“Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you” (Deuteronomy 32:7).
I have had the privilege of being involved in many significant parts of peoples lives through the years as a pastor, whether in the bonds of matrimony as two become one, the welcoming of children, or the final breath of a dear saint. Those are treasures that fill my vault to overflowing. But long before my days as a pastor, there were other things that continue to ring out through the corridors of my life.
On a windswept hill overlooking my hometown, I was often called upon to stand and wait; wait for words and prayers and tears. But all of these were precursors to the sound that was my cue. It was not subtle and never missed. When all of the words had finished, seven rifles fired in unison, the sound echoing through the valley below. Then another round rang out, followed by one more.
Now it was my turn, lifting my trumpet to my lips. It is a simple tune, but it drips with the solemnity and sadness appropriate for such an occasion. It is a bugle call familiar to all who have served. It is played at 10 p.m. at every post around the world, signaling that the day is done. In the 1840s, the tradition was begun to play it at funerals of service members, and in 1891 it was officially adopted by the military as the standard at US military funerals.
How appropriate that the call to retire became the anthem for those who would see no more days on this earth. And let me encourage you to go outside at 3 p.m. local time today and listen. Every year on Memorial Day, buglers will play Taps as we are called as a nation to remember those who have given their lives defending our Constitution and the freedoms it provides.
God has given us profound memorials that call us to remember. As John Piper says, “Remembering God’s past grace is necessary to fuel our faith in God’s future grace for us.” Remembering is a gracious gift of God given to preserve us in His grace, to “forget not all his benefits…” (Psalm 103:2).
Of course, these memories remind us of the saving grace that comes to us in Christ Jesus, “who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:3-5).
But Memorial Day allows us to remember God’s common grace, His preserving and caring kindness towards humanity. Like that saving grace, it is undeserved, and so should stir our hearts with thankfulness for those who have died.
Even if you are enjoying the benefits of a day off from work, won’t you pause and give thanks to God today for the countless men and women who have paid the most precious price that we might enjoy His smiling face of providence?