First of all, I will admit that as I wrote this Kool & The Gang’s song got stuck in my head. I was amazed at some of the comments I heard and read this past week concerning Memorial Day. Some have the opinion that if you have a barbeque, watch a baseball game, go to the lake, etc., you are disrespecting those who gave the ultimate for America. Having served 25 years in the military I disagree based on the character of the men and women I knew who gave their ultimate. They would be disrespected if we did not enjoy the freedom of doing those things with our family and friends—events they would certainly be a part of. The disrespect comes if we do not pause for a moment during those activities and thank them for their sacrifice. Ultimately, that is what they fought and died for—the freedom of individuals they love. Contrary to Hollywood or popular belief, the average military person does not focus on the federal government or an ideology while serving; they focus on the ones they love. If we miss that on Memorial Day, we miss the freedom and we miss their sacrifice.

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with having decorations, exchanging presents, or even sitting on Santa’s lap at Christmas, but if we miss the greatest gift of all in Jesus, we miss the purpose. There is nothing wrong with an egg hunt, or shopping for a new dress at Easter, but if we miss the Cross—we miss it all.

As a society we have become very comfortable with judging the actions, thoughts, and motives of others. For example, it turns my stomach when someone desecrates or disrespects our flag. But it is not illegal, indeed it is a protected freedom—so while I vehemently disagree with those who do such acts, I do not have the right to try to stop them (unless the particular flag is my personal property) or if they are a public figure I do have the right to boycott them.

With the advent of free social media, it seems just about everyone has become a professional commentator on political, legal, and societal issues. Again, I have the right to disagree, but I do not have the right to try to stop those I disagree with. I do have the right to decide about a person’s character and the amount of trust I will give them based on how they express themselves. I will offer a little unsolicited advice on this; before you put out the vulgarity and hatred to the internet world you might ask yourself would you say that to your mom or to a teacher in the classroom?

I find it interesting in churches when the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is served that people most often look solemn or even sad. It’s a celebration! Jesus is telling us to celebrate the new covenant and remember Him and He was facing the most horrific execution in history. Luke 22:17-20 tells us, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.””

Notice what Jesus did first—He gave thanks. No matter our occasion or celebration, we need to give thanks. Even at those times when our hearts are burdened, we need to give thanks. Let’s call it “appropriate celebration” as long as I am not infringing on you, don’t judge me on how I choose to remember certain events—rather let’s pause and give thanks for the purpose of the celebration. In that we can find common ground.

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