Lay-led Sermon by Brenda Helton
Memorial Day Service, May 29, 2011
Prelude: “God Bless America”
by Kate Smith
Lighting of the Candles:
We light the first candle to honor the good and truth to be found in all spiritual traditions.
We light the second candle to honor the earth, and all of life, as the creation of the Divine – the one Lord and God of us all.
We light the third candle to honor and support the variety of our individual paths, which together make our one spiritual community.
And we light the fourth candle to honor and provide an open and safe place for all who seek greater understanding and a life of deepening spirituality.
Opening Memorial Day Prayer by Rev. Dick Kozelka (ret)
First Congregational Church of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.
Romans 13:1 (NKJV) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the
authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2 Samuel 22: 40 (NKJV) For you have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose against me.
True Christian Religion (710) Who does not remember and love the man who, from the zeal of love for his country, fights with her enemies even unto death, that he may thereby deliver her from the yoke of servitude? And who does not remember and love the man who, when he sees his fellow-citizens in extreme want, with death from grievous famine staring them in the face, out of pity brings forth all his gold and silver from his house and distributes it freely? And who does not remember and love the man who, out of love and friendship, takes the only lamb he possesses and kills it, and sets it before his guests?”
Message: “Memorial Day,” (see below)
a sermon by Rev. Robert S. Junge, SwedenborgStudy.com
(Mansions of the Lord — Nick Glennie — Smith –Soldier Tribute sung at end of the movie “We Were Soldiers”)
Closing Hymn: “Let There be Peace On Earth”
Closing Unison Prayer
Dear Heavenly Father,
As we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, we think of how they have followed in the footsteps of your son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Please hold our service men and women in your strong arms. Cover them with your sheltering grace and presence as they stand in the gap for our protection. We also remember the families of our troops, and ask for your unique blessings to fill their homes and your peace, provision and strength to fill their lives.
May the members of our armed forces be filled with courage to face each day and may they trust in the Lord’s mighty power to accomplish each task. Let our military brothers and sisters feel our love and support. Lord, protect us each and everyone. Inspire us to be peaceful on this planet we call home, for we know that all the world is our family. Amen.
Closing Circle: “Song of Peace”
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.
Poems for the Day
Whenever I See A Soldier Boy…
© 1942 by Sam Miller
Whenever I see a soldier boy
No matter where it be
I give him salutation
for he means so much to me
He’s not the boy we used to know
In store, at desk or plow
He’s a defender of our faith
He’s in the service now
He keeps Old Glory flying
on land and air and sea
He lives to make our homes secure
He dies to keep us free.
Nothing is ever free,
though to you it be.
Our Gift to the Fallen – by Charlie Gragg, 2007, Penryn, California
For each soldier that has fallen so that many may stand
We honor their spirit as they pass to God’s hand
For without their sacrifice we would live forever in fear
We pray for their loved ones and provide a salute and a tear
God help us heal the wounds of hate and the misery of war
That is our gift to our fallen heroes that are amongst us no more.
by Rev. Robert S. Jungé
This weekend we call to remembrance those who have died for the sake of their country. We honor them for their self-sacrifice. They put our safety and our welfare before their own. Fostering our country’s values was more important to them even than life itself. Honoring such heroes can strengthen those same values with us. It is an opportunity to reflect on our history and what we as a people stand for.
The military do not stand alone as heroes who sacrifice for others. We were painfully reminded of this on September 11th. But as we reflect we might well ask ourselves what makes this country worth the sacrifice. Did these men die for the sake of the American home, its families, its wonderful freedoms, its way of life? If we could ask them, we would no doubt hear a host of different answers. Perhaps even though they are in a far better world, some could still not frame the words to explain their actions. But there is one word with which we might summarize their motives. LOVE. We act on the basis of what we love. These people are heroes because taking many different forms, their love for others exceeded their love for themselves.
To really honor them we too, should dedicate our lives to the service of others. What a wonderful thing it would be if this Memorial Day our whole nation gave up, once and for all, the slogan, “Take care of number One.” Many proudly voice the term, “Enlightened self interest.” Unfortunately they do not reflect that to be truly enlightened, self-interest must take second place to the interests of others. The soldiers in the field may act in part from fear, but we would hardly call their motivation enlightened self-interest. Who would ever say of our nation’s heroes that they took care of number one? The Doctrine explains that he who puts his country above his own interests will love the Lord’s kingdom after death. This defines the heroism we honor.
Self-love is not evil in itself. But it is evil when it takes precedence over all other loves, such as love for children married partner, society, country, God. Therefore each of us in his own way is called upon to subordinate his love for himself to love for others. In this sense we all are called upon to be heroes. Our weapons may not be obvious. Our sacrifices may largely be hidden from view. But the challenge to put others before self is ever present. And in the deep moments of temptation we feel as if we are called upon to give up everything even what appears to be life itself for the sake of what we believe in our hearts to be doing what is right for others. National heroes are often called to take unselfish action in a single dramatic instance. On the other hand, our struggle with the enemy may be long drawn-out battles. But the goal is the same, “Put others before self.”
