– Luke 9:24
Those words from Luke are set for today, Monday in the sixth week of Easter in the Daily Office Morning Prayer cycle (Luke 9:18-27). Those words have a special ring on this Memorial Day.
Today we pause to remember those who died in wars for our country. We remember those who gave the last full measure of their devotion in wars we are still fighting, and wars long ago, distant in our collective memory. Today we pause because it is right to do, and we pause to give thanks. Today we set aside politics. Today we remember.
Some of you may have fought in one or more of our wars. Some of you are far from our shores engaged in one of these conflicts now, or you have just returned, or you are about to go. You are in my constant prayers.
Today we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your service.
Memorial Day has its origins in the American Civil War. It began as a day to honor the dead of both sides. The day was deliberately chosen because it was near the anniversary of the day that our nation was reunified, thus making Memorial Day a reminder that our highest value is not warfare but reconciliation with our enemies.
Today we must pray for our enemies.
Following World War I, the dead of all wars were included in Memorial Day. The calamity of World War I was without parallel in world history; no war had ever claimed so many lives globally. Both of my grandfathers fought in that war; both survived.
There came a growing awareness that the dead of that war – and every war – should never be forgotten. The word "Memorial" began to be used in naming public buildings and churches, including our own St. Paul's Memorial Church. The name "Memorial" in our church title was meant to evoke the memory of the dead, and as our parish took shape in the 1920s, the name took on new meaning as our founders remembered those who had died in World War I. The name of our parish reminds us that we should be unceasing in our effort to end all wars.
Today, let us remember those who have died in all wars, and remember those who are still dying on battlefields across the globe. Let us remember those Americans who have died for our country, and let us pray that all who are at war may one day find peace and reconciliation.
Here is the Collect we used Sunday for Memorial Day (found in the Book of Common Prayer on page 839):
O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.