Forgive a digression from (most of) today’s readings, but it is not very often that Pentecost falls on the day before Memorial Day, and those two celebrations are on my mind at the same time. Memorial Day is when we honor those who have fallen in service of our country (and there is almost nothing we can do to honor them enough!); it is in a sense a fond look backward. Pentecost is when the Spirit descended upon the Disciples so they could then go out and preach; it is the ultimate in looking forward from new beginnings.
The very last line of today’s Epistle to the Romans (the full reading is Romans 8:22-27) says that the Spirit “maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Church history is full of saints who gave their lives for a cause even greater than that of our beloved United States — the cause of God’s love and His Gospel. So there, by means of an admittedly forced juxtaposition of ideas, was a perfect link for me between Memorial Day and Pentecost: Today as our nation honors our military heroes, our church honors its fallen saints by continuing the work they were doing, which was the work assigned to the disciples and through them to all of us by the Spirit on Pentecost. We honor the saints not just by looking back, but by using their example in working forward.
So I leave you with that old hymn that is such a favorite of generation of children:
I sing a song of the saints of God
Patient and brave and true
Who toiled and fought and loved and died
For the Lord they loved and knew….
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast
And there’s not any reason — no, not the least —
Why I shouldn’t be one too.