We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.” -Gen Logan, 1858
This quote was taken from someone I respect and follow, click here for her blogger’s post – which I just read. I’m a bit behind. We’re probably like many Americans. Memorial Day is a day off from work, a day to picnic and be with family and shop a few sales. My dad was a real patriot, but I don’t remember him making a big deal about the holiday – other than we had a family cook out for most of my adult life.
Finally, in 2015, we were able to really understand and participate in a wonderful Memorial Day “celebration.” Which is really strange, to celebrate those who gave their lives so we could live in the land of the free? My blogger friend also addresses this issue.
Fortunately, we were invited to attend this event by my husband’s brother, David Lees and his wife, Linda. David works with Dr. Mark Murfin. Dr. Murfin recruited David to become a Civil War re-enactor years ago. Dr. Murfin then discovered this cause, the re-dedication and the 100th anniversary of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Civil War statute at the entrance of the Civil War cemetery in Vernon, Illinois. I’m sure he is familiar with the above quote, because that is what drove him to start a wonderful tradition….and it continues. We missed last year (2016), but were so happy to be able to attend this year (2017).
The Vernon G.A.R. Park was established on October 28, 1893 after Elbridge Robinson and his wife, Martha, donated and deeded one acre of ground to the Trustees of James L. Jones, Post #632 Grand Army of the Republic. Regarding the land transfer, Robinson declared:
… the said trustees, on consideration of being deemed said above described plat of ground, agree to hold and care for the same as a Memorial Park and place and keep a flag pole at the center from which the national colors are to be housed on all state and national public days so long as said post remains in existence. When said post ceases to exist, the said plat of ground… to go to the village of Vernon so long as said village uses the same as a Memorial Park, hoisting the national flag on all state and national public holidays, and cared for the grounds and trees as the trustees of the said post did….
At the first Memorial Day event, Monday, May 25, 2015, a speech was given by Pastor David Rogers, First Baptist Church, Vernon, Illinois at the re-dedication and the 100th anniversary of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Civil War statute at the entrance of the Civil War cemetery in Vernon, Illinois. This is not an exact duplication of the speech as this was written after the fact and from his notes:
I come to you today to try and give a perspective from the Bible, why memorials are important according to God’s Word. There are many memorials mentioned in scripture.
In the ark of the covenant were to be kept a sample of manna; Aaron’s rod that budded; and, a stone copy of the 10 commandments.
These three things were important because they represented something the Israelites wanted their children to know, something from each of these important events. So the upcoming generations to come would see:
1) The bread God gave Israel to eat in the desert when they were brought out of Egypt: they wanted to have something in there to remind them about God’s wondrous care for them;
2) God told Moses to get a rod from each of the 12 tribes, to write each leader’s name on them – and Aaron’s name to be written for the tribe of Levi. And God miraculously made one of those rods bud, it produced almonds. That was Aaron’s rod. It was to tell the people God was in charge, that He was going to pick the leaders, they were not to pick them. The story continues in Numbers 17:8-10 – the next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, not only sprouted, but it had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony to be kept as a sign of the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so they will not die.”
3) And finally, the third item kept in the Ark of the Covenant, the tablets of the 10 commandments written by the hand of God, a memorial to God’s concern for our need of laws right and wrong, civility, and morality. I’m wondering how many remember this is where we find the morality that God has designed for mankind.
Why was the container of manna placed in the most Holy Ark of the covenant? As a memorial to God’s care for His people’s physical well-being.
Why was Aaron’s rod that produced almonds placed in the most Holy Ark of the Covenant? As a reminder of God’s judgment upon the rebellious.
And why were the 10 commandments placed in the most Holy Ark of the Covenant? As a reminder of God’s laws.
All three were placed there for future generations to see, to not repeat similar rebellions, and to respect God’s power and resolve.
But there were other memorials in Scripture:
In Joshua 4, we see what happened after the whole nation had finished the miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. Twelve men were chosen from among the people, one from each tribe, to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan from where the priests stood and they carried them over to the place where they stayed that next night.
This was to serve as a sign, a memorial. In the future, when your children ask you what do the stones mean? From Joshua 4:7, “tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel for ever.”
Two more biblical memorials as we prepare to close: First, the cross. The tree upon which Jesus died, it hangs around necks, it dangles from ear lobes, on necklaces, and bracelets. It can be seen as far away in Effingham, Illinois or high on the Hill in Bald-Knob, Missouri.
When you look at the cross, do you see the absence of the Savior, risen, alive, sitting at the right-hand of the throne of God? Or are you reminded of Him nailed there, bleeding, suffering, dying for you?
George Bernard wrote a hymn in 1913 and published it in 1915, the same year the GAR memorial was erected (the “memorial” we were re-dedicating on this date) – and some other songs that were more popular that year:
“A little bit of heaven (Sure they call it Ireland)”
“Carry me back to old Virginny”
“It’s a long way to Tipperary”
The hymn George Bernard published in 1915 has stood the test of time,The Old Rugged Cross.
And the last biblical memorial I will mention today is the communion table in most churches. Do you remember what it says? “This do in remembrance of me.” Jesus’ words to his disciples, admonishing them to take part in the communion, the Lord’s supper Service regularly until He returns.
We have many memorials in life: monuments, historical markers, and even wedding rings.
By far and away the most important memorial we have is the cross of Jesus Christ. On this memorial day I urge you to remember these three memorials in the Ark of the covenant:
—The Jar of Manna: God’s care for you physically.
—Aaron’s rod that budded: God’s care for you mentally.
—The 10 commandments: God’s care for you socially.
Today, remember especially the cross: God’s care for you spiritually–eternally. You will die one day and there will be a memorial stone placed where your body lies.
But what you do today with the cross will determine where your spirit resides.
To safely shoot these pieces of artillery, it takes six men to safely fire: the powder monkey, who is in charge of carrying the gun powder and ammunition to the cannon; a gunner who aims the cannon; load crewmen, who packs the ammo and the powder into the barrel; and a man of higher rank who instructs these artillery personnel when and where to shoot the gun.
The day was absolutely wonderful and as we said then and will continue to say, it was the best Memorial Day we’ve ever attended as honor was truly paid to those who gave their lives for the freedom of this country. Let that soak in a bit….
Here is a link to all the pictures from this event. Next write up will be from this year, 2017’s event. It was just as amazing and honoring to our fallen warriors from WWII….