Memorial Day Acts 22:19-20 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
In traditional observance, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all. Reprinted from usmemorialday.org.
Soldiers are remembered for such unselfish heroism as Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe:
When the roadside bomb detonated, it ripped through the fuel tank of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and ignited like napalm. The seven men seated inside were knocked unconscious and had no chance to escape the fire. But the gunner, Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, managed to crawl out of the burning wreckage. Wounded and drenched in diesel fuel, he pulled the Bradley’s driver from his seat before the flames reached there, dragging him to safety. And then he went back.
The 16-year Army veteran had seen a dozen of his men die on that tour in Iraq, and he couldn’t bear to lose another. His uniform caught fire as he desperately tried to open the Bradley’s hatch. By the time he got in, all he had on was his body armor and helmet, the rest of his uniform was in ashes or seared to his skin. With help, he carried one of his dying men out of the fire and back to horrified medics trying to triage their charred colleagues. And then he went back.
Soldiers couldn’t tell what rounds pinging off the Bradley were from insurgents’ weapons and which ones were from their own ammunition ablaze in the vehicle. As he reached the next soldier, Cashe tried to douse the fire on his uniform, only to realize that his own skin was peeling off from the heat. As another soldier helped pat out the flames, Cashe moved the next wounded friend to safety. And then he went back.
Cashe was the last of the injured to be evacuated from the scene. Doctors later said he suffered second and third degree burns over 90 percent of his body, but he still walked off the battlefield under his own power. He spent the next three weeks at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio trying to recover as his men died one by one in adjoining rooms. Of the seven he helped evacuate, five could not survive the burns.
Cashe’s family said that this time was full of pain and grief for the platoon sergeant, his only consolation being that some of those Army brothers had the chance to say goodbye to their families. When his own family asked why he ran into the fire, knowing he would burn, knowing it would cost his life, Cashe told them, “I had made peace with my God, but I didn’t know if my men had yet.”
Cashe was the last from that battle to die. A week after he passed away, the Army awarded him the Silver Star, the third-highest combat military decoration a service member can receive for battlefield heroism. Reprinted from stripes.com Leo Shane, III, Stars and Stripes, Oct 2, 2011.
You want to remember men like that, men who disregard their own lives for the benefit of others while fighting to protect the life that you enjoy in the United States. The liberties we have would not be the liberties we enjoy if other men had not fought to protect them. Don’t let the media, with a different vision than yours, convince you that what we have in this country isn’t worth fighting for. Remember that on Memorial Day, “their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.”
Consider this, if nothing else, missionaries from the United States, more than from any other country, have done the greatest amount of work for the cause of Christ in recent history. Great work is still being done. Men and women from our country have done more than men and women from any other country to help others around the world who have sustained damage and have been hurt by disasters.
For you and me, not only do we remember those who died for our country and for their fellow soldiers, but we also remember those who died for Jesus Christ and our kingdom, the kingdom of God.
One of the first to die was Stephen. He was martyred in Acts 7. Paul said to the Lord in Acts 22:19-20, “Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.” HIs crime? He preached the gospel so that his kinsmen could be saved.
You cannot forget the willingness of Stephen and others like him to die for what we believe. Consider this martyr, for example.
Victor was a Christian of a good family at Marseilles, in France; he spent a great part of the night in visiting the afflicted, and confirming the weak; which pious work he could not, consistently with his own safety, perform in the daytime; and his fortune he spent in relieving the distresses of poor Christians. He was at length, however, seized by the emperor Maximian’s decree, who ordered him to be bound, and dragged through the streets. During the execution of this order, he was treated with all manner of cruelties and indignities by the enraged populace. Remaining still inflexible, his courage was deemed obstinacy. Being by order stretched upon the rack, he turned his eyes toward heaven, and prayed to God to endue him with patience, after which he underwent the tortures with most admirable fortitude. After the executioners were tired with inflicting torments on him, he was conveyed to a dungeon. In his confinement, he converted his jailers, named Alexander, Felician, and Longinus. This affair coming to the ears of the emperor, he ordered them immediately to be put to death, and the jailers were accordingly beheaded. Victor was then again put to the rack, unmercifully beaten with batons, and again sent to prison. Being a third time examined concerning his religion, he persevered in his principles; a small altar was then brought, and he was commanded to offer incense upon it immediately. Fired with indignation at the request, he boldly stepped forward, and with his foot overthrew both altar and idol. This so enraged the emperor Maximian, who was present, that he ordered the foot with which he had kicked the altar to be immediately cut off; and Victor was thrown into a mill, and crushed to pieces with the stones, A.D. 303. Recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
You need to read and memorize John 15:18-21. Jesus told us, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you… if they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” 2 Tim 3:12 says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus hall suffer persecution.”
