Pastor Peggy wrote this message several years ago, but its truth is timeless and we are sharing it again this week.
This weekend in the United States, we will be celebrating Memorial Day – the holiday where we remember those brave men and women who fought to guarantee our freedom. We take this time to thank them, bless them, cry for the suffering they may have endured – for us!
The strength of this great nation is togetherness. We have to be together and be willing with positive mind to go forward toward a better tomorrow. We always have to keep strength in our ideals as our forefathers have done. Look at theflag of the United States of America (even if you are not from the States – look at your own flag and remember). As you do so, listen to these words.
From the day Columbus set sail with that small band of people, freedom has been sought, attained, and paid for by brave men and women who were willing to sacrifice their lives that we might be a free nation. Those who have been to battle and have seen comrades fall from enemy fire cannot forget the sacrifices that have been made for the cause of freedom.
Did your great-great-great-grandfather, young man that he was then, think of you before he fell? Could he have known in 1863 that he was saving a great nation? We honor him, from north or south, on this Memorial Day.
Or what of great-great-grandfathers who gave their lives in the trenches of France in World War I, the “war to end all wars?” We honor them now.
Seventy One years ago during World War II, our men were preparing for the great invasion of Europe. The war in the Pacific was being fought at sea as American submarines attacked the Japanese navy. The submarine war was successful that year – 22 warships and 296 enemy merchant ships were destroyed. Still, by war’s end, one of four American submarines and the brave men who manned them, were lost.
At the same time in 1943, General Patton’s 11th Division was fighting its way through North Africa.
Today we remember these brave patriots and honor them.
On Memorial Day, 1953, an armistice was about to be signed, ending the Korean War, three years of hostility that claimed the lives of thousands of brave service men and women. We pay tribute to them.
The war in Vietnam still lives in the minds of many who served there; many saw their comrades fall. We wonder as we pass by their graves today, did they know we would remember? Yes, we do remember. I lost my beloved brother, and YES, I remember.
Let us honor every service person who served to preserve our way of life. We remember.
I ask you to close your eyes now for a moment of silence honoring all those in your country who served in peace time and war time to protect your freedom.
Thank You, God, for these lives.
I’m going to ask you now to remember something as important. The activity of this weekend is going to cemeteries and looking at graves. As we look at these graves, we will remember and that will cause many of us to have tears in our eyes and great mourning and sadness may come over us again.
But as we look at the graves, let us also remember the truth – the person you are mourning is not there. That person is happy again because he or she is with God and with the others who have passed on before.
What a freeing realization it is when we are standing there in our grief that our grief is for ourselves, not for them. We take from bereavement all of its power to distress us when we realize that our grief is, in fact, for ourselves. How freeing that is!
How empowering it is to realize that everyone you loved, everyone who served your flag, is still alive. That is the truth! You know that to be the truth! It’s one of those things that you haven’t just read about, but you know it deep inside yourself. It is your faith. You will give thanks for this faith. John 3:16 – For God so Loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not die, but have everylasting life.
How empowering it is! I mourn for those people who do not have this faith , and they are going through the experience that we humans call death. We in this room know that death is not a period; it’s just a comma in life. Life continues.
Let me share with you a powerful and moving story.
Once upon a time, twin boys were conceived in the same womb. Weeks passed, and the twins developed. As their awareness grew, they laughed for joy: “Isn’t it great that we were conceived? Isn’t it great to be alive?”
Together the twins explored their world. When they found their mother’s cord that gave them life, they sang for joy: “How great is our mother’s love, that she shares her own life with us!”
As the weeks stretched into months, the twins noticed how much each was changing. “What does it mean?” asked the one. “It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end.” said the other. “But I don’t want to go.” said the first. “I want to stay here always.” “We have no choice,” said his brother. “But maybe there is life after birth!”
“But how can there be?” responded the one. “We will shed our life cord, and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that others were here before us, and none of them have returned to tell us that there is a life after birth. No, this is the end.”
And so the one fell into deep despair saying: “If conception ends in birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb? It’s meaningless! Maybe there is no mother after all.” “But there has to be,” protested the other. “How else did we get here? How do we remain alive?”
