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Monday, May 28, 2012

Two Memory Observances

(I am breaking my own resolve and interposing a blog about this present moment.  More flash fiction stories will show up later.) 

This year we have back to back observances which have been acknowledged yesterday and today, both rooted in memory.  Both are related to the past but look to the future with hope.  One is based on the experience of international conflict and the violence of war, the other follows a different sort of violence to announce new life and the welcoming of a new age.  The one observed yesterday is related to two faiths rooted in the same tradition, Jewish and Christian, and is called Pentecost.  The other is a remembrance of the end of a war nearly a century ago that has continually emerged again and again without any signs of ending, Memorial Day.  All the wars of this nation have now merged into that one day of remembrance, honoring those who served in the military, multitudes of whom died in those conflicts.
Pentecost in the Jewish tradition marks 50 days after Passover; in the Christian tradition it is celebrated 50 days following Easter.  This year they happen to occur at the same time with our Memorial Day, two days in tandem.  Such an opportunity heightens the impact of both observances. 
In regard to Pentecost as a faith event, for Christians it marks the moment that the Holy Spirit descends upon the faithful believers, something that Jesus is described as promising his followers prior to his death.  The day becomes a celebration often referred to as the “birthday” of the Church.  Just how well we continue to observe that tradition depends on a variety of interpretations, from extreme religious beliefs to a brief nod by others not deeply involved in church life.  However it is observed, the inherent promise of new beginnings, new life, and hope for a future lived out in a discipleship that follows the call of the Christ to serve the “least among us”  invites hope for a future of peace, justice, and integrity of life.  The details are varied, depending on the particular faith tradition.
As for Memorial Day, it is a time when those in this country remember the dead, whose lives were cut short by war.  These are ones who have not bodily risen from the tomb, as Christians believe about Jesus, but their lives are memorialized in ways that honor the nation they have served.  The meaning of this day has become broader now to include all those, the living as well as the dead, who serve or who have served.  With the observances comes the hope that a day will arrive when war is never considered as an option.  It will be a time when peace between nations is practiced and enemies are not killed but become friends.  Understanding the other will be the norm.  The time is not yet, as we well know, and it will not come in the lifetime of anyone now alive, but it remains a hope for the generations who will inhabit this tiny planet in this vast cosmic arena, in ways we cannot imagine as yet.
As for my family, my father was nearly killed by wounds in France during World War I.  He was a battle surgeon, but after losing parts of several fingers was not able to follow that path, and eventually became a pathologist, but served in the Army during World War II and the Korean War, until retirement.  He then continued in a civilian hospital here in North Carolina.  Both of my brothers served during World War II, one in the Navy and the other in the Army.  My husband Charlie then gave four years of service in the Air Force when we were first married.  It is because I have witnessed the strains of war and of serving in the military that I am a strong advocate for peace.  It is also because of the kinds of ministries I have participated in that I am a strong advocate for justice.  The two seem to go together.  Somehow it is like the coming together of two annual observances, Pentecost and Memorial Day.

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