Memorial Day: Conflicted memories, clarifying reverence

by Ken Sehested

Invocation. “Why do we build the wall,” written by Anaïs Mitchell, sung by Greg Brown

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If, in the end, I did not believe that grace will ultimately
rob the grave of its triumph—that mercy will finally trump
vengeance—then I would opt for any and every form of
resistance to imperial sovereignty, including any and every
form of “terrorism” (whose designation is always assigned

by those currently in control, as if imperious rule is not
itself the most definitive expression of terror’s sway).
The reign of brutality must be challenged, to the death if
need be. But the nature of that challenge, its form and shape
and character, is patterned by one’s vision of the future:

to whom it belongs, by what means it is secured, and by
what authority it is granted. If strength of arm and guile of
heart form the matrix of abiding power, then only the strong
survive; and Jesus would have fared better by calling on those
twelve legions of special-op angels (cf. Matthew 26:53), standing

at the ready to intervene in Rome’s judicial conclusion and the
Jerusalem elite’s connivance over the Nazarene’s fate. The
insurgency of divine Forbearance operates on a different
frequency, its anointed agents advancing on roads unknown
to current mapmakers, their plowshared swords and pruning

hook weapons turned from human enmity toward fertile
fields of bounty and abundance, each to rest ’neath vine and
fig tree, with none no more forever to fear. How do you know,
for certain, that the Jesus Road is the one that leads Home?
You don’t . . . or you do. Up to you. The Spirit blows where it

will, confounding all contempt, untamed by proselytizers and
profiteers alike, jail-breaking, debt-revoking, fraud-annulling
at every turn, consigning every malice-maker to their damnable
ends. Every invitation to memory’s recovery simultaneously
requires a choice between conflicting claims of reverence:

Whose promise is trustworthy? Whose power, steadfast?
Whose purpose mediates the demands of justice with the
prerequisites of peace? Whose provision yields abundant harvest,
secured dwelling for the least, the lost, the languished, and the
sorrowed whose grief turns to rejoicing, the hills bursting

in song, the trees in applause, the seas roaring the Beloved’s
acclaim? Refuse bending the knee to consecrated belligerence,
you little flock of Jesus, and return to your anchoring memorial,
to the Eucharistic table of remembrance: More than
reminiscence, more than a recounting of history; rather, an

anamnesis, a re-membering, a reanimation, aspired life shaped
by the same Spirit as Jesus, led through a similar wilderness of
confusion, sustained by the continuing Outlay of healing and
revealing despite the counsel of hoarding and despair, praise
unfolding as courage in the face of fearmongering, featured

as solidarity with the world’s belittled ones, clarifying proper
reverence in contradiction to the world’s criers of scarcity
and courtesans of deceit, announcing the incendiary news of
the rolled-stone resurrection from death’s dark eclipse. Spirit-
troubling water is available, children, to all willing to wade.

But don’t just wade.
Let yourself be immersed in that riveting flood,
covering twinkling toes to your tippy-top head.
There’s no getting right with God;
there’s only getting soaked.

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Benediction. “Day is done, gone the sun, / From the lake, from the hills, from the sky; / All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.” “Taps(full version) performed by Melissa Venema with the Metropole orchestra in Amsterdam. The original version of “Taps” was called “Last Post,” and was written by Daniel Butterfield in 1801. It was rather lengthy and formal. In 1862 it was shortened to 24 notes and given its present name.

For more background and complete lyrics, see Wikipedia.