“Have you ever seen our mother?” said the first. “Maybe she lives only in our minds. Maybe we made her up, because the idea made us feel good.” And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning, doubt and fear.
Finally, the moment of birth arrived. When the twins had passed from their world, they opened their eyes. And they cried. For what they saw far exceeded their fondest dreams.
I Corinthians 2:9 says: “Eye has not seen , ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on the human, what God has prepared for those who love God.” When you are at a graveside mourning, I pray that it is the dawn of a new realization in you that life does not end. And I pray that you carry that truth with you all through your life. It will be so empowering when you have to deal with that which we don’t want to deal with. You will know that all that is occurring is, the outer clothing is being discarded, but the life of the one you love so much (the inner soul qualities of the joy and spirit of life that comes through the outer clothing) lives on.
In The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran wrote:
Life is but a stopping place
A pause in what’s to be
A resting place along the road
To sweet eternity.
We all have different journeys,
Different paths along the way
We were all meant to learn some things
But never meant to stay.
Our destination is a place
Far greater than we know
For some the journey’s quicker
For some the journey’s slow.
And when the journey finally ends
We claim a great reward
And find everlasting peace
Together with the Lord.
In the depths of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond. And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow, your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
For what is it to die, but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Jesus said there are really two deaths. There is the death of the outer covering (the skin and the flesh). But the other death is far worse – the death of the person who has stopped living while still alive.
Some people do this when a loved one passes. When I pass from this world I do not want my children or anyone I love to stop living and either do you. We want them to live life fully with smiles on their faces. We want them to laugh at misfortune and to be connected with God. This is what I want them to do in my memory.
All of life is best honored by us living life fully. When we stand at a graveside, let us not be locked into just that which has been alive. Let us be locked into the knowledge that this person lives now and will live tomorrow. We will see this person again. We believe that, and we know that.
Let me share with you a wonderful story from the book “Illusions” by Richard Bach
Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great river. The current of the river swept silently over them all – young and old, rich and poor, good and evil – the current going its own way, knowing its own self.
Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.
But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging I shall die of boredom.”
The other creatures laughed, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”
But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.
Yet, in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.
And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!”
And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”
But they cried the more, “Savior” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a savior.
Many times our lives as human beings are spent clinging for security. We cling to thousands of things. We cling, and we are afraid inside of ourselves to let go. Yet, if we re-examine our faith in God the good, the one, omnipotent power in our lives, we know it is safe to let go.
Where do we do this? We do it in consciousness. We let go of the fear, worry, and hurried feelings we have inside of ourselves, and we naturally rise to a higher state of mind. In Luke 17:20-21 Jesus said: “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Do we have to die to enter the kingdom of heaven? No! Not at all! As a matter of fact, if we wait until we die, we’re missing the mark. Jesus’ whole teaching tells us that right now, for each of us individually, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. It can be had in the midst of our worry, in the midst of things that are not going right, or in the midst of a cemetery. We can just simply let go of the mourning and the sadness, and go with God. When we do so, we are lifted.
My friends, I pray that this Memorial day you experience an act of God. An act of God is not something terrible. An act of God is something that happens in you and through you. We feel an act of God more in a time of great depression and great struggle than we do other times. This is because we are more aware of the overwhelming good and the feelings that come inside of us.
Heaven within you is an act of God. Bliss within you is an act of God. Peace within you is an act of God. Stop clinging, release, and go to God.
Let us pray:
In this moment, I ask that I can be empowered with the kingdom of God inside of me. I let go of the sadness and sorrow I have held over any area of my life. I let go of the death-thought, and I start to live again.
But more than just living or existing, I ask for an infilling and an overspilling to others in my life. The joy, bliss, and peace of God knows no end.
Today, this entire weekend, is a turn-around time. I let go of sorrow and sadness. I stop clinging and I arise free and unencumbered. I do so through the power of God in and through me, and my willingness to say “Yes!” In Jesus Christ’s name . . . Amen.