Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 16:13

We have come to that time of year where we pause to contemplate and pay tribute to those who have sacrificed the greatest thing they possess, their very lives for others in their country.  And while this solemn occasion is to highlight the military, we also know that it happens within many other areas as well, the police, fireman and many others who knowingly step into the direst of harm’s way for others.

And often as we gaze and wince at the sheer numbers of grave markers, trying to come to sense with the sacrifice of so many over such a span of time and in so many different locations, I find myself pondering that so many different individuals with such diverse backgrounds and histories would come to the same conclusion:  I will willingly sacrifice myself for a greater and nobler cause.  And understand this, for those who might question the idea of willingly when at some times in our past there was a draft, there was still a choice.  Without being sidetracked by an argument of justified or not, there were always some who did not go when drafted.  So there was always a choice.

So as words like calling, patriotism and sacrifice are used, I believe it all comes down to love.  A uniquely human love.  For while there have been stories of animals sacrificing to save their human companions, there does not seem to be evidence that animals have the greater sense of things like future, the cognitive ability to weigh the outcomes of their actions.  But humans do.  We have thoughts and often dreams about the future.  We keenly understand that when we put ourselves into the situation where death is a great possibility, we will never see our loved ones again, never play the games we loved to play, see the wonderful places we long to see; and as humans we make the conscious decision to risk all those things, knowing that even if we live through it (at least in the United States) fame and fortune are not coming our way.

So as Jesus Christ said; it is a great, the greatest love.  And so often as we stand transfixed by the sheer number of the graves and sadly shake our heads and the dreams unfulfilled, the families shattered, the sacrifice made and debt owed, I believe we need to also be aware of a grave stone that is missing.  The stone is missing because the grave is empty.  You see Jesus Christ who is our Heavenly Savior and Leader, went ahead of us. He laid down His human life for us willingly.  Yet being God as well, He had and has the power to take His life back up again and to make the ultimate promise of Love.  That all us, especially those following His example of no greater love, will continue to live.  Not an earthly life mixed with joy and pain; but an eternal life, with Him and our Heavenly Father; a life of eternal joy and love.

Jesus Christ showed us the way.  We pay humble homage to those who have followed His example as well as those who are willing today to put themselves in the position to make that ultimate sacrifice.  May we pledge to seek to have that kind of love in our lives.

Happy Memorial Day.  Amen