Having US Memorial Day so close to Pentecost has the tendency to obscure one or the other.
In practice, Memorial Day is a public holiday, so the more important holy day of Pentecost doesn’t get a look in.
Memorial Day is one of the more accessible US national holidays for me. Akin to Remembrance Day in the UK but with added flag-waving (and commercialism in the form of sales), I can participate without feeling too much like an alien, something that I’ve not yet fully mastered on the Fourth of July.
Its juxtaposition this year with Pentecost has got me thinking: is there any real overlap between the two?
Perhaps. Memorial Day is a day to remember the sacrifices of those who have laid down their lives for the country. We celebrate our freedom and honour those serving today, because we owe that very freedom in large part to those who laid down their lives in the past.
Pentecost is our annual celebration as Christians of the Holy Spirit coming upon the early Church. One of His jobs – perhaps the main one – is to point to Jesus Christ. To remind us of His sacrifice which bought our freedom.
I can see a parallel.
Not to say that the sacrifices are the same, because they aren’t entirely, but they are akin.
Jesus didn’t fight in the way that soldiers do, but He did lay down His life. The sacrifices of our soldiers bought the freedom of our country. His sacrifice bought a greater freedom: the freedom to part with sin, be forgiven and made new, be brought into the right relationship with God that we were created for.
So in amongst the commercial selling and the patriotic flag-waving (neither of which are intrinsically wrong), I will be using this day as a prod to memory of another Sacrifice.