This weekend, of course, is Memorial Day weekend. It started as a sort of groundswell movement all over the North and South during and shortly after the Civil War: a day to place flowers on the graves of those who died in battle; a day to remember those we’d lost because of that war: It has grown to become a day of Remembrance for all who died in any of the wars our nation has fought.
Now I am not going to speak about the Civil War, or how it is still being fought today in so many ways, nor even about war in general. But, I think the themes of Memorial Day’s narrative are reflected in this morning’s scripture readings – the themes of loss, and of the Love of God; and how that shapes our relationships with others, and even within ourselves.
Every death, whether expected or understandable – such as from old age, or perhaps in battle; or not understandable – such as from COVID, or a shooting in a classroom; is a loss. The uniqueness of those who died, and all the richness and beauty and potential of their lives dies with them. They are lost from the present, never to return; living on only in our memories. But, human memory inevitably fades with time, and it vanishes entirely when those who knew that person pass on themselves. I visualize this as a sort of tide, a tide of memory slowly receding from the shores of the present. Yet, in reality it is the present that is advancing. We are leaving that tide behind.
I grieve even when those who have been a royal pain to me or to those I whom love pass away – although I’ll admit, perhaps I don’t grieve quite as much.
Even so, our lack of fond memories of them does not mean they were not loved by others, nor that they did not have value as human beings. If nothing else, they were loved and valued by God. And if God loves and values them, how can we not do the same? To me, the question seems to be not whether we should love those who are in our past, but how to do so in our present.Continue reading “Sermon: “The Ocean of Memory””