Many of you know how much I love numbers, fractions, ratios, and relationships, and you might not be surprised to hear that I’ve been counting down the days to the end of our school year. We have reached single digits. Just over ninety-five percent of our year is in the books, but the big finish awaits! “The end of a thing is better than its beginning,” says Solomon; “The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit” (Eccl. 7:8). We have so much to celebrate this year, and these last two weeks give us both the opportunity to look back with gratitude and to look forward with eager expectation to the summer and the new year ahead, all while soaking up the special, once-a-year activities that mean so much.
Memorial Day practices two things that Christians ought to recognize as a part of their spiritual DNA: honoring and remembering. While we specifically honor those who served and gave their lives (particularly militarily) for the protection of our country and freedoms on this final Monday of May, the general principle of setting aside a day of observance for the virtuous deeds and sacrifices of our friends, family, and forefathers rings true to the patterns set forth for us in Scripture. God sets aside festivals and holidays to remember His work among His people, including victories that formed a nation, as in the Passover. In the Festival of Booths, Israel was to live in temporary shelters to remember and honor their wilderness wanderings and God’s faithfulness when permanent homes were but a dream. In the book of Esther, we learn about the establishment of the holiday of Purim, honoring the courage of Esther and Mordecai that delivered the Jews from destruction. Psalms were penned by David that celebrated God’s powerful might in battle and recalled moments of salvation in the eleventh hour. Memorial stones were set up in the midst of the Jordan River when God brought His people into the Promised Land. Traditions, liturgies, and a thousand little things help us remember. Not only that, but over and over again God commands His people to look back and remember who they are, where they have come from, and who God is and how he brought them to where they are. The only way to understand how we are to live in the moment and where we are to aim for the future is to look to the past.
Remembering and honoring those who came before us requires humility and the understanding that we owe a debt to the past and those who lived it. Perhaps that’s just one more reason our current culture keeps tearing down monuments. Our Progressive secular world assumes that newer is better, that we continue to evolve as a species to higher things, and that we have little to learn from our simpleton ancestors. In other words, we have too much pride. We fail to acknowledge what we owe to those who came before us, many of whom were far more virtuous and intelligent than we will ever be. This should remind us of the odd second half of Solomon’s proverb above, that the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Recalling and honoring the past takes patience and humility, but it brings a far better end. The past rebukes us, admonishes us, encourages us, and anchors us, and all of it points to our creator God, His divine and holy Law, and His fierce and faithful love. No wonder monuments and statues get pulled down these days. Erase the past, and you erase all obligation to the moral witness it bears. Once again, this is why Christians must practice remembering.
In Convocation on Friday we looked at two particular passages that tie into memorials. The first relates to God’s very name by which He revealed Himself to His people in Exodus: “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ Moreover God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations”’” (Ex. 3:14-15). God, who is the ever-present I AM, gives His people a living memorial, a name that forever ties Himself to them. The unchanging God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, connects memory, honor, and glory to His name in a way that His people will never forget nor cease to praise. The second passage we looked at comes from the New Testament, near the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. In Matthew 26, we learn of a woman who prepares Jesus for burial by pouring an incredibly valuable bottle of perfumed oil on His head. “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.’ But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, ‘Why do you trouble this woman?… Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her’” (Matt. 26:6-13). How closely the disciples’ response mirrors our own culture’s! Why go to all the trouble of remembering? It’s so much waste! And yet we still remember this woman and what she did for Jesus, and His prophetic words get fulfilled over and over again when we tell the tale. Our Lord sets up memorials both to honor and glorify His name and to bless us in our faith. For our sakes and for His glory, let us remember.
Finally, this coming week will officially conclude the CCA journey for our graduating seniors. Whether it’s your first or your fourteenth CCA commencement, I hope you will appreciate the attention to honor, tradition, and ceremony that marks the evening. Graduation is a kind of memorial service in which we practice rituals of honor, gratitude, and reflection. We get to recall the hours and years that led to the special moment of recognition, the crossing of a finish line, the end of a thing that is better than its beginning. And leaning on the walls of memory and experience, standing on the foundations laid by those who poured their lives and lessons into our students, the graduates will have the perfect vantage point for striking forth into their futures. Faculty and featured speakers will look to the years ahead with confidence and faith because of their past, not in spite of it. And we get to be a part of that special moment, itself but a brief hour or two in the span of the blurring years, but one of those thicker places that drips with meaning in a way that’s made to be remembered. Congratulations to our graduating seniors! We are so proud of you, and we look forward to celebrating this Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. at Coeur d’Alene Bible Church!
May the Lord bless you this weekend of national remembrance, recalling that God is a lover and builder and destroyer of nations who has lovingly given all kingdoms as an inheritance to His Son (Psalm 2). Not only that, but He has given us families in whom His image rests as a living memorial to His fatherly love. Let us worship and remember Him together, and May He bless you as you enter the final two weeks of this school year!