On Saturday, May 23, Redeemer Community, a new church in Cache, will plant nearly 7000 U.S. flags in the ground in commemoration of Memorial Day. These flags will fly throughout the Memorial Day weekend. They will serve as a visual reminder and testimony of those who died since 2001 in operations in the Middle East, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As an older Millennial (born in 1981) I understand the hesitancy of those of younger generations to mix patriotic themes and the church. They would say: “The church is not part of the country and the country is not part of the church.” I get that. I understand that. There is also a tendency among some to view the government of the United States with a suspicious eye and to question the validity of the two wars that resulted in the extreme price of American blood and tears. As someone who served as an Active Duty Field Artillery Officer and deployed to Iraq (2006-2007) let me offer you three reasons why it is appropriate for churches to participate in Memorial Day in this fashion:
1. To remind society of the extreme price of war.
Whatever your view is on our nation’s engagement in the Middle East, you must acknowledge there has been an extreme price paid since 2001. This sacrifice was made during our lifetime. Unfortunately, many in our country have short memories. They do not seem to remember that it was both political parties of our nation that supported the campaigns in the Middle East. Military members and their families have executed the wishes of their government and have done so boldly, selflessly, with professionalism and, sadly for many, sacrificially. These flags planted serve as a reminder of the cost in human life to those old enough to remember the beginning of this long and arduous campaign. To those born during this period this visual representation of lives lost serves as an educational tool of the extreme effects of war. I believe a church must always remind and warn future generations of the extreme price of war and military engagement. These flags planted are a somber reminder that war and military engagement has a tremendous price and that there are men and women willing to die for each other and for this nation. Let us always remember them and teach our children about them.
2. To minister to military families.
Churches must serve and minister to the community in which they live. This is a vital component of the church. The Lawton/Ft. Sill/Cache/Elgin community is saturated with military personnel. Many families either have someone who has served, will serve, is going to serve, or know someone who currently serves. Many people in our church (Redeemer Community Church of Cache) served in the Army or retired from the Army. Numerous families in our area will be represented by the flags planted in the ground. Each flag represents a family changed forever, a son or daughter who gave the ultimate sacrifice, a child who will grow up without their father or mother. This grieves our heart at Redeemer Community and we want these precious families to know that we care for them and pray for them.
3. To visually remind our community of the effects of sin in our fallen world and to point to our ultimate hope, which is in Jesus Christ.
As a Christian pastor when I see these flags planted I am reminded of the disastrous effects of this fallen world. Death is prevalent. Peace is fleeting. War is ever-looming on the horizon and the sad reality is that before this world comes to completion there will be more flags planted in the ground. And yet… I have hope.
This world will not always be this way. The central message of any real Christian church is the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God. This is known as the Gospel. But there is more to the Gospel than an individualistic message. The ultimate reality we hope for is a world renewed through the work of Christ, a world where God dwells with man. The Bible explains this reality like this: Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5)
Until this day is a reality the Church must remind and warn of the effects of war, minister to those effected by war and point people to the hope we have in Christ. Redeemer Community will do that on Saturday, May 23, by planting 6,851 flags in the ground, each one representing a precious life.