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Friday, June 10, 2011

A man thinks with his memory

The above words were spoken by an unknown, but obviously wise, philosopher. We'll return to those words and their incumbent thought before we close this lesson, but first, we're going to talk about "memorials" for a few moments. For, you see, tomorrow is "Memorial Day."

A day and a time that remind us of events in both our distant past and our present past. Things that should always be important for us to remember. Things that we should never forget. But, we know that if something wasn't set in place to remind us of "these things," they wouldn't be long remembered. They would just fade from memory and be lost. Sadly, such is the nature of human beings.

As an illustration of that sad commentary on man's memory ability, let's take a quick look at ancient Israel. Many times in God's Word we see where God's people were to memorialize certain days and times for the purpose of reminding them of what God had done for them on a specific occasion.

Or, they were commanded to set up a physical memorial of some sort, again for the same reason - that they would not forget the particular occurrence. You see, God knows full well the nature of man because He created him so, along with the establishment of the memorial, He issued warnings to them regarding their not keeping them. That when they neglected the keeping of the memorial, they would forget Him and then they would forsake Him. Sadly, this is just a natural sequence seen in the nature of man.

When we turn to the present and look at our observance of "Memorial Day" we note that it has been established as a memorial for us to be reminded of all that we as a nation owe to our service members who have died as a result of their involvement in our nation's wars. Those who gave, as President Lincoln said, "The last full measure of devotion."

Just as the nation of Israel had an obligation to God to not forget what He had done for them in securing their freedom, we have an obligation to never forget what our fallen heroes have done for this nation and the freedom we enjoy today. In just a moment we'll return to a culmination of this thought, but before we do so, I'd like to provide you with a couple of events from a past war that I hope causes you to reflect on the cost of freedom.

I'm going to tell you about a good friend of mine who, like most of our WW2 veterans, has "passed on." He served in the Army during WW2 and was severely wounded during the battle for Okinawa. I think it fits well with our lesson today.

I also feel that when we personalize the memory of an event, the memorial of it takes on added meaning, so I'm using my buddy Jim to do that. Jim made the landing on Okinawa and had survived several days of battle when, at about 9:00 AM one morning, he was shot by an enemy machine gunner and was laying in an open and unprotected area.

Four of his buddies, fellow soldiers, managed to get to where he lay and, after rigging up a makeshift litter, attempted to take him back to a safer area. While trying to carry him to safety, all four were shot by the same machine gun. Jim lay in that field all day until darkness came and help could get to them. It was during those daylight hours that his four buddies died from their wounds and he had to lay there among them as they died. When help did finally arrive, Jim was the only one left alive.

Until his death, he bore terrible scars from the original wounds themselves and the several operations he underwent to save his arm. But, from my conversations with him, there were far worse scars in his "heart" as he never forgot the cost his buddies paid for his survival - the lives of four young men who would never know anything else about life on this earth.

Yes, they paid the price for Jim but, in thinking of it this way, they paid the price of their future children for Jim's children and grandchildren that are alive and with us today. We think about the immediate individuals, but are we really mindful of the loss of their lineage and their legacy? My guess, not as much as we should be.

When I carry my thoughts out as to the ultimate sacrifice these four buddies of Jim made to save him, something the Apostle Paul said comes home to me in a vivid way. In Rom. 14:7 he said, " man dieth to himself." This reminds me to never forget the effect of one soldier's death on the battlefield. It goes far beyond just the one who dies.

The world knows August 14th, 1945 and "V-J"Day and the end of WW2. An Army Sgt. wrote a letter home and I'm going to recite a short portion of it here as it helps bring home our lesson of remembering. He talked about how happy they all were that the war was over and that they would soon be going back to their homes and loved ones.

But while all of this joy and elation was going on, he said that he "couldn't help but think of the guys over there, our buddies, the ones who will never know the joys of this day or realize how much they gave to make it all possible."

He continued his letter with: "These boys who sleep now in many foreign lands are the ones to whom the world should turn and be eternally grateful. They too, dreamed of their homes, wives and sweethearts and longed for the day when they could go back. Today, the world must remember them - and tomorrow, the next day and forever! The day the world forgets, they will have died in vain."

As we pause for a short time in our busy lives to remember the sacrifices of all our soldiers who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, let's let our observance of this "Memorial Day" serve as a shining example of the greatest sacrifice of all. Our fallen soldiers have provided us with freedom here in our country, but, it's still only a temporal freedom. Christ's sacrifice on the cross for all of mankind, past, present and future, provides eternal freedom.

Remember the words of the wise philosopher we started with? Let's return to them as we close our thoughts. It simply is the reason we're instructed to observe the Lord's Supper every first day of the week (Acts 29:7) and He says that we do so "in remembrance of me." (1Cor. 11:24-25) If we "think with our memory" then we'll "think" about Christ and what He did for us and all of mankind.

Ron Covey

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