A couple of weeks ago, my bride decided to conduct a garage sale. Now, just for the record, I helped set it up, but then promptly left town. But in our discussion afterwards about the success of the sale we (well, okay, “she”) had, we discovered that there had also been on that same weekend a nationwide yard sale called the Great U.S. 50 Yard Sale.
This was the seventeenth such event, and the hope of the organizers was that vendors of all sorts all across the nation would venture to U.S. 50, set up booths or tables or some kind of venue where they could sell their wares to people who were just driving by on the coast-to-coast highway. One of the stated purposes for this nationwide event is to promote tourism in the communities on U.S. 50 as well as unite the communities and the sellers all along the way. As I was thinking about it, it almost seemed to be a “Yard Sale Parade” of sorts, where it was not the yard sales themselves which were parading, but the customers who were the ones moving down the highway.
This week we celebrated Memorial Day, one of the most special and patriotic of all the holidays during the year. It is special because it is a unique time to honor especially those men and women who have given everything, including their very lives, to preserve and protect the freedoms we all enjoy so very much, and which we most likely take all too much for granted each and every day. This holiday, and the weekend preceding it, was marked by national anthem being sung, the Pledge of Allegiance being recited, dignitaries speaking, “Taps” played, and guns saluting, all to honor those who have offered the ultimate sacrifice. Oh, and did I mention parades?
Just thinking about this nationwide “Yard Sale Parade” on U.S. 50, as well as the parades which characterized this Memorial Day celebration in almost every community across the nation got me thinking about the idea of a Memorial Day parade across the nation as well. I thought about organizing such an event. But the more consideration given to this thought, the more it seems we do have such a nationwide parade. It already exists – on social media.
Almost by the minute, a new post was being shared the entire weekend, and even now a couple of days later those posts are still being shared, which express the importance of remembering those who have fallen. There are countless pictures, video clips, and simple statements honoring friends, relatives, soldiers, and various other people who have and who are serving in the military around the world for the simple task of allowing us the freedom to live as we individually choose to live, and to do it with dignity and honor. I don’t know of anyone who has done so, but if one were to collect these commemorative posters and line them up all in a row, I suspect there would be quite a long procession – all because we in America have as a basic fundamental value the importance of human life and freedom.
Well, for the most part, anyway. There are a few examples to the contrary. One of them also happened this weekend, when a zoo official shot and killed a rare gorilla in order to save the life of a 4-year-old boy who had fallen in to the pit where the gorilla was located. It is amazing to me the number of people who have been protesting the taking of that gorilla’s life. Yes, it is sad that that was done. It is also sad that the mother seemed to lose control of her child. But the situation was such that the only real option for the zoo officials was to do whatever was necessary to preserve and protect that young fella. They made the right choice.
Ultimately, of course, the point of the parades, the point of the zoo officials, and the goal for all of us should be to celebrate the preservation and protection of human life. Jesus said it best when he said, “I have come that they (that’s every human being like you and me) might have life and have it abundantly,” (check out John 10:10). God’s desire is for you and me to have life, real life, abundant life. He wants us to do whatever is necessary to gain that life – and it all starts by entering into a relationship with Him, through his Son, Jesus Christ.
The constant theme of Memorial Day is sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice. Men and women who have given their very lives so that we do not have to do so. But that theme is the theme of Easter as well. Only there the sacrifice – Jesus’ death, burial, and ultimately, his resurrection – is not just for physical freedom, but spiritual and eternal freedom of the soul.
Memorial Day is a time for veterans to pull out their uniforms and attempt to button the buttons and fasten the belts so that one more time we may all say “Thank you for your service, and for your sacrifice.” But it should also be a reminder to thank the One who gave so much for every one of us as well. It is so very easy to take spiritual freedom for granted, or to ignore its possibility altogether.
This Memorial Day week, whether there is a parade or not, won’t you pause and give thanks to Him who gave you the real ultimate freedom? Or perhaps you just need to humbly bow before Him and ask Him to give you that freedom?
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.