When I was a kid my family would often travel on Memorial Day to the small community of Seibert, Colorado where my dad grew up. In a small cemetery on the outskirts of town, we would visit the graves of my dad's grandparents, and those of close friends and relatives.
I remember walking among the graves, reading the stones, and marveling at the small American flags that were placed by those who had served in the military.
When my grandfather died when I was ten, those trips took on new meaning for all of us. My grandmother would refresh the flowers on his grave, and we would all stand quietly as she did--each of us thinking our own thoughts, remembering him in our own way.
Years later, I officiated at my grandmother's funeral and would visit that cemetery for the first time as an adult. I recall recognizing gravestones I had gazed at as a child, and for a moment it felt timeless, albeit the fresh dirt and clay from my grandmother's grave told a different story.
Today, I am thinking of that cemetery, and of all those years that we went and tended the graves of our loved ones. I am miles from that quiet place, come to think of it. Yet, I can close my eyes and see it so clearly, smell the dust and the sage in the air, and feel the wind on my face.
This is a day of remembrance. We remember those who paid the ultimate price on the field of battle in service to our country. But like all holidays, there are personal attachments that have affixed themselves to our traditions.
And so many of us also remember all those beloved who have gone on before us--the great cloud of witnesses, who live in our hearts and our memories.
For my own part, this is the fifth Memorial Day that my family will observe without my mother's gentle presence. All I have are my memories of her, and in so many ways I am still mourning and grieving the loss of her.
And today I am also mindful of the recent tragedies in our country---three mass shootings in the past month, including the horrific tragedy in Uvalde, TX.
This morning I looked at all of the photos of the little ones and their teachers who were tragically killed in the shooting at Robb Elementary. I said their names, and read their stories.
Then I did the same for the victims of the Buffalo, NY supermarket shooting.
And the same for the one who was lost in the Laguna Woods, CA church shooting.
Memorial Day seems a fitting day to speak the names of those who were lost, and to pray for their families, and the communities affected. And to pray that the power of the Resurrection would be made known.
The Apostle Paul once wrote that "We do not mourn like those who have no hope."
Because Jesus has risen, those who embrace life in Him can hold on to the kind of defiant hope that has no fear of death or loss. Hear the words of our Lord and Savior today as you remember all those who you grieve.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." John 11:25-26
May this day be filled with joy, peace, and hope as you reflect on the infinite love of a God who is willing to do whatever it takes for us to experience abundant life---even in the face of death.
Remember the fallen. Remember the ones you have lost.
But rejoice because this is not the end. We will shine like the sun. We will rise. Death has no power over us because the One who defeated it offers that same Resurrection to us and all of Creation.
Know this and be at peace.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.