Spirit of Witness (John 17:1-11)

This is Memorial Day weekend.  You may remember that Memorial Day began as a day called Decoration Day.  On Decoration Day, in decades and centuries past, beginning officially with the civil war, but probably going much further back than that, the graves of soldiers who had perished in combat were covered in wreaths and flowers by their loved ones.

Our God is with us when we mourn, and it is God who places within each of us the resurrection hope that we so need.  God did not steal the lives of those soldiers who perished in battle.  But God placed within each of us, all of us, the desire to respond to loss with life and love.  It is maybe the most remarkable aspect of our humanity that we have the ability to look tragedy in the face and say, “No.  You, death, you loss, do not have the last word.”  And so we decorate graves with blossoms.

“In St. Louis, the pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church, the Reverend Truman Douglass, had started a Bible study where he and other men spent their time studying Christian Unity.  Reverend Douglass invited a friend of his, the Dean of Eden Seminary, Reverend Dr. S. D. Press.  Douglass was a Congregational Christian, Press a leader in the Evangelical and Reformed Church, but in the parlor of Pilgrim Congregational, they began to see themselves simply as Christians committed to the unity of Christ’s body.

In the midst of a society committed to division–hardening divisions between the races, growing divisions between generations, and deep distrust between denominations–they began to imagine a path toward greater Christian unity.  It was out of these Bible studies that Dr. Press and Reverend Douglass began to dream of the United Church of Christ.  And it was because of  their dedication and commitment to Christian unity that the denomination we know and love as the United Church of Christ was formed in 1957.”*

On this Decoration Day, we remember all who have died in wartime.  And on this Decoration Day, we give thanks for the United Church of Christ, a flower that grew from the graves of tragedy, a blossom that signaled “no” to violence, division and death.

*Connelly, Reverend Tyler.  “Dream Christ’s Dream:  Sermon by Reverend Tyler Connelly for the Central Pacific Conference Annual Gathering 2019.”

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