Our call to worship yesterday was the fourth commandment. You are to remember the Sabbath Day so you can use the Sabbath Day to remember you were once slaves (see Deuteronomy 5:13-15). On this Memorial Day, let us recall the greatest casualty of the War of all wars was Christ facing the fury of the cross to set us free from sin, death and Satan.
Not only was I able to worship God freely yesterday, but interacted in class about the vital topic of parenting; spoke with a young man who is seeking freedom from slavery to addiction; drank lemonade with friendsunder a backyard tree with a cool breeze while discussing such things as suffering; and ended the day with an enjoyable walk & talk with my wife, who always helps me see and name the flowers I would walk right by. A blessed Sabbath indeed.
Several years ago our family took a vacation eastward and southward where we focused on the Civil War. We stopped in such places as Gettysburg and Pamplin Park in Virginia (our favorite stop even before the rest of this little story). Further along in our trip we were in North Carolina where I was telling relatives of our time at Pamplin. Imagine my surprise when my aunt informed me that my great-great-great grandfather had been captured on that battlefield, taken north to a prison camp in New Jersey, and was eventually released and made to walk over fifty miles to reach home. As she told me this, I thought of how we had enjoyed the park’s air conditioned museums and dairy treats on the very spot where my ancestor had nearly given his life and had been taken captive. Yet, then again, is that not really the case for all of us in this land?
The great distance of wars across seas shrinks considerably when you know someone who is there. Praying today for a friend’s son, who is leading a unit of Marines in a hot spot in Afghanistan. Despite the seriousness, since my friend is a Navy veteran we enjoyed sharing this bumper sticker I recently saw: Sure, the Marines are a department of the Navy – the Men’s Department.
Speaking of the Navy, I’m reading Jefferson’s War with the subtitle America’s First War on Terror 1801-1805. The book chronicles America’s development of a Navy to combat the problem of Muslim pirates from the Barbary states of northern Africa. For many decades their corsairs had wreaked havoc on sailing vessels from Europe and America, first in the Mediterranean and then throughout the oceanic trade routes and coastal ports. The history is fascinating, and to read of the slave trade of tens of thousands of white European and Americans – “Christian dogs” as they were known to the pashas – is sobering. This firsthand account below of an Irish family being sold broke my heart at the thought:
It was a piteous site to see them exposed for sale at Algiers, for when they parted the wife from the husband, and the father from the child; then, say I, they sell the husband here, and the wife there, tearing from her arms the daughter whom she cannot hope to ever see again.
The lesson of the book is that terrorist force can be combated with the only means they understand – force.
Our church’s annual Memorial Day picnic is always a highlight, with its abundance of food, children galloping to and fro, and the women enjoying a chat while laughing at husbands trying to work rusty muscles as they play sports. If past years are any measure, we’ll go home with sore faces from the sun, sore muscles from the sports, and sore bellies from the laughs. But during the middle of it all, we will pause, reflect, sing a psalm, and give thanks for being citizens in a free country but, even more importantly, citizens of heaven.
For may we never forget that Jesus alone truly knows that “War is hell.”