I always think of my childhood when reflecting on Memorial Day and the three-day weekend it’s become. I was the only one in my immediate family born in the North. We often would go “down home” for Decoration Day. Some of my southern-born blood relatives were not joking when they disdainfully called me a “Yankee.”
This American holiday originally honored the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military during the Civil War or the War Between The States (as my relatives would say) – a war that cost more American lives than any other conflict in history. The holiday was later expanded after World War I to honor all U.S. military dead. Meanwhile, some southern states still celebrate and formally recognize a Confederate Memorial Day. Can’t we come together – at least in death?
The on-going and deep divisions in our country over race, sexual identity and orientation, abortion, and health care – to name just a few – can produce an unhealthy cynicism. I feel it myself, but I refuse to give in. My faith won’t yield to despair; because ours is a loving, liberating, and life-giving God. Ours is a God of love, who is love itself, and who became love incarnate for us – all of us. We are created out of love, in love, for love. And it is through love that the world will change for the better.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has famously said, “If it’s not about love, then it’s not about God.” We are to love as we are loved. That’s a tall order – to love as Christ loves us. It means we walk with everyone without judgment, striving for peace and harmony, always respecting human dignity. Maybe this is the best way to honor the sacrifice of those who died in uniform. I certainly believe it’s the way to avoid – or, at least, minimize – more deaths. This Memorial Day let’s reject glorification of war, guns, and violence. Let’s instead work and pray for a world in which enemies are made friends through the love we receive from a God who looks upon each and everyone of us as God’s beloved. Happy Memorial Day!
By The Rev. Mark Andrew Jones, BSG
St. Nicholas Episcopal Church