The article for this week and next is from a speech I gave on Memorial Day a couple of weeks ago. I was invited to be the guest speaker by the folks at Cherokee Memorial Cemetery in Lodi, California. They have a wonderful remembrance on Memorial Day honoring our fallen, of which more than 7,000 are interred there. There are on average between 600-800 people in attendance. American flags are placed on all veteran burial sites, and large American flags line the roads throughout the grounds. It is a visual feast. There ceremony concluded with a missing-man formation fly-over. The remainder of this article is the first half of my speech entitled, “Sacrifice.”
Our nation has borne the burden of sacrifice from its earliest days, taking up arms against an oppressive British monarchy that cared little for the personal desires of the colonists. The longing of those early Americans was simply to be free from tyrannical rule by a king thousands of miles away across the Atlantic. From the first shots fired at Bunker Hill in Massachusetts to the latest battles in the mountains of Afghanistan, American men and women have always stepped up to the fight. Personal sacrifice has been the requirement. Our American fighting men and women have never failed to answer that call.
Patrick Henry’s famous words ring as true today as they did in 1775:
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
I believe the reason Americans have always answered the call to arms is found in our spiritual DNA. A people desiring freedom to worship came to this land nearly four hundred years ago. That desire to be free to worship continues to this day. And the greater desire for freedom in all aspects of life yet remains.
It is my contention that the present-day Tea Party is the rebirth of the spiritual freedoms embodied in each of us. We dare not lose this precious desire to be free regardless of any personal cost or the cost to our nation.
What exactly does sacrifice mean?
Sacrifice is taken from a Latin word, sacrificium, which is a compound word meaning “to make sacred.”
The dictionary offers several definitions for the various uses of the word sacrifice. The one that applies to our fallen heroes is also the definition that applies to Jesus. Here’s what I mean.
“To forfeit (one thing) for another thing considered to be of greater value.”
Did you catch that?
Sacrifice means something determined to be of lesser value is exchanged for something that is of greater value. Let’s personalize this. When a man or woman steps up and takes an oath “to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” they are, in essence, stating that their life, as an individual, is of lesser value than the lives of those they choose to defend. That Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman in uniform that you see is publicly announcing that you, their fellow American, is of greater worth and value than their personal life. Furthermore, your freedom and the freedoms enjoyed by our nation are worth defending.
Some might say that we should be able to “just all get along.” War is terrible, it’s true. So why can’t we just all get along? One word answer: SIN. Adam and Eve opened a Pandora’s Box when they sinned in the Garden of Eden. Sin has warped and distorted the image of God in each and every human ever since. We’re never satisfied. The grass is always greener. We want what someone else has. Jealousy, envy, covetousness, and a host of other ungodly attitudes and desires cause us to be leery of each other. Motives are questioned. Trust is hard to come by. Is it any wonder that we need a Savior?
Because sin puts us at odds with each other, we need to have people who will stand up against those who would take our land, our freedoms, and yes, our very lives. Sin causes us to think and act that way.
This is why on Memorial Day we must remember that of the more than one million Americans who have died for our freedom, we dare not forget. By their sacrifice they have declared that we who yet live are of greater worth.