“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hills, from the sky; all is well, safely rest; God is nigh.
“Fading light, dims the sight, and a star gems the sky, gleaming bright; from afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.
“Thanks and praise, for our days, ‘neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, ‘neath the sky; as we go, this we know, God is nigh.
“While the light fades from sight, and the stars gleaming rays softly send; to Thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.”
You may have never heard these words before. They are written to accompany that most sobering of all bugle calls, the one we call Taps.
Thousands of times Taps has ended a funeral service for a man or woman who died in combat. And thousands more times we have heard it as veterans, those who were blessed to come home alive, were laid to rest.
This is a very important week in America, Memorial Day week. Memorial Day commemorates all of those who died in the service of our country, in all our wars and struggles. I believe it is perhaps the most important, certainly the most sacred, of our patriotic holidays. We will never be able to calculate the great debt we owe to our military men and women and their families. As has been often said, “All gave some; some gave all.” But we dare not forget their sacrifice. So, let’s honor all of our military men and women, past and present, and their families.
“I am oppressed with a sense of impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here, beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept, plighted faith may be broken and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke: but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and make immortal their patriotism and their virtue,” Major Gen. James A. Garfield said at the dedication of Arlington National Cemetery.
Today, Arlington’s 624 acres holds more than 400,000 graves of brave men and women who died for family, friends and an ideal known as the United States of America.
At another cemetery, on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln gave the noted Gettysburg Address. As he closed his remarks dedicating the cemetery, he said:
“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
At Memorial Day 2019, it is my fear that we may be in danger of letting our dead die in vain. The America of our forefathers is becoming lost; the foundations of America, as one nation under God, are cracking. And the America that our brave military men and women have died for is in danger of perishing from the earth.
We are the victims of personal pride and greed; we have forgotten that God creates all people equally and loves each one the same. We see division and hate in families, churches, cities and towns. And that large beam in our own eye is ignored as we pick at that speck in our neighbor’s eye.
Patriotism has given way to disrespect. We desecrate our flag; we pridefully sit when true patriots stand, not because America is perfect, but because our foundations are just. And we vandalize the mementos of our history, as too many revisionists try to rewrite our Godly heritage.
We ignore our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and God’s Word, the Bible.
Our government has become ineffectual and our people ungovernable. Politicians sit and feather their own financial and power nests; real statesmen and women are difficult to find. Partisanship clogs the wheels of justice and fairness and no one is willing to give an inch or try to see any good in anyone else.
And perhaps the saddest blow to the sacrifice of our brave men and women comes in our churches. Churches are empty. Church leaders have made churches ineffective and social clubs. The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the reality of sin and the need for repentance, are subjects not heard from our pulpits. Instead we hear: “We are all God’s children and all of us are good and positive; please send me your money.”
We have fought wars for the ideals of a nation under God. As we see our great nation becoming less and less great, it is a slap in the face of those buried in Arlington, Gettysburg, Florence National Cemetery, in Europe and in the Pacific and throughout the world.
The shaking we feel and the sound we hear are these brave men and women turning in their graves and weeping for the nation they loved and gave their lives.
Let us, at this Memorial Day and every day, rededicate ourselves to truly make America great again (not a political slogan but a reality; not for a political party but for all Americans.) Let us rededicate ourselves to the God who created us and to His Holy Word.
Let’s return to our founding documents and the rights they guaranteed. Let’s hold our elected officials and ourselves responsible for doing right, for loving others, for living justly. Let us resolve anew that “these dead shall not have died in vain” and let us all reestablish America as a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people.”