What will you sacrifice?

by Jacob Juncker

Scripture Reading: Psalm 66:8-15
Delivered: Sunday, May 29, 2011 at “Worship in the Park” (an outreach service of Christ United Methodist Church, Lafayette, IN, held on Memorial Island, Columbian Park).  This service was highlighted by the United Methodist News Service, you can find the article here.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic—an organization of soldiers and sailors—issued a proclamation declaring that the 30th of May (1868) was to be designated for the purpose of “strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.”[1]

Interesting enough, the first record of Memorial Day being celebrated, as reported in the New York Times, was here in Lafayette, Indiana.  The article was entitled, “An Incidence of Memorial Day” and was published on June 7, 1868.  It reads:

The Lafayette (Ind.) Courier, in its account of the decoration of soldiers’ graves in that city on the 30th [of May], says a wreath of flowers, accompanied by a note from a little girl about ten years of age was exhibited.  The note was addressed to Col. Leaming Chairman of the Committee of Arrangements, and was as follows:

Col. Leaming: Will you please put this wreath upon some rebel soldier’s grave?  My dear papa is buried at Andersonville, and perhaps some little girl will be kind enough to put a few flowers upon his grave.                                                                                                            Jennie Vernon.

The reading of the note created a profound impression, and the wreath was deposited upon the grave of an unknown rebel soldier—the only one remaining in the cemetery.

Today we gather to carry on a noble Lafayette tradition.  We gather to honor those who have sacrificed much for us.


Sacrifice.  Marine Corporal Matt Bowman knows what sacrifice means.  “On February 28 Bowman was on foot patrol in Helmand, one of the most heated provinces in Afghanistan. He stepped on an improvised explosive device…  The list of Bowman’s injuries is long: the blast fractured his left cheekbone; he bit through his bottom lip before the explosion knocked some of his teeth out; he lost two fingers on his left hand; shrapnel was embedded in his arms; and he lost both of his legs above the knees.”

Sacrifice: to permit injury or disadvantage for the sake of something else.  Corporal Bowman willingly placed himself in harm’s way.

Sacrifice.  On WLFI just a few days ago, Matt said, “We do it [we put ourselves in danger] to protect our freedom.  A war zone, knowing that you are getting shot at every day that you go out on patrol, it’s not great.  I wish we didn’t have to do it, but we have to.”[2]

If “war is hell,” then Matt has surely been there and back.  He has been road-tested inside and out.  He was brought into a demanding country and pushed to his very limit.  He’s recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Matt’s not alone.  There are countless other service personnel who voluntarily put their life on the line to protect the ideas that make this country great.  Many have died.  And so this morning, we gather to honor those who have sacrificed much for us.


Sacrifice.  There once was a man who lived a life of servanthood to the world.  He worked hard to make sure that all persons would know what it means to be valued and loved.  He revealed to people their inherent goodness and worth.  He inspired a multitude of people and that made many uncomfortable.  He knew his time was drawing near.  There were a lot of angry and violent people after him, so he commanded his friends to live a life of peace.  He said:

34b “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. 35This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments

But the pressure mounted and one of his closest friends betrayed him, handing him over to the authorities.  They tried him on charges of religious and political treason.  He was convicted and sentenced to death row.  He was nailed to a tree and left to die.

sacrifice.  Jesus—God in the flesh—endured all this to show the world the great love of God.  And so this morning, we gather to honor and thank a Savior who has sacrificed much to show us how to love one another.


Jesus said “no one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”[3]

As we gather this Memorial Day weekend, I wonder what part of our lives we might sacrifice for another.  What sacrifice of love would you be willing to offer to another.

Now don’t misunderstand.  I’m not advocating for you take your own life or harm yourself, but I am suggesting that there might be something that you could willingly give up to show how much you love someone else.

In the church, this is one of the foundational ideas behind giving generously to God through the church.  But, there are other things you might sacrifice for another..

You could sacrifice your time to tutor a child so that they might break the cycle of poverty?

You could sacrifice your money so that a wounded soldier might be reunited with his family?

You could sacrifice your pride and ego so that another might be encouraged, recognized and lifted up?

You could sacrifice your opinions so that another person might know what it means to be heard and appreciated.

You could sacrifice your fear in order to reach out and get to know someone who is different from you.

What part of your life would you be willing to sacrifice for another?

It’s an intimate decision that only you can answer: and I hope you’ll consider it today as we set aside time to honor those who have sacrificed much for us.

[1] “Memorial Day,” History.com (A&E Television Networks, 2011) <http://www.history.com/topics/memorial-day-history> Accessed: May 26, 2011.

[2] “Road to Recovery: Marine talks injuries (Cpl Bowman recalls war, how he was injured),” WLFI.com (Primeland TV, 2011) http://www.wlfi.com/dpp/news/local/road-to-recovery-lafayette-injured-marine-talks-about-the-extent-of-his-injuries> Accessed: May 26, 2011.

[3] John 15:13-14, The Common English Bible.