I didn’t expect to be so moved.
I had visited Washington D.C. before, as a young man. I had seen all the monuments. I had been in Arlington National Cemetery.
This time, however, it hit me hard.
Seeing the rows upon rows of white grave markers, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Iwo Jima, I was moved to tears. My voice quivered as I tried to explain to my twelve-year-old son their significance.
Though grateful for the service and sacrifice of our soldiers, I have often taken them for granted. I rarely think about what those brave men and women gave up for me. I seldom think about the families of those who gave what President Lincoln called, “The last full measure of devotion.”
As I solemnly stood in silence, watching the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, my heart swelled with sadness, reverence and gratitude. I needed that reminder. We all do.
We are blessed. We enjoy wealth and freedoms most people in our world can only dream of. We go to sleep at night feeling safe and protected, because others stand watch over us. We live because others have died to protect us.
I needed a trip to Arlington to remember that.
We, as Americans, sometimes take for granted the sacrifice of those who gave their lives protecting us and our freedoms. As Christians, we can do the same. I do not want to diminish the sacrifice of those brave soldiers, but they didn’t actually give the last full measure of devotion.
God gave up everything. He sacrificed everything. Jesus not only died for us. He suffered the punishment of hell for us. He suffered his heavenly Father’s fists of anger for our indifference, for our ho-hum service to him and others, for our half-hearted devotion. Jesus gave everything – the fullest measure of devotion – so we could live in the freedom and safety of heaven.
Yet we so often take him for granted. We can go days and even weeks without thinking about his love and sacrifice. We can lose the awe and gratitude.
Jesus knew that would happen. So he gave us a monumental memorial – a meal – to help us remember. When he gave his disciples the bread and wine, he told them, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
Every time you receive Holy Communion, you are visiting Arlington National Cemetery.
You are standing at the foot of Iwo Jima. You are brought face to face with the body and blood of the man who died so that you might live.
Take the Lord’s Supper thankfully and often. Meditate on the last full measure of devotion your Savior gave for you. Think about everything he sacrificed so that you could be forgiven and live with him forever in the freedom of heaven.
Remember and be grateful.