By Rev. Frances D. Montgomery, NST
In our church every Sunday morning we ask the congregation to rise for the invocation which is our request to Infinite Intelligence (the God Force) to enter our building and our hearts and open us to receive the love, healing and education about Spirit at work in our lives. Immediately after that while still standing, we place our right hands over our hearts and recite in unison the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. We do this proudly and with the full knowledge that many countries around the world do NOT have freedom of religion. We are well aware since the advent of September 11, 2001 and the plague of terrorism which has ensued unceasingly since that the world is neither a safe place nor a peaceful one.
Yes, we have been asked repeatedly by newcomers to our group why we do The Pledge. We have been asked about the separation of church and state and have been told pledging the flag is not really a religious experience. Several people have not returned to our group as a way of silently voicing their opinion that this "doesn't fit or belong in church." We are aware that most churches do NOT say the Pledge of Allegiance at their religious services. We believe it does belong! We fully recognize the price that so many have paid with their lives. We remember those who survived the grievous damages of war only to cope forever more with permanent injuries, loss of limbs and devastation of their peace of mind and psyches. This is the true cost of freedom, both for our American way of life and our ability to worship as we desire. We are painfully aware of the lost children, parents, spouses and the grief these families have endured so that we may remain free.
Memorial Day was first instituted after the Civil War between the States. The first widely publicized observance of a Memorial Day observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States, a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving in the country's armed services all around the globe. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers killed in the war. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended by Congress to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.
Biblically, St. Mark, Chapter 13 verse 7 reads: "And when ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be ....” This verse explains that throughout the history of the world there have been wars. Many of these wars - as in today's Jihad against anything not Muslim, Isis or Taliban - have been fought in the name of RELIGION. Dear Spirit, how many lives throughout the ages have been lost in the name of something that is supposed to be loving and kind? How many bodies maimed, how many families sundered for all the wrong reasons? Wars were begun by groups of people who thought they were RIGHT - more than anyone else was right. They claimed to know what GOD wanted better than anyone else, they insisted that their understanding was the best and only way up the mountain and into Heaven.
Of course there were wars for other reasons: politics, money, greed, jealousy and territorial gain. Memorial Day as we now honor it, is for the loss of those who gave so much to keep people in this great country free - free from slavery, free from oppression, free to worship and live in a democratic manner when around the rest of the world oppression and cruelty were rampant.
I would ask you to pay homage to those who enable us to live in a free country today. Honor the fact that we are able to worship in our own manner as we are spiritually led; give thanks and esteem to those who gave their lives for this purpose that we so much sometimes take for granted. Send prayers to their families. Realize that not only the warriors who died, but the families who lost loved ones, the children who lost parents – all can use the energy of your healing prayers.
Take time to appreciate what we have with praise and gratitude in your hearts to those who paid the supreme price to sustain this freedom. Freedom is NOT free. The cost has been and will always be dear. Until mankind can grow in spiritual understanding there will be war. The very least we can do is send love to those who have allowed' us these privileges.
Let us honor this Memorial Day with gratitude in our hearts and love and prayer for those who sacrificed all for us. May Spirit bless them and their families not only at Memorial Day but throughout the year.