Monday, May 31, 2010

A Reflection and a Prayer for Memorial Day

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer.  Baseball, barbecues, the Indianapolis 500, and memorial observances.  It's easy to forget the real purpose of the day in the midst of all the other activities.  For many today is a day to lay flowers and wreaths, attend memorial observances, and reflect on friends and family who have passed on.

Memorial Day was began as Decoration Day after the end of the Civil War.  Over time it has expanded and became what we know as Memorial Day, being established by law as a national holiday in 1967, with the current positioning on the last Monday in May beginning in 1971.  It has its roots in honoring war dead, and it has expanded over time to be a time of remembrance of all who have died, especially those who die in service to country. 

So, on this day may we stop to remember those who have died, including those who have died in service to country.  On this day, I want to stop to remember two pastors who have influenced my life, both of whom have died rather recently:

Gary Wells -- my pastor and friend while living in Eugene, OR in the mid-1980s.  Gary was Pastor of Northwood Christian Church in Springfield, OR until his retirement.  He also taught in the area of pastoral ministries at Northwest Christian University.  Gary had a knack for pushing you beyond your boundaries, making you think about the way you comported yourself and how you spoke.  He was a good man.

LLoyd Saatjian -- LLoyd was until his retirement, Senior Minister of First United Methodist Church of Santa Barbara.  LLoyd was a dear friend, a supporter when times got tough, a strong and resilient leader in the community, and a pastor par excellence!   I remember so clearly on the morning of September 11, 2001.  I was President of the Clergy Association in Santa Barbara.  I stepped into the office and the phone rang.  It was LLoyd asking:  What should we do?  And not only that, but offering his church to host a community service.  That was the way LLoyd was -- he saw something that need to be done, and he got on it.  My life has been enriched deeply through our friendship.

I also remember Ben Palmer.   Ben died some nearly twenty years ago now.  He served in the US Navy during World War II.  He was a Lt. Commander, and commanded a ship that captured a Japanese naval vessel.  I remember Ben, not for his naval exploits, but for the influence he had on my life as a child.  My Grandmother married him during the late 1960s.  He was the Grandfather I never had.  He loved learning, reading constantly, including in the areas of philosophy and religion.  I cherish the times spent with him.

May we ask God's blessings on the memories of those who have preceded us in death, memories of those who have influenced our lives with their grace and wisdom.

Almighty and eternal God,
We pause this day to remember those who no longer walk with us in life.
We remember especially those whose lives have influenced our lives.
We remember their wisdom and grace,
Their guidance and direction
Their support for our ventures
Their humility and willingness to give of themselves for the good of others.
May their memories be treasured in our hearts and minds,
so that we might live in ways that honor this memory.

Amen

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