As I write this article Memorial Day is less than a week away. I cannot help but think about this special holiday in America as the onset of summer transpires. On my way to the office I drove past the roundabout on the north side of our downtown, a powerful space with flags flying for each of the branches of our military. Memorial stones list the names of soldiers from Clinton County who fell in battle during war: the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korean, Vietnam, and the Iraqi Wars, just to name a few. Brick pavers memorialize the names of other beloved American patriots. This space contains benches on which to sit and rest, lush grass and beautiful flowers, and a canon which reminds us that freedom is hard-fought.
In an article for The Disciple, R. Robert Cueni compares memorials to scars which mark a wound that has healed. Scars are remarkable tissue growths resulting from traumatic injuries to the body. They seal off a wound, enabling healing to occur. War is an ugly event in human experience which brings carnage, destruction, and death. But the memorial of a fallen soldier is like a national scar that reminds us of those who have been hurt and who have died in a battle. A memorial is our community response to the severe injuries inflicted by war. A memorial reminds us of tough times and that healing has taken place as we are able to move on and flourish in life.
I am reminded of the time after Jesus’ resurrection when Thomas said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails, were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later Jesus stood next to Thomas and said, “Peace be with you! Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 21:25-27). Thomas saw and touched the scars of Jesus. Later, Peter would write, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
The story is told about General John Gordon, who a few years after the Civil War, ran as a candidate for the United States Senate from the state of Georgia. Back then senators were chosen by state legislators rather than by a vote of the people. An old soldier who had fought with General Gordon in the war and now served in the state legislature with him had taken a strong dislike to the General. The old soldier had decided to vote against the General becoming a candidate for the Senate, but when the roll call was taken, he changed his mind. General Gordon was on the platform to watch the proceedings, and when the old soldier arose to cast his vote, he noticed the ugly scar that marred the general’s face—a sword wound on the forehead from a battle during the war. The old comrade hesitated and choked with emotion. Finally he said, “I cannot vote against him. I had forgotten the scar.”
Memorial Day, as well as the Lord’s Day, is a time for remembering the scars. It’s a time for remembering lives cut short. It’s also a time for remembering with gratitude that with God’s powerful presence, the wounds can heal and life can flourish once again.
Blessings to you,
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