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The Journey: What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                    An email arrived in my inbox this week. Our local pool sent out the summer schedule. The information included when the life guards are on duty, snackbar hours, pool hours and new menu choices, but did not include popsicle flavors. For some swimmers of a certain age, popsicles are about the only motivation to want to get out of the pool and dry off.

If you haven’t already guessed, Memorial Day is here and thus begins summer for most Americans.

Memorial Day is less about summer kickoff and all about honoring the men and women who have fought and died for our country. My older brother Tim will take his family to the military cemetery near their home. My parents will do something very similar where they live. Most years I have been able to attend the Marin Civic Center Memorial or the one in the Presidio Cemetery in San Francisco. I hope this weekend each of you try and take some time to remember those who have served our country.

As a minister it is immensely challenging when asked to respond to tragic world events such as warfare, human suffering and acts of evil, and “where is God” in all of this pain? God does not create suffering and God’s will is not that “we should suffer.” I could go on for pages but I am limited by a word count. However, I am reminded of a passage in the Bible that shines the light of human courage when we must face fear and suffering of our age. Are you familiar with the story about David and Goliath?

The David and Goliath doesn’t only speak to us in metaphors often associated within the arenas of sports and politics, the story offers deep personal and spiritual insights that shape our lives.
David standing alone in the valley of Elah and facing certain death is an honest existential moment that speaks to all of us. Your life, your whole entire life: what will you stand for when the moment comes to put your life on the line for what you believe? Do you have anything outside of yourself that is worth believing in?

What will you lay down your life for? David facing Goliath is more than a story about one person standing up for himself. It is much bigger, and that is why it continues to resonate across the centuries. David stands for himself, but far more important and why the story continues to have power is that David stands for an entire people, but ultimately, and this is the essence of this passage, David stands with God. He isn’t standing for personal self-interest. He doesn’t stand for increase market share. He doesn’t stand because the political winds are blowing that direction. He stands for the ways of God.

To face the giant of his age, David doesn’t need more modern weapons and technology. To go into that valley David needs just a few simple tools. Pause on this for a moment. Less, not more is what is needed when he descends into the valley to fight the giant of his day.

David takes the simple tools of a shepherd to face the giant. A staff, sling, and five smooth stones are all he needs. Simple and familiar tools are often enough when we face life’s greatest challenges.

In the valley David becomes a model for new way. Goliath comes with every tool he has. Sword, shield and helmet are the best of his day.

The beauty here is that the story is not told from the powerful, it is told from the point of view of the weak. If you have ever been weak, or afraid, or not up to the task, and then had life’s greatest challenge thrust upon you, then you know what it is like to walk into the valley and face the giant. You know what it is like to be David.

As I was writing I was thinking about what simple tools do we need in our age when it is our turn to enter the valley? What would you bring? Here is my list. 1) Faith that we are not alone. 2) A community that supports us when we struggle. 3) Some experienced and professional voices to counsel us. 4) The courage to put our faith in God and fling that metaphorical stone when our time arrives.

I think about the women and men who are serving our country, as they may be far from home and the ones they love. If you are barbequing, swimming, boating, enjoying an amusement park or celebrating graduation, I hope you take some time to remember those who have served and offer a tribute to those who have given their life. Have a happy and safe Memorial Day.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah.

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