This week in the United States, we mark the beginning of summer, Memorial Day weekend! It is a time for picnics, parties and genuine goodwill. The unfortunate thing about Memorial Day weekend is that for many, the actual remembrance of Memorial Day gets lost in the overarching theme of the start of summer. This is not to say that the parties and other celebrations are wrong or bad, but it is important to take time to remember.
Remembering those who came before is incredibly important because it helps us to understand the world we live in today. It also helps us to humble ourselves by recognizing that most of the things we think are our own accomplishments are just building on something that someone else started. As for Memorial Day, this is a day specifically to remember that the freedom that we have in this country came at a great expense: the lives of men and women who sacrificed their being so that we can be free. That is something that never should be forgotten!
This week, the lectionary provides us with such an interesting passage. This passage is a sermon of Christ to the disciples foretelling his death, but also laying the foundation for what was to happen when he ascended to heaven. He reminds his followers that while he will ascend, he is not abandoning them, for the spirit will be left in his place. This assurance is important, because it provides us with a continuity and link from generation to generation back to Christ.
Think of it this way: the spirit that Christ promised to the disciples is the exact same spirit that we encounter today. This is very important, because just as Memorial Day is about the freedom of this nation, the freedom to move and live and be, this link to the spirit and to Christ is about our freedom as Christians to not be bound to the things of this world. This is why so many clergy struggle with traditions that claim wealth or comfort in this world, because that is akin to celebrating Memorial Day and forgetting that it is a day of remembrance, that we have what we have because someone else suffered for us.
I will be honest with you, one of the greatest struggles I have in faith is answering the question “Are you saved?” It is not that I have any doubts about my salvation or faith (at least today). It has to do with the fact that I believe that my salvation is not mine to claim, but that it is Christ’s, and that he claimed me. Like you and all of the other faithful, we are Christ’s legacy. Our salvation comes from him. We must never forget that, and we must never forget those who have come before so that we can be who God has called us to be.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen