Acts 16: 6-10
Revelations 22: 12-17, 20
John 17: 20-26
Memorial Day Weekend
“Soldiers with Christ”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
In our opening Hymn, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the official words of the last verse ends with As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on. Some people misinterpret this entire song to be about the end times/revelation, but the hymn is all about how the end times are already here, we’ve been living the end times for the last two millenniums. That is why the opening line begins with, “My eyes have seen,” have seen is past tense thus with regards to the coming Lord our eyes do not see in the now nor will we see in the future, but in the past our eyes have seen the coming Lord. And in the next verse, when it opens with, “He has sounded forth the trumpets that shall never call retreat,” again the sounding of the trumpet is referenced as a past event, thus “sounded”. If we view this song not as an ode to events yet cometh but as a continual arc that began with the birth of Christ to today then we see the intended meaning behind Julia’s poem of which the words to this hymn originate from.
We are an army of Christian Soldiers and the trumpet call to forward march has already been sounded. This trumpet call is the cross where Jesus gave himself up to save us from our sins. This trumpet call is the Great Commission which Jesus gave before He
ascended. This trumpet call is Pentecost when the tongues of fire filled the disciples with the Holy Spirit. Christ sounded the trumpet call of forward march for his holy army of Christian Soldiers and now that he has sounded forth salvation He, God who never goes back on His Word, will never call retreat. The March has started and it will keep on moving forward until it has reached its course. That is why we end each verse with the line, “is marching on.” In the present we are conducting the continual action of marching.
But if that is the case then that would mean the battle is still on going, though the battle we face is one of reaching out to others, spreading the Good News with the Holy Spirit as our guide. The terrible swift sword we wield is the Word of God, and the real enemy we vanquish, put to death, with such a sword is the slavery of Satan. Yet in war there will be casualties. There always is. During the first couple centuries of Christianity there was so many martyrs, those who were put to death simply for being a Christian. And it wasn’t just us foot Soldiers who were put to death, our Commander, Jesus Christ, willing gave up His life for the sake of this glorious mission.
Freedom never comes free, as a nation we understand this, but even more so as Christians for we know that the only way to true freedom – freedom from sin, freedom from the sting of death, freedom from satanic slavery – is through the blood stained cross. It is chiefly for this reason why we say the original words to the Hymn rather than what’s found in our hymnal, “let us die to make men free.”
To say, “As he died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,” is wrong on so many levels. The first is that it is bearing false witness as they changed the lyrics without any mention that they completely reversed one of the lines. The second is that it doesn’t make sense as there is no comparison to Christ dying and us living. It is grammatically accurate to say that we live because Christ died, but it isn’t grammatically, let alone logically, accurate to claim we should live just like how Christ died. Third, its offensive to all Soldiers who lost a brother in arm knowing full well the consequence of war, for all of us Soldiers willingly signed our right to live when we gave our oaths waiting for Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty to call us to arms. War is bloody, but for the sake of freedom and preserving freedom it is absolutely necessary.
I saw something circulating yesterday. It mentioned how Memorial Day is the most expensive holiday of the American calendar, for on this day behind every hot dog and beer and ice cream cone and firework and boating activity we recognize the blood of every Soldier who laid down their life so that we may all be free. Free to practice our faith. Free to speak our minds. Free to be the press. Free to assemble unrestrained. Free to complain about the government and know that our grievances are heard. Free to bear arms and thus defend our nation from domestic tyranny. And so many other freedoms. Know all of this is already ours by right of God, God-given rights, but fallen humans will continue to try and snatch these freedoms away from us, and thus blood is spilled to preserve them.
And to those out of good intention changed the lyrics of this hymn through deceptive means I understand that you want to promote life and that you don’t want to see people suffer and die, but now that you have already changed the latter half to “let us live” are you now going to also change the first half of the line to, “as he lived to make men holy”? Are you going to be like Peter who begged Jesus to live rather than to choose death? The same Peter who was then immediately received these not-so-nice words from Jesus, “Get behind me Satan.” Guess what, I just found out that several churches, to include the ELCA, is doing just that, trying to write out the passion story.
Freedom comes at a cost. The Salvation we have in Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the freedom to do good works, the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, the fruits of the Spirit, all of this came at a cost. A sacrifice had to be made for the forgiveness of all mankind, so Jesus became that sacrifice for us all.
Freedom comes at a cost. Do you think that Satan was just going to allow Jesus to rescue the slaves of his deathly domain without a fight? The arms of Satan reaches out throughout the world; influencing the culture at every turn. As we Soldiers of God go out into the outer world to save sinners with the Word of God as our sword, Satan will use his demonic influence to have preachers and lay leaders and missionaries and biblical teachers suffer jail, starvation, joblessness, homelessness, abandonment, and even execution. He does this to silence us or terrify us into compliance. But God shall never call retreat, so we march forward through tyranny and deadly pestilence, not fearing the potential
loss that the Devil may thrust our way but having faith, hope, and love in God above all else.
Freedom comes at a cost. On this Memorial Day Weekend we recognize the cost of freedom. Do you think that King George was just going to let us be a free nation after all the acts of evil tyranny he dumped on the colonists: the extreme taxes, the taking away of guns, the forcing of Soldiers into people’s homes, the church burnings, the property damage, and the consequences of speaking up against the King? America had had enough. And as one they rose up behind chants of “Don’t tread on me” and “Give me liberty or give me death.” The option for us was to either live under the boot of tyranny, or rise up risking life for the sake of liberty. So there are actually three options, “liberty, death, or getting trampled under the boot of the king. With don’t tread on me as the rally cry, the last of the three options became null. Thus either we fight for liberty or we die trying.
The colonists weren’t free, and living wasn’t going to make them free. If they were unwilling to risk life then a militia, which is the people, would have never formed and the Revolution would have never of been waged. George would have remained our King, and evil would have won. But we rose up, and with God on our side, though there were casualties, we won and became a nation of the free. Those who died to free our land and those who died to maintain our freedom will never be forgotten.
Same applies to the wars thereafter. Through the civil war we fought to preserve the God-given rights of all Americans regardless of who you where or what you looked like. Had
Soldiers not risk their lives for the union’s cause, choosing to stand down and peacefully do nothing, we would still see slavery today. But many good men lost their lives in the hopes that all regardless of their skin color would be truly free. Through WW2 we fought to rescuing the Jews in the concentration camps and rescue the invaded western countries from Nazi Germany as Soldiers willingly risked their lives on the European front. You also have 1812, WW1, the Pacific front of WW2, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East.
We have lost so many, but instead of hiding from the tragedy of war by choosing to live submissively to evil, we should give respect where respect is due. Let us respect our fallen comrades. Preserve and defend the good things they died for. And hold on to this one hope, that the Soldiers who died knowing Christ are not only Soldiers of Christ, but are Soldiers with Christ.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, on this weekend guide our minds to appreciate the freedom we have while also acknowledging the cost that had to be paid for such freedom; whether that is freedom from political tyranny won by the blood of men or freedom from demonic tyranny won by the blood of Christ. In your most glorious name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.