Memorial Day Reflections

Gracious and holy God, lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth. Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust. Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery
Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

I felt like offering a prayer was the best place, and perhaps only place to start today, Memorial Day.  Today is a day of remembrance, of joy, of sorrow, of gratitude, and of prayers for peace. Today we remember particularly those who have given their lives in service to their country. Thank you to all who have served and are serving. Thank you also to your families who have and continue to support you.

I like to think that on Memorial Day we also remember those who have lost their lives in times of conflict, war, and hostility. I think remembering both groups- those who have given their life and those who have lost their life in conflict (and as victims of conflict), is important. For me, Memorial Day seems like an important time to do this.

Many people also remember other family this weekend who have died, which is a good practice. I admit though, I have never really been one to do this around Memorial Day. I try to reserve those memories for All Saints Day, and basically the month of November starting with All Saints Day and stretching through Thanksgiving. Growing up nearby to so many Navy bases and military institutions, Memorial Day is important for me to keep more focused on those who have served and are serving.

How do you observe and remember those who have gone before you on Memorial Day? Who do you remember this day?

Returning to the prayer that I shared, it is a prayer for peace, from the hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship. I think its appropriate today. Allow me to share five images or stories that are on my mind this Memorial Day. Perhaps they will make you pause and wonder too? Perhaps other questions will come to mind today for you.

  • Cemeteries today are rightfully lined with United States’ flags, honoring veterans and those who have served. I presume that my grandfather’s grave in Washington is one of them today. I wonder, what can we do to better support the families and loved ones who have lost loved ones in time of conflict and in service of their country? In what ways can we support those who have died in conflict locally in our communities and abroad around the world?
  • This past weekend, President Obama surprised troops and visited them in Afghanistan. We are reminded of all of the troops’ sacrifices and service there. I wonder, what will this prolonged conflict lead to?
  • In the past week we have heard the news and grieve at the loss of more people at the hands of a hurt and mentally ill person with multiple handguns. I wonder, how much longer do we have to wait for common sense gun control in the United States?
  • In the past month, the museum at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City opened. We remember all of the loss and pain, some of which is all to real and fresh. I wonder, how can we support the families still grieving, and those whose loved ones’ remains have yet to be identified?
  • This past weekend, Pope Francis spoke and visited a number of holy and disputed sites in the Mid-East, particularly in Israel and Palestine. I wonder, how can the peace that passes all understanding break-in to all places of conflict and provide hope, healing, collaboration and understanding?

What do you think about any and all of these questions? What causes you pause this Memorial Day?

Whatever is on your mind today, I hope that you are able to spend some time today with friends and loved ones- giving thanks and enjoying each other’s company. And, because it seems fitting today, let me share with you a common but profound benediction:

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen. 


Sources and Credits:

Image Credit: Memorial Day at Arlington Cemetery

The prayer for peace, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 76.

The Blessing, found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 114.

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