Finding Courage: A Reflection for Memorial Day

by Jacob Juncker

This reflection was offered at a joint worship service called Worship @ the Park –sponsored by several Lafayette area United Methodist Churches–on Pentecost Sunday (Memorial Day Weekend), May 27, 2012.

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
13 …I have sure faith
that I will experience the Lord’s goodness
in the land of the living!

14 Hope in the Lord!
Be strong! Let your heart take courage!
Hope in the Lord!

Psalm 27:1, 13-14, Common English Bible

Courage is “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.”[1]

What is it that makes a person courageous?

  • What is it that motivates some people to be courageous, while others do nothing?
  • What is it that motivates a “Good Samaritan” to initiate CPR and offer first aid immediately following an accident, before the EMTs arrive?
  • What is it that motivates a fireman to rush into a burning building to rescue people from the flames?
  • What is it that motivates a soldier to pull a wounded friend to safety when there is enemy fire overhead?
  • What is it that motivates everyday people to take responsibility for their actions, live with integrity, seek Truth in the face of deception, dream the biggest dreams? What is it that motivates a person to persevere in the face of hardship, completely love another, and let go of control?[2]

What is it that motivates some people to be courageous, while others do nothing?

Hope that the situation can be different.

In our Scripture lesson for today, Psalm 27, the writer is mustering the courage to stand up to his enemies.  He is surrounded on all sides.  The enemy is approaching “trying [in his words] to eat me up.”  But the Psalmist is not easily shaken.  He has hope that the situation can be different.  He writes:

1 Light, space, zest— that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing.

2 When vandal hordes ride down
ready to eat me alive,
Those bullies and toughs
fall flat on their faces.

3 When besieged,
I’m calm as a baby.
When all hell breaks loose,
I’m collected and cool.

13-14 I’m sure…I’ll see God’s goodness
in the…earth.
Stay with God!
Take heart. Don’t quit.
I’ll say it again:
Stay with God.[3]

Hope mobilizes.  It pushes aside fear and allows us to act with courage.  And, when you’re hope is in the all-powerful God, when your hope is in the eternal love of Jesus Christ, when your hope is in the all-comforting Holy Spirit, what need is there to fear.  When you’re hope is in God, there is nothing to fear, and it is really quite easy to be courageous.

But our hope is at times challenged.  Holding on to hope is not always easy.

It can be hard to hang on to hope in the midst of war, abuse, disaster, grief, despair, pain, suspicion, vengefulness… these things challenge all that we hope for.  They often lead us toward stillness.  If hope mobilizes us, hopelessness paralyzes us.  It keeps us from striving for a peaceful, transformed world: the world God intended from the beginning of creation (c.f Genesis 1:1-2:4a).  In the midst of hopelessness, it becomes difficult to imagine that we “will,” in the words of the Psalmist, “experience the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).  And, its in those times that we need each other to remind us of the hope with which we started.

28 Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the creator of the ends of the earth.
He doesn’t grow tired or weary.
His understanding is beyond human reach,
29     giving power to the tired
and reviving the exhausted.
30 Youths will become tired and weary,
young men will certainly stumble;
31     but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will fly up on wings like eagles;
they will run and not be tired;
they will walk and not be weary.[4]

Hope in the Lord and he will renew your strength so that you will have the courage, like those we honor on this day, to give yourself for another.  “Hope in the Lord!”

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.[5]

[1] adapted from, “courage,” in The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Source location: Houghton Mifflin Company. Available: Accessed: May 09, 2012.

[2] “Find Your Courage! 12 Everyday Acts of Courage to Create the Life You Really Want!” by Margie Warrell from <> Accessed May 23, 2012.

[3] Psalm 27:1-3,13-14, The Message.

[4] Isaiah 40:28-31, Common English Version.

[5] Joshua 1:9, English Standard Version.