memorialday President John F. Kennedy said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Today, we remember and honor  ordinary men and women, who died while in military service. We remember and thank those who served and who are still with us, and we remember families whose loved ones sacrificed so much.

Today this year also commemorates the 150th anniversary of Arlington Cemetery in which 400,000 honored dead lie.

That commemoration started with  a ceremony at the grave of Union Pvt. William Christman a member of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, who was buried May 13, 1864, after contracting a case of measles. The land was officially designated as a military cemetery a month later.

James Christman of Allentown, Pennsylvania, a great-grandnephew, said he and his cousins had no idea their ancestor had even served in the Civil War, much less that he was the first soldier buried at Arlington. They found out this year when contacted by a local historical association.

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Just so – Memorial Day  For me, year after year it  becomes a time when people who don’t know or who don’t remember, are reminded.  It is a chance to implant in minds and hearts the great truths of life and one of those truths is that the things that we have and enjoy have been paid for by the sacrifice or life of someone else.  I have spent my adult life in witness to Christ and His sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.  Every generation has to be told, and those who have been told need constant reminder  that Christ died for us and rose again for us and will come again and bring us to life everlasting.  As we stand in cemeteries and around memorials today the scriptures remind us that our dead shall live.  As we stand in cemeteries and around memorials today the scriptures remind us that greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.  As we stand in cemeteries and around memorials today the scriptures remind us that to “remember” is more than just recalling to mind, but bringing deeds and actions into this time and place.

As the Christman family found out that their relative was the first person buried at Arlington, that remembrance should spur them on in  their own life to serving and reminding and prayerfully sacrificing as well.  If it does not, it is not a diminishing of the one remembered, but a shame to the one remembering.  As we stand in cemeteries and around memorials today the scriptures remind us that some of the worst judgments are made upon those who did not remember.  From Genesis to Revelation there is judgment pronounced on those “who did not remember”.

There are 21 million veterans alive in the United States today. We thank them, and  I believe that they remember and actively bring into a present reality what the sacrifices of their fallen comrades have brought about.  May we resolve to follow them and remember.  May we resolve to remind those who have forgotten.  May we resolve to follow their example of sacrifice and service in our churches and schools and communities and all of our life.  May we resolve to remember what they sacrificed for, freedom and liberty and defense of the innocent.

And so we pray.

Lord God, In your hand are the deep places of the earth and the strength of hill is yours also, and today we gather to ask you to save your people and bless your heritage.  You have sustained our nation in the past and continue to bless us. We recall how so many have given their lives for the cause of freedom. Men and women continue to sacrifice and serve in the Armed Forces. Today, we pause to reflect and honor those who gave, and continue to give, their lives. We remember the great courage and selfless service of so many throughout history. We remember their honorable sacrifice for the freedom of others. Comfort the families who mourn the loss of loved ones.

Comfort also those who suffer permanent injuries as a result of serving our nation in the military.  As we remember with thankfulness the millions of Americans who give so generously of their life and labor in times of national conflict, particularly the family members of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.

We are grateful for the devotion and sacrifices of military families. Grant us the resources and willing hearts to support them in their needs.  Give them a government worthy of their loved one calling and action and help all of us to remember.

Jesus prayed earnestly for Your disciples, that they would be kept in Your Name, filled with Joy and sanctified in Your Word of Truth.  Keep our chaplains in Your Name. Fill them with the joy that comes from knowing You have defeated sin and death. Sanctify their ministry in Your Word of Truth.

We ask for Your strength for our chaplains who serve in the Veterans Administration hospitals as they provide pastoral care to hurting and wounded veterans.  Mend the wounds of all who suffer in body, mind or spirit. Grant their physicians knowledge and wisdom as they seek the best treatments for patients’ suffering.  God of mercy, grant patience and insight to our chaplains who serve in all branches of our Armed Forces.

We ask you to send us out into our world that you have created in peace with courage.  Help us hold to what is good and return no one evil for evil.  Help us to strengthen the fainthearted, support the week and honor all of brethren while rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus Name we pray,