They came to the lawn by the U.S. Capitol Building to be part of a Memorial Day celebration. They came to remember and pay tribute to their comrades. They came to honor the fallen. The came to be honored and inspired. Those who came are the men and women who served or are currently serving our country. They came with their families and friends to an event called The National Memorial Day Concert. The mission of the Concert is "to unite the country in remembrance and appreciation of the fallen and to serve those who are grieving." The methods used by the organizers of the Concert include musical performances, documentary clips and readings of stories of heroes of service.
There is something about this event that draws one in. Perhaps it is the spirit of unity and encouragement that is obvious. Even more likely is that the stories shared and the songs that are played and sung remind us that our country had a godly foundation. This year retired General Colin Powell was asked to speak. He reminded his listeners that we have an obligation to help those who have gone to battle for our freedoms. He pointed us toward Scripture and repeated some of the verses of Isaiah 61--the same verses that described the call on the life of Jesus. "Heal the brokenhearted...provide for those who grieve...bestow the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
The entire evening began with the orchestra playing the chords to "God Bless America." Everyone was treated to a medley of "America the Beautiful" and the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The words of these songs are worth reading: "O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America, America! God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea."
"Battle Hymn of the Republic:" "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored; He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is marching on." "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me; as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free! While God is marching on."
Everyone was invited to join the choirs in singing "God Bless America:" "God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home."
It is our faith in God that becomes the underpinning of our lives, especially when we are shaken by the tragedy of war and grieved by our losses. Who but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--the Great I Am--can heal and restore and bless? No one. The writers of these songs knew this when they were inspired to write them. And as these songs are sung, the words bring us back to who we are meant to be--a people of God.
The founders of the United States of America intended for us to honor God and to follow Him. Many have gotten off track. However, we worship a God of mercy and compassion who excels in grace. The last line of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" says, "God is marching on." He remembers His plans and purposes. He marches on, with the help of His Church, to establish His Kingdom here on earth. Let us thank and praise Him for His unfailing love and mercy.
Joan E. Mathias