We recall the heroic acts of the soldier who leads the charge, the fireman who enters a burning building, the policeman who is killed in the line of duty. These actions inspire awe and respect. Their actions will be recorded in history books. But the factual accounts of their deeds must be looked at more deeply if we are to uncover the truly heroic. If we are to truly understand their heroism we must ask “Why?” The actions reflect the inner character of the man which is really what we honor. True enough, actions are as it were the foundation of our lives. Words and deeds are the way we communicate with others. We recognize heroism by deeds, but it is what inspires those deeds which is the real heroic. What good men really strive to communicate is their internal thoughts and affections which are within the external words or deeds. Doctrinally speaking we are talking about an internal and an external man. For example, there is a profound difference between a superficial friendship of mere words and a friendship which touches the heart. There is a profound difference between a relationship that simply goes through the motions and one that shares the hopes, visions and dreams of the soul.
There is a thought within a word and an affection within an action. We can be completely sincere and have our words and deeds reflect who we really are. Or to gain self-advantage, we can fake it and hypocritically fashion our words and deeds to look like something which we are not. The sincere and the hypocrite appear the same, but they are not. The ability to love others and to be moved by genuine affection is given to each of us by the Lord. The good man freely opens his heart and expresses that love in his day-today deeds and words. His internal and external gradually make one. But the evil man cares only about how he can control others and get control over things. His inner potential never opens. If others give him lip service and do what he says their words and deeds are all he cares about. What difference does it make if they like it or not? What difference does it make what others think or feel? If you get what you want who cares how you get it?
Many, both good and evil say that they want to be remembered. Some feel consolation in the thought that when they die they will be remembered by neighbors and friends. It is a common expression that the one who has died will live on in the memories of those who remain here. We do indeed remember those we love, for genuine love is eternal. But the real memory that counts in establishing eternal life, is the individual’s own memory. Our book of life determines the very nature of our life hereafter.
The Doctrines make clear that everything a good or an evil person says or does is stamped on his memory – written in his book of life. Both the good and the evil have external memories which are based upon everything they ever did or said. It is a permanent record. Nothing will be missing from that memory even in eternal life. Both the evil and the good man after death will take with them the memory of every single thing. It is the outer form, the foundation of their book of life. That external or corporeal memory even reaches to the senses. The colors of the sunset. The taste of a fine dessert. The smell of new mown hay. The sound of a sweet lullaby, the caress of the wind on the cheek. Everything is indelibly written on that memory.
It is true that that natural memory after death becomes quiescent. But it is not erased. After death neither the good nor the evil can add to their natural experience. In that sense their book of life is closed. It cannot be changed as to the words and deeds they have freely chosen here. They have made their choices, and as the tree falls so it lies. A hero’s character endures on the basis of the deeds recorded in his memory. But he is conscious of and lives on the basis of the thoughts and affections which inspired his heroic deeds. We call this his inner or interior memory.
Of course there is a profound difference between the good and the evil.
All the appearances in hell and all the interaction of the evil people there never really rise above the struggle for dominion over others and getting more and more things. Their focus never reaches beyond the plane of words and deeds. While selfishness burns in their hearts, their concern never really rises above the effort to gain dominion over the external deeds of others. They may gain lip service, but they never get love. They may get temporary support for this or that endeavor, but they never gain loyalty. It is as if they have never and can never rise above the self imposed struggles of this world. The natural memory is as it were a plane above them and limiting everything they do and say. They are not truly free.
But the good, with full confidence and trust enter the plane of thought and affection which had inspired and infilled their words and deeds while they were here in this world. The memory of natural things will become quiescent; and though it is the means of fixing their eternal character, it will loose its importance to the good. The soldier will not be aware of the killing or his own death. ways of sharing his true character with others. His words and his deeds will be marvelously tuned to the loves he wishes to communicate to others. All the appearances that surround him will plainly and openly reflect who he has freely chosen to be, who he really is and can grow to be to eternity. Life opens up to him. After death the lover is no longer tongue-tied in his desperate struggles to somehow show how he feels. One who has felt tied to a work which he did not love in this world, will enter a use which enables him to cultivate his God given talents to the full. After death we are supremely ourselves and supremely at home. Remember for a moment someone you love. The love you feel is confirmed by the things you have done together and the conversations you have shared. But those deeds and words were simply the clothing of far more precious and human treasures. Those loves are the truly human plane of life. That is the human potential. That is what we presume ruled in the hearts of the heroes we honor today. Heroism is manifest and awe inspiring in the deeds of this world, but it is the very way of life in heaven. Genuine heroism is loving and truly human, a gift which only the Lord our God can Give. That gift comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the Giver.
True Christian Religion (710)
Who does not remember and love the man who, from the zeal of love for his country, fights with her enemies even unto death, that he may thereby deliver her from the yoke of servitude? And who does not remember and love the man who, when he sees his fellow-citizens in extreme want, with death from grievous famine staring them in the face, out of pity brings forth all his gold and silver from his house and distributes it freely? And who does not remember and love the man who, out of love and friendship, takes the only lamb he possesses and kills it, and sets it before his guests?”