Galatians 5:13 “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?“
Today we will gather around picnic tables groaning with hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, watermelon and apple pie (OK, that’s what I’m serving; how about you?) as we experience another day of freedom. Today’s cook-out is brought to you by the men and women who won’t be feasting with us today. But we remember them.
Remembering is a sacred act. Remembering gives voice and life to the dead, and adds dimension to the living. Remembering is what keeps people centered on the reality of the cost of things. The well worn cliche, “Freedom isn’t free” is at the center of our remembrance. Freedom costs the lives of millions in order for the lives of millions of others to continue.
We are a Navy family. From my father-in-law’s 30 years of service, to my husband, who was a Navy pilot, to my son-in-law and niece who are currently active duty, our family serves. Freedom is hard won for many families. It is our privilege.
I was blessed with the sacred opportunity to officiate at the funeral of a Navy Captain who was buried in Arlington National Cemetary. Dan Kohl was a friend, a leader, a mentor, a guy with a great sense of humor, and a man who loved his country. He was an influencer in my life who taught me how to stand in front of people and lead them. The subject at the time was learning how to be a Drum Major. The life lesson also applied to one day learning how to be a pastor.
As we walked the mile from the chapel to the columbarium, following the band down the hill with the caisson rolling behind us, the solemnity of the still and perfectly aligned white stones was overwhelming. I was engulfed in the silence of the men and women entombed there, who gave their lives in the cause of freedom. I spotted Christian Crosses, Jewish Stars of David, Muslim Crescents, and symbols I couldn’t identify. Other stones were blank. In all, there are 60 different religions represented at Arlington. There is so much diversity in the unity of their singular cause: peace in our land, and freedom.
Our scripture today celebrates the freedom we have in Christ. Freedom from sin and death are the gifts offered to us at the cross. We weren’t offered this freedom for superficial indulgences, for wasteful living, or squandering away our time and our abilities, but rather for a purpose: to serve one another in love.
To serve one another in love….what a tremendous calling! What a sacred responsibility. Imagine if you could live a life worthy of having that engraved on your white stone: “She served everyone in love.”
What can you do this Memorial Day to rise to the challenge of the Galatians? What single act, or life altering change, can you make this day that will impact someone you know with transformative love? Where is God calling YOU to be an influencer to a young woman or man? To love your neighbor?
It is sometimes in the ordinariness of life that our legacies unfold. It is in that random place of stepping up, volunteering to work with squirrelly teenagers, offering a word of encouragement to a beaten down coworker, writing a check that keeps someone’s lights on….these moments define us, and they also define others. When you choose to humbly serve those around you with love, you choose the Christ-way.
So go and celebrate your freedom by making in difference in someone’s life. Your legacy might just be the defining moment in theirs. Do this in remembrance of someone you never knew, who died for your freedom to love.
I remember you, Captain.
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