Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Here in America, that tends to mean the first barbeque of the year. People tend to gather with friends and family, fire up the grill, overeat a little and have a few beverages. It is fascinating to me how a day that is meant to honor those who have fallen in battle has been reduced to a day we take off, kick back and maybe do a little work on the house before calling it a night.
Memorial Day actually has its roots to the days following the Civil War. In 1866 in Columbus, MS the first known “Memorial Day” was observed. It quickly gained in popularity and by 1868 27 states adopted the practice (only 37 states existed at the time). By 1890 every state had made it a state holiday (the federal government made it so in 1967). It was initially done to honor those that died in the Civil War. It eventually came to honor those that died in battle while serving our country. And I know at least in my family it came to be used to remember all of those who have died in our family; regardless of military service. The traditions certainly have changed over the last 150 years.
So, in line with the ideas of our ever changing traditions in this country, I ask that tomorrow, as you take to the time to remember those that have gone on before, you remember the most important death of all. Of course, I am talking about the death of Jesus Christ. No, I am not asking you to start a religious ceremony. I am not talking about creating a new holy day. I just want you to take the time to remember the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as you go about your day tomorrow.
When I was in high school, about 25 years ago, there was a very popular fashion trend with bracelets. On the bracelets were the letters WWJD. They stood for “What would Jesus do.” It was meant to be a reminder to me when it came to various decisions that I would need to make. What would Jesus do when tempted to take drugs. What would Jesus do when tempted to steal? What would Jesus do when tempted to bully another student. What would Jesus do when bullied? It was a wonderful sentiment and one trend from the childhood I wished one came back! Today it seems that more people are concerned with WWKD; what would the Kardashians do.
But, what would Jesus do tomorrow? Would he spend the day bashing the President? Talking about his failed policies? Would he spend the day talking about how much a country would be if politician A was nowhere around? I don’t recall Jesus dealing too much with the political scene during his lifetime. He wasn’t campaigning with the Zealots. Yes, he spoke to kings, spoke about Caesar, but he seemed much more interested in spiritual things.
Would Jesus spend the afternoon drinking beer? I know that many would say yes. Jesus was frequently seen drinking wine. His first miracle ever performed was turning water to wine. However, what we fail to realize is that to the ancient Greeks any juice that came from a grape was considered wine. They didn’t have a Greek equivalent for grape juice. It is difficult to imagine Jesus encouraging people to drink a beverage that the wisest man to ever live, Solomon, told his son to stay away from (Prov. 23:29-35). The truth is, Jesus never would have encouraged people to get drunk, drink a Budweiser, etc. I encourage you to remember that when you gather with your friends and family tomorrow afternoon.
Would Jesus spend the afternoon dressed in inappropriate attire now that summer is officially upon us? It is interesting to me that when the Apostles spotted Jesus on the shore while they were fishing than Peter did something out of what we today might call normal. “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea (John 21:7).” Peter threw clothes on to go swimming? Why? Because he saw Jesus and knew he didn’t want to approach his Lord and Savior underdressed. As I contemplate these thoughts, I think about Adam and Eve hiding in the garden. They hid because they were naked and ashamed to stand before God (Gen. 3:10).” While this is what Peter did in Jesus’ presence, I imagine he didn’t feel right about being “naked” because Jesus didn’t dress that way.
Finally, let me offer this little twist on WWJD. It could also stand for, “Why would Jesus die?” Did he die so that I could complain, murmur and criticize? Did he die so that I could drink a beer? Did he die so that I could dress however I wanted regardless of what others think? Or did he die so that I would try to be a better person.
This Memorial Day, remember why Jesus died for you and let that shape the choices you make.
Grinnell church of Christ
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Day of Memorial
Volume 8 Issue 21