Core scripture: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for ones friends” (John 15:13).
Message: I have discovered one of the coolest connections ever with my seven-year-old. He LOVES history, and he is becoming infatuated with stories about war. How hold on, hold on. Before you throw stones at me for encouraging this interest, just know that he has received the G rated versions of these stories recently, and he will never see any of these movies until he is at least in middle school. Come that time, it is game on, baby! Saving Private Ryan, Glory, Hacksaw Ridge, and The Patriot eat your heart out! Not sure what the wifey will be doing. Total guys night in!
At the breakfast table Sunday morning I asked my sons if they knew what Memorial Day was. They had little to no clue. I explained that sometimes our nation’s military has to go to war to protect our freedom, and there are times when some of those soldiers die in battle, unable to come home to those who love them. An idea sprung into my head. What history lesson better to explain this than the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. I quickly pulled up a clip on YouTube of one of the sentinel guardsman.
“Daddy saw this a long time ago, boys. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.”
My boys leaned over my shoulder munching on donut holes. Taking my iPad to the breakfast table happens once in a blue moon. The American soldier, dressed to perfection, shoes shined and badges immaculately aligned, paced confidently with clockwork precision outside the tomb. A small group of tourists were chuckling outside the barricade. Rifle in place on his shoulder, he stepped off his worn pathway to address the crowd, barking out, “It is the question that everyone maintains a level of silence and respect!” Silence. You could hear a pin drop.
“Daddy, why was the soldier so mad?”
I had to explain that the tomb held the remains of an unknown soldier from World War I. That soldier’s mission was to protect that tomb at all costs. It is an honor to become a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. The tomb is guarded 24/7, 365 a year. Rain or shine. Blustering cold or scorching heat. Same uniform. Same rotation of guardsmen. Their sacrifice is not just for that unknown soldier but for ALL soldiers who do not make it home to their loved ones. These men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Giving their lives for their country.
Americans are blessed to live in a country that allows freedom of religion. We get to read our Bibles, attend church, and worship the God of the heavens and the earth with no strings attached. We have the freedom to be unashamed, bold Christian teachers, living out our faith in the classroom, leading others to Christ simply by modeling our faith with the same type of precision as that of a sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I have to admit, and you might as well too, that there are times when that right is taken for granted. Not this Memorial Day weekend.
The Christian teacher’s sacrifices may not be as heroic as that of an American soldier, yet they are still priceless. We teach bell to bell, not wasting a single second that God blesses us with our students. We do not count down the days until summer; we count down the days we have left to make a difference in the precious life of a child. We pray without ceasing while on the job, quietly and methodically in our heads, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our instruction. And now, as summer begins, we give our hearts to our families and proudly sacrifice extra time with the Lord to grow further with Him.
What will you sacrifice today? Go to God in prayer. Ask Him to lead you down whatever path you may need to go. That path for me today will be up to my boys. Valley Park. Black Hoof Park. The Overland Park Arboretum. Maybe the pool this afternoon. Not too bad for some “sacrifices” if you ask me! Hey, it is a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Whatever sacrifice you make today, be sure that you praise God for the sacrifice of all sacrifices. The most noble sacrifice of all took place at Calvary over 2000 years ago. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Challenge: If you have not had the opportunity to do so yet, thank a soldier you know. If you do not happen to personally know a soldier, praise God for the freedoms they protect. We are more than blessed to live in a country that allows us to worship our Lord 365 days a year.
Video application: Are you curious about the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? The YouTube link below is well worth your time in explaining the significance from the point of view of the sentinels guarding the grounds.
Cinema application: If you have the stomach to withstand a pretty intense war movie, Hacksaw Ridge tells the inspiring story of Desmond Doss. Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist, was a conscientious objector to ever firing a gun during World War II, yet his patriotism toward his country led him to enlist in the Army as a medic.
During boot camp, Doss was bullied and persecuted for his stance to not fire a weapon; however, he later became the first and only conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor, heroically rescuing 75 men in the infamous Battle of Okinawa. Catch the trailer to Hacksaw Ridge below.
Quote: “Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.” (Mary Roach)
Bible story: Read Luke 9:57-62. What were the costs of following Jesus during His ministry? Would you have had the courage to drop everything and follow Him wherever He went? What did the disciples have to sacrifice? How can we as Christians sacrifice ourselves for His cause?
Prayer: Father, thank you for this country and all it stands for. We praise you for our nation’s military and ask that you protect them so we can all continue to honor Your Son. Amen.