Easter 6, May 29, 2001, St. Christopher's Episcopal Church, Rev. Paul Moore
This is Memorial Day Weekend. Killeen and the Fort Hood community always celebrates it in spades. There will be flags flown, graves of our war-dead will be decorated, and a moment of silence will be observed at 3:00 p.m. Rightly do we celebrate this day well. Not only are many of us military-connected, but the largest US military installation in the world has borne the brunt of the war effort in the Middle East. Probabilities prove out in statistics, that we have also suffered the most in terms of fatal casualties.
Why do we celebrate thus? Honoring our dead is something profoundly human. There is anthropological evidence that the very earliest humans honored their dead. There is not a culture in the world that does not mark the passing of one of its own, giving significance of the moment. And when the loved ones we remember died to protect our way of life we mix our grief with gratitude. They were our exoskeleton, our auto-immune system, and they lost their lives for a cause larger than themselves.
But at the root of it all, we honor our dead because it helps us get a focus on the living. If these died for a reason, what does it mean for those who are left behind? The past lays the foundation of the future, and those who paid the most dearly in the past speak most eloquently about our future. And so we have our Gold Star Families. The Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors (TAPS) is a national organization that provides care for Gold Star families and has supported more than 30,000 since 1994. TAPS' motto is “Remember the love, celebrate the life and share the journey.”
If on this day we remember the past and the prices that have been paid, it is only right that we also consider the future for which that price was given. We have this morning three ways we are going to consider our future. They do not overtly speak of our military efforts, and though we live and move and have our being in the matrix of what is the American culture, what we do this morning has to do with something larger than merely American culture. It has to do with people and the sacred relationships they hold dear:
with spouses, with the Love-Dare program, with oneself in the Fireproof your Life program and our graduating Seniors, and with our God in our everyday living, and personally, in my Sabbatical which begins on Saturday. If an American soldier could say, "In America we live and move and have our being, and for America I am willing to lay down my life,” how much more the believer says, “In God we live and move and have our being, and for Him I will live my life.”
One day when Landon our son was in 2nd grade we were driving to school, we stopped at a stop sign and he asked me, "Dad, why are we here?"
I replied, "Because there's a stop sign and we have to stop."
“No, dad, why are we HERE?”
Confused, I asked for clarification. “You mean, why we live in Weslaco?”
“No, why are we HERE?”
I reached for the impossible. “You mean, why are we here, rather than not here? Why do we exist?”
“Yeah, that's what I mean!”
He wasn't the first to ask the question. In today's first lesson Paul is preaching in Athens. He has raised some curiosity with his preaching of Jesus, and confused, people ask him for more. Noticing an altar to "An Unknown God," Paul takes up the theme of the One Creator God, who is largely unknown to his hearers. Don Richardson in his book Eternity in their Hearts tells a delightful back-story to this. I don't know where it comes from, but the thrust of the story is that the god who must be appeased in order to stop a plague is invoked precisely on the basis of their ignorance. Paul jumps on the opportunity. The real Unknown God is the one who is not a god but the God, the one and only uncaused cause, the Pre-existent One, who is ultimately lost in unknowable divine mystery. That God has made Himself known to us in Jesus Christ, and that God now has created a way to be in relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. And so Paul preaches Christ as the One in whom we live and move and have our being.
If indeed in God we live and move and have our being, then God is the context of our living and our dying, in God we recognize and honor those who have fallen in defense of our country, and in God we value and commit ourselves to our relationships with spouses, with God and with one another. God's heart is the larger context in which all that we know is located, of our marriages, and our graduations and our efforts to fireproof our lives, and our sabbaticals. To be a believer is to acknowledge this, to live as a believer is to live from this. To be a Christian is to believe that we best understand this in the person of Jesus Christ, that in Christ we meet the unknown God, face to face.
As we honor our war-dead tomorrow let us honor the greatest casualty and victory in the war the world has ever witnessed, when the very Son of God died to win the battle against evil and death, and rose again to unprecedented victory. Let us also honor the living relationships in which we find ourselves, and accept them from the hand of God as gifts for our good and theirs, ways in which God Himself honors His relationship with us.