You know the sad thing, our younger generations have been removed from the fight. You don’t appreciate the men and women who died for what you have today. You treat the liberty of regularly meeting together as an inconvenience and reading the scriptures as an unnecessary chore. Do you know what it took to get these scriptures into your hands? I’ll give you one example, William Tyndale.
Tyndale said, ”I defy the pope, and all his laws.” He then added that if God spared his life, he would cause the boy that drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the pope himself!
In a conversation with priests, a priest said, “I tell you, the Scriptures are a labyrinth, a conjuring book, wherein everybody finds what he wants.” “Alas,” replied Tyndale, “… they are an obscure book to you, a thicket of thorns where you only escape from the briers to be caught in the brambles.” “No,” exclaimed another priest, “Nothing is obscure to us; it is we who give the Scriptures, and we who explain them to you.”
Tyndale replied, “Do you know who taught the eagles to spy out their prey? Well, the same God teaches His hungry children to spy out their Lord and trace out the paths of His feet and follow … And as for you, far from having given us the Scriptures, it is you who have hidden them from us; it is you who burn those who teach them and if you could you would burn the Scriptures themselves.”
Tyndale sought approval from the bishop in London to make a new English translation of the Bible. Permission was denied, and Tyndale moved to Germany in 1524. There he met Martin Luther, completed a translation of the New Testament into English, and began to have it printed in Cologne.
He only printed part of Matthew when authorities heard about the printing. Tyndale and his assistant fled to Worms, where he had the complete New Testament printed. The copies were then smuggled into England concealed in cases of merchandise, barrels, bales of cloth, and sacks of flour and corn.
King Henry VIII opposed Tyndale’s translation and church officials bought copies to burn publicly. British authorities wanted Tyndale returned to England. He wrote to Henry VIII that if the English text of the Bible were made freely available to Henry’s subjects, Tyndale would return to England and submit to whatever pain, torture, or even death Henry might decide.
In 1534, while living in the home of a British merchant in Antwerp in what is today Belgium, Tyndale published a thorough revision of the New Testament. In 1535 a young Englishman tricked Tyndale into going out of the house, and his enemies had him arrested and imprisoned for sixteen months. Tyndale was tried and sentenced to death. He was taken to the place of execution and tied to the stake. His last words were a prayer: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes,” after which he was strangled by the executioner and then burned at the stake. Reprinted from http://www.storyofbible.com/lord-open-the-king-of-englands-eyes.html.
In less than 100 years, God opened the eyes of the king of England. Today, the King James Bible you hold in your hands is the direct result of Tyndale’s work and answered prayer.
And yet, with continual preaching on the necessity and benefit of Bible reading, we can’t convince you to read it. With all of the work and prayer to prepare sermons and lessons worthy of your attention, we can’t convince you to attend these services. Perhaps a reminder of the toll upon the lives of others, so that you can enjoy these liberties, will persuade you to reconsider your lackadaisical attitude and decide, instead, to be zealous for the things of the Lord.
How will your children ever appreciate what we have if you don’t appreciate it? How will they ever be willing to fight to keep what we have been given if you aren’t willing to fight for it? Paul said, “I have fought a good fight.” He told Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” You don’t want to fight. You hardly appreciate what others have fought to give you. What are you going to do with what you have heard today? Are you going to sit back and just take until it’s gone? Or are you going to stand and be ready to fight to protect and to keep what others have fought so dearly to give you?
Conclusion: The greatest sacrifice of all is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (Jn 15:13). Sgt. Cashe did what he did because he had made his peace with God. Victor did what he did because his soul was secure with Jesus. Stephen did what he did because he was saved. He said with confidence, before he died, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Tyndale forsook all, that the scriptures might be published, because Jesus forsook all, that he might be saved.
If you aren’t saved today, what are you going to do with Jesus? Reject him and take the side of those who killed others trying to preach what you have heard today? Or are you going to accept him and stand with those who protected the gospel so that you could be saved forever?