creation, we praise and thank you for the brave men and women who gave their lives to establish and preserve the blessings of liberty that we enjoy. May we never take that liberty for granted, or forget that You are its author. Give us the courage to continue their struggle against all enemies of freedom, both foreign or domestic.
You are the one who gives us the unalienable rights to live in security, to act with freedom, to pursue our own happiness as we choose, and to be secure in our property. We do not have these rights through the largesse of government - they are the gifts of your creative love.
Whenever those rights are assailed, You are assailed. Whenever those rights are compromised, your will is thwarted. And whenever those rights are taken away, you weep with your people.
We are your hands and your voice, for we are your people. Inspired by those who went before us, protect us from the temptation to sell our birthright; and give us the courage to be willing, in the struggles of our day, to risk all, lest we lose what is more than all.