We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
~ Maj. Gen. John A. Logan

It was an unusually cold and rainy final Monday in May when, as the new Pastor in town, I was obliged to deliver the Memorial Day address in the cemetery at the edge of town. With the sound of Old Glory whipping in the wind behind me, the rain stinging my face and the last notes of Taps fading in the distance, I struggled through a sore throat to speak loud enough for the small crowd that braved the elements to hear my message. I suspect that little was heard, and even less was remembered.

All that I, myself, can recall was the reference to Lincoln’s address at the Gettysburg cemetery, delivered four months after the bloodiest and deadliest battle of the war that had rent the Union asunder. Over 7,000 men died and over 33,000 were wounded during those first three days of July, 1863.

It is now half a century ago that I delivered my forgettable address. And it is over a full century and a half ago that Lincoln delivered his two minute speech of 272 carefully crafted words that enshrined forever the lives of those who gave their all in order that this nation, “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” might live.

Today, on Memorial Day 2024, we will do well as a nation as divided as we have ever been since that war between the states to remember the concluding paragraph of Lincoln’s address to a nation at war with itself:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

From the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to the World Wars and all the wars that followed, countless numbers of people calling themselves Americans have given the last measure of devotion in order that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

But now in 2024 that government of, by and for the people, this Democracy fought for, defended and died for by generations of Americans stands at the crossroads of remaining a Democratic Republic or turning into a Fascist Autocracy and Pseudo Theocracy. On this Memorial Day as America races head long into the most critical election year of its existence, let us hope and pray that the vision so poetically painted by President Lincoln in his first inaugural address may be embraced by a disillusioned and often disinformed nation teetering on the edge of authoritarianism.

May it yet be that,The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely, they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”